Home Page


Immigration Daily

Archives

Processing times

Immigration forms

Discussion board

Resources

Blogs

Twitter feed

Immigrant Nation

Attorney2Attorney

CLE Workshops

Immigration books

Advertise on ILW

VIP Network

EB-5

移民日报

About ILW.COM

Connect to us

Make us Homepage

Questions/Comments


SUBSCRIBE





The leading
immigration law
publisher - over
50000 pages of
free information!
Copyright
© 1995-
ILW.COM,
American
Immigration LLC.

  • Article: Are Immigrants Still Assimilating in America? By Alex Nowrasteh

    Are Immigrants Still Assimilating in America? The melting pot isn't broken

    by


    Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, two of the smartest conservative thinkers today, have spilt much ink worrying over immigrant assimilation. Salam is more pessimistic, writing articles with titles like “The Melting Pot is Broken” and “Republicans Need a New Approach to Immigration” (with the descriptive URL slug: “Immigration-New-Culture-War”), which rely on a handful of academic papers for support. Douthat presents a more nuanced, Burkean think-piece reacting to assimilation’s supposed decline, relying more on Salam for evidence. 

    Their worries fly against recent evidence that immigrant assimilation is proceeding quickly in the United States. There’s never been a greater quantity of expert and timely quantitative research that shows immigrants are still assimilating.

    The first piece of research is the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) September 2015 book titled The Integration of Immigrants into American Society. At 520 pages, it’s a thorough, brilliant summation of the relevant academic literature on immigrant assimilation that ties the different strands of research into a coherent story. Bottom line: Assimilation is never perfect and always takes time, but it’s going very well. 

    One portion of NAS’ book finds that much assimilation occurs through a process called “ethnic attrition,” which is caused by immigrant inter-marriage with natives, either of the same or different ethnic groups. Assimilation is also quickened with second or third generation Americans marrying those from other, longer-settled ethnic or racial groups.

    The children of these intermarriages are much less likely to identify ethnically with their more recent immigrant ancestors, and, due to spousal self-selection, they are likely to be more economically and educationally integrated as well. Ethnic attrition is one reason why the much-hyped decline of the white majority is greatly exaggerated

    In an earlier piece, Salam addresses ethnic attrition but exaggerated the degree to which it declined by confusing stocks of ethnic groups in the United States with the flow of new immigrants. He also emphasized the decrease in immigrant inter-marriage caused by the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants in the 1990s.

    That decrease is less dire than he reports. According to a 2007 paper, 32 percent of Mexican-American men born in the United States married outside of their race or ethnicity, while 33 percent of women did. (I write about this in more detail here.) That’s close to the 1990 rate of intermarriage reported for all Hispanics in the study Salam favored. The “problem” (if it was a problem) disappeared.

    The second set of research is a July 2015 book entitled Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015 that analyses immigrant and second generation integration on 27 measurable indicators across the OECD and EU countries. This report finds more problems with immigrant assimilation in Europe, especially for immigrants from outside of the EU, but the findings for the United States are quite positive.

    Work by University of Washington economist Jacob Vigdor offers a historical perspective. He compares modern immigrant civic and cultural assimilation to that of immigrants form the early 20th century. (An earlier draft of his book chapter is here, the published version is available in this collection.) For those of us who think early 20thcentury immigrants from Italy, Russia, Poland, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere assimilated successfully, Vigdor’s conclusion is reassuring:

    While there are reasons to think of contemporary migration from Spanish-speaking nations as distinct from earlier waves of immigration, evidence does not support the notion that this wave of migration poses a true threat to the institutions that withstood those earlier waves.

    Basic indicators of assimilation, from naturalization to English ability, are if anything stronger now than they were a century ago [emphasis added].

    American identity in the United States (similar to Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) is not based on nationality or race nearly as much as it is in the old nation states of Europe, likely explaining some of the better assimilation and integration outcomes here.

    Besides ignoring the huge and positive new research on immigrant assimilation, there are a few other issues with Douthat’s piece.

    Douthat switches back and forth between Europe and the United States when discussing assimilation, giving the impression that the challenges are similar. But treating assimilation in Europe and the United States as similar creates confusion, not clarity. Cherry-picking outcomes from Europe to support skepticism about assimilation in the United States is misleading. Assimilation is a vitally important outcome for immigrants and their descendants, but Europe and the United States have vastly different experiences. 

    Douthat also argues that immigrant cultural differences can persist just like the various regional cultures have done in the United States. That idea, used most memorably in David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, is called the Doctrine of First Effective Settlement (DFES). Under that theory, the creation and persistence of regional cultural differences requires the near-total displacement of the local population by a foreign one, as happened in the early settlement of the United States. 

    However, DFES actually gives reasons to be optimistic about immigrant assimilation, because Douthat misses a few crucial details when he briefly mentioned it. First, as Fischer and others have noted, waves of immigrants have continuously assimilated into the settled regional American cultures since the initial settlement — that is the point of DFES. The first effective settlements set the regional cultures going forward, and new immigrants assimilate into those cultures. 

    Second, DFES predicts that today’s immigrants will assimilate into America’s regional cultures (unless almost all Americans quickly die and are replaced by immigrants). The regional cultures that immigrants are settling into are already set, so they won’t be able to create persistent new regional cultures here. America’s history with DFES is not a reason to worry about new immigrant assimilation today and should supply comfort to those worried about it.

    Immigrants and their children are assimilating well into American society. We shouldn’t let assimilation issues in Europe overwhelm the vast empirical evidence that it’s proceeding as it always has in the United States.

    This post originally appeared on Foundation For Economic Education. Reprinted with permission


    About The Author

    Alex NowrastehAlex Nowrasteh is the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.


    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
      ImmigrationLawBlogs -
      We should be looking at the entire "assimilation" issue in America as basically a phony issue, dreamed up to cover up underlying racist attitudes. After all, the first time that this term started becoming important in America was in the era of the infamous Chinese exclusion laws, when the Supreme Court demonized Chinese immigrants as unable to "assimilate" to American culture because of race. Ever since then, alleged inability to assimilate has almost always been a canard used against unpopular minority groups, such as Jews, Asians and Italians in the past and Latinos and Middle Easterners today, who have been considered to be "different" from the white, Christian, majority.

      There are many topics that are of legitimate concern relating to immigration today, especially how to eliminate anti-immigrant prejudice and violations of the constitutional and human rights of immigrants. Worrying about whether immigrants are "assimilating" or not should be retired from this list of topics in the diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious America of the 21st Century. Let these learned scholars focus their talents and resources on more relevant issues.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law
      algaselex@gmail.com
Put Free Immigration Law Headlines On Your Website

Immigration Daily: the news source for legal professionals. Free! Join 35000+ readers Enter your email address here: