The Immigration and Ethnic History Society was founded in 1965 as the Immigration History Group. It was renamed the Immigration History Society in 1972, and was subsequently chartered as a non-profit organization in Minnesota. In 1998, the Society, which had traditionally dealt with matters of ethnicity as well as immigration, changed its name to the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.
The Society has over 500 members, approximately evenly divided between individuals, mostly academic scholars, and institutions, mostly libraries and research institutions.
The Society publishes the Journal of American Ethnic History, which appears quarterly and has been published since 1981, and its Newsletter, published twice yearly since 1968. It holds an annual meeting and dinner in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. It organizes and sponsors sessions on immigration and ethnic subjects at various academic conferences. It also sponsors awards for outstanding books and articles and an award to encourage promising dissertation research. The Society is a member of the Association of North American Immigration Institutions (ANAII).