Swedish emigration to the United States following World War II is not a widely studied subject, perhaps for the simple reason that it involves a relatively small number of individuals. Perhaps also because, in comparison to the foreign immigration to Sweden during the last couple of decades, this group is small indeed. If we want to understand the two distinct communities that have emerged in the United States during the last thirty years or so – the Swedish American community and the scattered groups of utlandssvenskar (expatriate Swedes) – it is helpful to take a broad look at the main currents in modern Swedish emigration.
Relying on various statistical sources and earlier research, this article surveys the general character of Swedish emigration following the end of World War II and attempts to answer the following questions: Where have Swedes emigrated to during this period? How many individuals make up this migratory flow? What is really meant by the term “a Swedish emigrant”? How reliable are official statistics in describing the fluid patterns of individuals moving from one country to another? What are the proportions between Swedes and Swedish-Americans in the state of Oregon today, and what is the size of Swedish immigration compared to other immigrant groups?
The second part looks into the main causes behind modern Swedish emigration to the United States. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, it finds that today it seems just as common to emigrate because one has fallen in love with an American as it does because one dreams of better opportunities and a higher standard of living.
The third part contains some personal observations on the nature and needs of the Swedish-American community in a state like Oregon, and compares them to those of the modern Swedish immigrants. It also describes how radically the Swedish immigrant experience in the United States has changed during the last 30 years, and how it has re-defined what it means to be a Swede living in America.
Lars Nordström, Ph. D.