In the mid-1880s the pattern of immigration to the United States began to change. "New" immigrants arrived from eastern and southern Europe as well as from Mexico and Asia. Some emigrated to escape persecution or economic troubles in their homelands. Others were drawn to America as a land of jobs, plentiful and affordable land, and opportunities for a better life. Many of these immigrants contributed to the growth of the nation's cities. Sometimes, ethnic, racial, and religious differences contributed to tensions between Americans and the new immigrants.
People poured into the cities faster than housing could be built to accommodate them. While the wealthy lived in luxurious mansions and the middle class in comfortable suburban homes, most of the poor lived in small, dark tenements. Rapid urban growth created problems with sanitation, public health, and crime. Many individuals were dedicated to solving these problems and to improving the architecture of cities. Others worked to improve the transportation systems in the nation's cities.
By the turn of the century government and business leaders and reformers believed that for the nation to progress, the people needed more schooling. Public schools, colleges, and universities all increased their enrollments. More educational opportunities were also made available to women and African Americans. American artists and musicians also began to develop a distinctively American style. As people enjoyed increasing amounts of leisure time, spectator sports, theaters, and movies gained popularity.