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Uruguayan Americans (Spanish: uruguayo-americanos, norteamericanos de origen uruguayo or estadounidenses de origen uruguayo) are Americans of Uruguayan ancestry or birth. The American Community Survey of 2006 estimated the Uruguayan American population to number 50,538, a figure that notably increased a decade later.
Similar to the neighboring country of Argentina, Uruguay took in many immigrants from Europe beginning in the late 19th century and lasting until the mid-20th century. As it stands, approximately 93% of Uruguay's population is of European descent with Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, French, and Germans being among the most populous groups to have settled in the country. Because of this, many Uruguayan Americans identify both with their nationality and their family's country of origin.
The history of Uruguayan emigration to the United States is very recent. Before 1960, Uruguayan living conditions were favorable, with many job opportunities, good education and a good healthcare system. The few Uruguayans that left the country migrated to other Latin American countries such as Argentina. For this reason, Uruguayan emigration to the United States was low during that period.
After 1960, welfare in the life of Uruguay fell. This was due to the emergence of serious economic and political problems after World War II, particularly money crises and unemployment during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, Uruguay was ruled by an oppressive military regime for approximately a decade starting in 1973. All this led to a major Uruguayan emigration, which included large numbers of well-educated professionals and the young. This migration also contributed to a social security crisis, as the population aged and young working people migrated to other countries. This grew the burden on the country's financial resources.
Of the Uruguayan immigrants from 1963 to 1975, most were young; only 14.3 percent of the migrants were over 40 years old. The continued unemployment problem of the late 1980s developed yet another impetus for the youth of Uruguay to seek employment and new lives in other countries. Some of them went to the United States, but the majority of Uruguayan emigrants continued to migrate to Argentina.
Most Uruguayans find it easy to adapt to life in large cities in the United States, thanks to the cosmopolitan lifestyle they are used to in Uruguay. Uruguayans in general have a multilingual exposure that makes English not an obstacle for adaptation in American society. In addition, the high value that is given to higher education has led many Uruguayan students to migrate to the United States to continue their University studies there.
According to the 2010 census on the Uruguayan descent population in the U.S., there are about 56,884 people of that origin. The majority of Uruguayans that migrated to the United States arrived in the 1960s and 1970s. It is estimated that, between 1963 and 1975 (when the country's economy suffered a huge drop), 180,000 Uruguayans left the country. Later on, between 1973 and 1985, during the period of oppressive military control, 150,000 Uruguayans left Uruguay. And, in 1989, only 16,000 of these citizens had returned to their native country. When these two figures are added together, the migration figure stands at approximately one-tenth of the population of Uruguay.
Although in the 1990s Uruguayans constituted 43 percent of all immigrants to the United States originating from Latin America and the Caribbean[clarification needed], they only made up a small part of the large U.S. Latino population. Most Uruguayan immigrants established themselves in New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island. Two other remarkable centers for Uruguayan American population are Washington, D.C., and Florida.
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For a more comprehensive list, see List of Uruguayan Americans.