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There were at least two main causes of nativism in the 1920s.
First, there was the fact that there had been a huge influx of “new immigrants” in the decades leading up to the 1920s. These new immigrants were from Eastern and Southern Europe and were therefore ethnically different from previous immigrants. Many were Catholic or Jewish at a time when the US was overwhelmingly Protestant. The “newness” of these immigrants, coupled with bad economic times right after the war, helped to cause nativism.
Second, there was a general cultural change in the 1920s. Old values were being relaxed and new values taking over. This was the time of the “flapper” and other major social changes. These changes were concentrated in cities, away from the rural areas where most nativism occurred. The nativists saw the cultural change as being somehow connected to the immigrants. They saw both as threats to their way of life. Therefore, some of the nativism was a reaction to a general change in values.
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