American-Hungarian or Hungarian-American? The immigration details of the modern day Hungarian settlers of America

After having presented the socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents, let’s take a look one by one at the answers given to all the questions of the survey. When possible, we examined the answers not only by the total sample, but also by further breakouts, according to the language used by the survey participant to complete it, as well as according to the respondent’s birth place.  (For the sake of simplicity, we surmise that those not born in the United States, and the respondents completing the questionnaire in the Hungarian language originate from Hungary, even if we know that close to one-quarter of the respondents did not necessarily arrive from a township within the present Hungarian state borders.)

 Were you born in the United States?

 The survey questionnaire was designed so that the respondent’s birth place (more precisely, USA or not) would surface as soon as possible, since the questions posed in the immigration-related part are not relevant to those born in the United States.  (For this reason, the first question set out to inquire whether the person was born in the USA or not.  In case the answer was yes, the participant did not have to respond to the next 12 questions.)

Were you born in the US

Glancing at the graph above, it can be discerned that only one-third of the total sample was born in the United States, and this minority emerged primarily from those who completed the questionnaire in English.  They totaled 1,243.  Almost all the Hungarian-language respondents (n=2,200) were immigrants.

 It is important to mention that given the survey’s methodology the most often noisy aswers arrived to this first question.  With the questions following this, the total sample decreased by more than one thousand respondents, approximately in the same ratio for both languages, as we have reported earlier.

 Questions Relating to Immigration

 Let’s take a look at the questions that only those not born in America had to answer.

 What year did you arrive in the United States?

 We analyzed the received answers according to two viewpoints.  Let’s first take a look at the average values, and then the survey participants’ distribution by year of arrival.

 We can immediately discern from the diagram below an important distinction. The English-language respondents arrived the earliest.  Their answers’ average is 1983, i.e., on the average they have been residing in the United States for more than three decades.  In contrast with this, those arriving from Hungary on the average arrived significantly much later, that is, in 1999.  In other words, the Hungarian-language [?] respondents have spent only have half the time in the New World as the English-language respondents (16 vs. 32 years). Because the Hungarian-language respondents exceeded the number of the English-language ones, the total sample’s average presence here is 19 years (1996).  Therefore, it can be said that the absolute majority of the modern day Hungarian settlers participating in the survey have long passed the “marauding” phase, but the following diagram will reveal more information about this.

average Year of arrival

The figure below presents the cumulative distribution of respondents by year of arrival. Obviously, the arrivals preceding the 1956 revolution are not characteristic of the sample. Indeed, even the 1956 emigrants only amount to some 6-7% of the (immigrant) responses. Of the subsequent immigrants, approximately 15% arrived between 1960 and the change of regime in 1989. Considerable rises in the proportion of respondents by year of arrival can be seen, first, immediately following the change of system, then around the turn of the millennium, and finally from 2009 onward.

Respondents by year of arrival

From which country did you arrive in the United States?

A clear majority of the respondents (75%) arrived from Hungary; indeed, curiously, even two thirds of those responding in English. Of the respondents, 8% arrived from the Hungarian-inhabited parts of the neighboring states (Romania, Serbia, Slovakia), while 17% arrived from other countries. This last group’s origin was largely characteristic of those responding in English. Analyzing the responses of those who checked “other”, it becomes apparent that most of these respondents were, in fact, born in Hungary, but arrived in the U.S. via other countries, often years after leaving Hungary.

which country did you come from

Which city do you immigrate from?

We shall only analyze the responses to this question at a later date, since coding the responses requires more time.

Which of the factors below played a decisive motivating role in your emigration to the U.S.?

In this question, we asked the respondents to indicate solely the decisive factor, but of course, we understand that the situation is not so simple. In numerous cases, more factors can also influence immigration, but we also wanted to learn which one was most decisive. And this is precisely why only a single response could be chosen.

A glance at the diagram below – based on the 1,600 responses that could be processed – shows that the respondents’ motivations were highly various. We did not discover a single motivation that dominated the entire sample, although in the English-language responses (n=272), one third of the responses were marked “political reasons and/or asylum.”

One thing is certain: in contrast to the emigration of recent years to the countries of the European Union, which is primarily traceable to economic causes, among the Hungarians participating in our survey, only a small fraction left the homeland avowing economic reasons as the sole factor. This probably is associated with the sample’s “over-representation” , as discussed previously.

Primary reason for immigration

What was your immigration status upon arrival in the United States?

Just as in the case of the motivating factors for immigration, here too we have obtained a very heterogeneous picture. A quarter of the respondents arrived with a tourist visa and a dominant majority of these filled out the questionnaire in Hungarian. Among the arrivals from Hungary, a mere 9% were winners of the Green Card lottery. In the majority of cases, the respondents arrived either with a work visa, a student visa, or a fiancé (K-1) visa.

Among the surveys filled out in English (n=272), the combination of “sponsored Green Card” and “other means” generated nearly half the responses. Upon reading the details of the “other means” responses, we can establish that most of them arrived as 1956 refugees.

Immigration status upon arrival

During the first month after arrival in the U.S., which state did you reside in?

Of the survey participants, one third of them resided in three states (California, New York, Florida) during the first month after arrival in the U.S. States accepting smaller, but still significant, numbers of modern-day settlers are Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Montana and Alaska are the only two states where Hungarians did not arrive directly. Further details can be inferred from the thermal map below.


States at Arrival

In view of the survey participants’ present states of residence, as detailed in the first report, the need arises to understand the migration of the immigrant Hungarians within the U.S. Ah, yes, but we did not inquire about this directly. Since we do not know how many times the respondents moved, and where, following their arrival, we can only derive limited conclusions, and these of rather speculative character, from the differences between state of arrival and state of current residence.

Lives vs arrival state

Taking a glance at the figure above, we can observe that two thirds of the Hungarian-language respondents still live in the state to which they first arrived. Among those who moved away from their arrival state, today they tend to live primarily west or south of that state (but not invariably west or south!). In all, one third of them moved either east or north.

In the diagram below, however, we have attempted to detail migration internal to the U.S. by state, again only in a limited and somewhat speculative manner. Here, we have taken the total sample as our basis and examined how the survey participant fraction of individual states changed between arrival and current residence. For the sake of easier viewing, we have not listed those states from which we received 5% or fewer responses. We have ranked the remaining states in the order of the fractional growth in current residents, compared to direct arrivals – in other words, the percentage growth in the survey fraction of a given state, compared to that at arrival.

As could be guessed from the figure above, the migration of self-described American-Hungarians mainly heads into states in the West or South. Among these, the percentage growth in Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon and New Mexico figure prominently, compared to the rest. The states more often abandoned by the modern-day settlers are more likely to be the eastern and northern states, although this is unsurprising, since it largely agrees with the general trends of American internal migration.

change in location from arrival to now

What was your occupation in Hungary immediately preceding your emigration?

We shall only analyze the responses to this question at a later date, since coding the responses requires more time.

To what extent did the following people/institutions help you during your immigration to the U.S.?

Here, we were interested to find out what or whom the modern-day settlers could rely upon during the course of their settling in. (In the response scale, a “1” represents “no help at all”, and the “9” represents “helped a great deal.”)

The diagram below reveals that for the respondents, the greatest help in settling down was provided not by Hungarians they met in America but by Americans whom they got to know in the U.S. They received the least assistance from firms and organizations dealing in relocation. No significant difference is revealed between the responses of those filling out the questionnaire in English, and those in Hungarian.


help settling down

To what extent do you agree with the following statements?

For this question, respondents had to mark, on a scale from 1 to 9, their agreement with each of a list of statements, each of which began: “The fact that I’m from Hungary…” (A “1” meant that they did not agree at all, while a “9” meant that they agreed completely with the statement.)

Respondents agreed least with the statement, “…fills me with shame,” while the greatest agreement was expressed with the following two options:
“…is a natural thing”
“…fills me with pride.”

There was no significant difference between Hungarian- and English-language respondents, although the responders in English seemed to consider their Hungarian origin to be more beneficial (5.2 vs. 3.6) than the responders in Hungarian, which is not surprising.

The fact that I am from Hungary

If you were to compare your current life with the one you had when you lived in Hungary, what would you say?

In response to this final question, the immigrants again only needed to indicate their response on a scale from 1 to 9, where “1” means that their lives are now much WORSE than they had been in Hungary, and “9” that they are now much BETTER than before. A response of “5” meant that there was no significant difference.

if you were to compare current life

The total sample average response of 7.8 meana that the majority of respondents consider their American lives significantly better than their prior Hungarian lives. Further analysis also fails to reveal any statistically significant difference, so in general – or rather, in the slang of Budapest – we can say that for the majority they, “made it in America.” The question is who “made it” and who didn’t, but we will learn this from the cluster analysis.

Until then, let us briefly summarize the main conclusions of the survey results concerned with immigration.

  • On average, the immigrants arrived in the U.S. 19 years ago, but those who responded in Hungarian have spent only half the time in the New World as those responding in English (16 years vs. 32).
  • A large majority (75%) of the immigrants arrived directly from Hungary; indeed, even two thirds of those responding in English.
  • The respondents’ motivations for immigration varied widely. There was no single motivation dominating the entire sample, but on the other hand, it is likely that only a small fraction of the survey participants left their homeland solely for economic reasons.
  • In a majority of the cases, the respondents arrived with either work visas, student visas, or fiancé visas.
  • Two thirds of the Hungarian-language respondents live today in the same state where they arrived. Those who have moved out of their arrival state live predominantly farther west or farther south (but not necessarily in the West or South!).
  • For most of the respondents, it was not the Hungarians they met in America, but the Americans they met here, who gave them the most help to settle down.
  • Respondents consider their Hungarian origins to be natural and a source of pride, and shame of their origin is the emotion they feel least.
  • The immigrants feel their lives in the U.S. to be significantly better than their lives back in Hungary.

With this, we have reached the end of the second section. In the following report, we shall learn the opinions of those respondents who were born in the United States.

 To continue, please click here.

A huge THANK YOU goes to the following individuals for their generous help translating this and the remaining parts. We really appreciate their support!

  • Mária Jánossy
  • Viktória Johnson
  • Péter Czipott





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