Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Study Undermines Nativist Canard that New Immigrants Refuse to Assimilate

A new study by the Manhattan Institute undermines the nativist canard that recent immigrants are resistant to assimilation. Nativists have long ranted that the current crop of immigrants, especially Latin Americans, are not assimilating as fast as previous generations of immigrants. The Report, by Jacob Vigdor, Associate Professor of Public Policy Studies and Economics at Duke University, demonstrates that the latest wave of immigrants is actually assimilating at a faster rate than previous generations of immigrants. When you factor in legal status, Latin Americans assimilate at rate equal to or higher than Asian immigrants. Nativists have long held that Latin Americans held on to their language and culture and resisted efforts to assimilate. The Manhattan Institute report decisively puts an end to this nativist canard.

"This is something unprecedented in U.S. history," Vigdor said. "It shows that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."

As reported in the Washington Post on May 13, 2008:

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. …

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.

In general, the longer an immigrant lives in the United States, the more characteristics of native citizens he or she tends to take on, said Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor at Duke University and author of the study. During periods of intense immigration, such as from 1870 to 1920, or during the immigration wave that began in the 1970s, new arrivals tend to drag down the average assimilation index of the foreign-born population as a whole.

The report found, however, that the speed with which new arrivals take on native-born traits has increased since the 1990s. As a result, even though the foreign population doubled during that period, the newcomers did not drive down the overall assimilation index of the foreign-born population. Instead, it held relatively steady from 1990 to 2006.

"This is something unprecedented in U.S. history," Vigdor said. "It shows that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."

The study points out that even factoring in previous waves of immigration from English-speaking countries, today’s assimilation index is much higher than previous periods of high immigration. Of note, is the finding that the more opportunities an immigrant is given – jobs, legal rights, legalization – the faster he or she will assimilate. Contrary, to nativist cant, the solution to the immigration problem is not to create barriers but to open up avenues for integration into the larger society.

Manhattan Institue Civic Report 53, "Measuring Immigrant Assimilation in the United States," Jacob L. Vigdor, http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_53.htm

"Study Says Foreigners In U.S. Adapt Quickly," By N.C. Aizenman, Washington Post Staff Writer,Tuesday, May 13, 2008; Page A02, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/12/AR2008051202575.html?hpid=topnews

If you liked this post, don't forget to subscribe to my RSS feeds. Or you can

get my posts delivered to your inbox directly, by subscribing to my feeds by email.

No comments: