Document: Population Graph

Two parabolic lines on Graphs 1 and 2 tell the story of North American population trends after 1492. One part of the story is tragic: the calamitous decline in Native American numbers primarily as a result of the impact of European disease. The other part could be deemed a success story: the startling increase in the population of non-Indian peoples, which was due primarily to high fertility rates and massive immigration. These graphs refer only to populations in what is now the United States.There is no full consensus among scholars regarding the figures underlying Graph 1; in particular, the size of the indigenous population of the New World at the time of contact is a matter of dispute, and indeed may be unknowable. Nonetheless, no adjustments to Graph 1 would alter the fundamentals of the story it tells. This is the greatest known demographic catastrophe in human history.

Source: From Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History since 1492.Copyright © 1987 by the University of Oklahoma Press. Reprinted by permission.

Graph 1 American Indian Population Decline and Recovery in the United States, 1492–1980
Graph 2 Non-Indian Population Growth in the United States, 1492–1980