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A New Way of Seeing 200 Years of American Immigration

To depict how waves of immigrants shaped the United States, a team of designers looked to nature as a model.
Each "cell" of color represents 100 immigrants, and each ring is a decade.
Each "cell" of color represents 100 immigrants, and each ring is a decade.Northeastern University

Immigration is one of the most contentious issue of our time, and research shows that simply fact-checking common misconceptions and myths about immigration—that newcomers bring criminality, snatch jobs from Americans, and are a drain on the economy—doesn’t seem to change anyone’s minds. But what if we replaced the current ideologically charged narrative with something else—something, well, kind of beautiful?

Northeastern University’s Pedro Cruz, John Wihbey, Avni Ghael, and Felipe Shibuya have created a striking visualization to do just that: They’ve depicted 200 years of granular immigration data as the colorful cross-section of a tree that thickens over time.