Louisiana was settled by an unusually diverse assortment of immigrants. The Company of the Indies, which administered Louisiana from 1717 until 1731, at first began importing French convicts, vagrants, and prostitutes because of the difficulty of finding willing colonists. Next the company turned to struggling farmers in Germany and Switzerland, who proved to be more suitable and productive settlers. The importation of slaves from Africa and the West Indies began early in the 18th century.
Attracted by generous land grants, perhaps 10,000 Acadians, or Cajuns—people of French descent who had been exiled from Nova Scotia (Acadia) during the 1740s—migrated to Louisiana after the French and Indian War. They settled in the area of Lafayette and Breaux Bridge and along Bayou Lafourche and the Mississippi River. Probably the second-largest group to migrate in the late 18th century came from the British colonies and, after the Revolution, from the US. Between 1800 and 1870, Americans settled the area north of the Red River. Small groups of Canary Islanders and Spaniards from Malaga also settled in the south, and in 179l, a number of French people fled to Louisiana during the slave insurrection on Hispaniola.
During the 1840s and 1850s, masses of Irish and German immigrants came to New Orleans. In the late 1880s, a large number of Midwestern farmers migrated to the prairies of southwestern Louisiana to become rice farmers. Louisiana did not immediately begin losing much of its black population after the Civil War. In fact, the number of blacks who migrated to Louisiana from the poorer southeastern states during the postwar years may have equaled the number of blacks who migrated before the war or were brought into the state as slaves. In 1879, however, "Kansas fever" struck blacks from the cotton country of Louisiana and Mississippi, and many of them migrated to the Wheat State; however, many later returned to their home states.
Beginning in World War II, large numbers of both black and white farm workers left Louisiana and migrated north and west. During the 1960s, the state had a net out-migration of 15% of its black population, but the trend had slowed somewhat by 1975.
Recent migration within the state has been from north to south, and from rural to urban areas, especially to Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and the suburbs of New Orleans. From 1980 to 1990, however, the state's urban population fell from 68.6% to 68.1% Overall, Louisiana suffered a net loss from migration of about 368,000 from 1940 to 1990. Between 1990 and 1998, the state had a net loss of 117,000 in domestic migration and a net gain of 25,000 in international migration. In 1998, 2,193 foreign immigrants arrived in Louisiana. Between 1990 and 1998, the state's overall population increased 3.5%. In the period 1995–2000, 253,520 people moved into the state and 329,279 moved out, for a net loss of 75,759, many of whom moved to Texas.