Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Immigration Assimiliation Rates: A New Study

The popular press spin on the above report is here at the Washington Post:

Immigrants of the past quarter-century have been assimilating in the United States at a notably faster rate than did previous generations, according to a study released today.

Modern-day immigrants arrive with substantially lower levels of English ability and earning power than those who entered during the last great immigration wave at the turn of the 20th century. The gap between today's foreign-born and native populations remains far wider than it was in the early 1900s and is particularly large in the case of Mexican immigrants, the report said.

The study, sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, a New York think tank, used census and other data to devise an assimilation index to measure the degree of similarity between the United States' foreign-born and native-born populations. These included civic factors, such as rates of U.S. citizenship and service in the military; economic factors, such as earnings and rates of homeownership; and cultural factors, such as English ability and degree of intermarriage with U.S. citizens. The higher the number on a 100-point index, the more an immigrant resembled a U.S. citizen.

I haven't had time to read the report, so I will reserve judgement, but there's a quote on immigration from the book I just finished reading:

Why should the Palatine boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of us Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.

- Benjamin Franklin

Replace Palatine and Germanize with Mexican and some verb form of Latinization, Anglifying with Americanizing and Colony with Nation and you get a very Tancredo-esque rant. Interesting, no? IIRC, 60+% of Americans can point to German ancestry and at one point the Germans were supposed to have assumed that the US would side with them since there were so many German descendants in the US circa Great Mistake #1. For some reason the phrase "German spirit with an English veneer" comes to mind wrt that. Yet, I would hardly say that America was Germanified despite the majority of the population being of German descent.

Oh yes, he didn't consider most Germans white. Or French. Or Russians. Or Swedes. or Italians. Or... Hence the comment about "Complexion." Yes, the same thing went for the Irish. These days few to any consider the the Italians anything other than white. I had an amusing conversation with a Latino friend about whether or not the Italians should be considered Latino or not. It was amusing and not very serious at all. It is very interesting that over time the White label has grown more and more inclusive. I have to wonder in 50 years time will Latinos as a whole and especially Mexicans be "White," too?


Randy McDonald said...

The same will probably be true of North Africans in that same timeframe.

Will Baird said...

That may be. Here in the States, quite possibly, but it depends on the course of interaction between the US and North Africa. They might be vaugely seen as 'Arab' in that time frame still and not 'White.'

Not saying its good, btw.

Anonymous said...

One small point and one large one.

The small point is that North Africans in Boston already are white. 100%, completely, game over. Why do I say that?

Because I personally continue to be taken aback when the dude driving-my-cab/cutting-my-hair/repairing-my-shoe/moving-my-boxes here turns out to be Moroccan instead of Eastern European.

The second larger point is that you should keep in mind that any expansion of a "white" category means that some group will continue to be classified as "not white."

As Americans, we all sadly know who that group will be. Hint: my unborn kids are members.

Which means that if Will is right, and I suspect that he is, there will still be a fundamental rift in American society 50 years from now. A smaller one than today, probably, and much much smaller than 50 years ago, of course ... but a rift.

That's a more serious issue than whether there will still be politically-determined prejudice against a particular foreign group.

Randy, I think this would make a good topic for your blog. It needs discussion with a bit more detail, I think.

Will Baird said...

I have to concur with Noel. There's going to be a divide still. It'll be fuzzier than now, lot more so, perhaps less of a stigma, but still present.

I really want this one fixed. It saps so much from us. :(

Will generational turnover have much effect, Noel?

I also want to second Noel's request for A Bit More Detail, please.