Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Immigrant Assimilation

This new study from the Manhattan Institute, "Measuring Immigrant Assimilation in the United States," looks to be serious. I have printed the PDF version, and will look at it (next week). There will be much to think through and argue over, no doubt. This is the Washington Post story on it.

Discussions - 7 Comments

No doubt a slew of people will comment on this today without reading the study.

"All sides in the debate face a trade-off between conveying a concise message and oversimplifying an inherently complex issue."

Dear Mr. Schramm: One notion I did NOT see in the study is that to some extent, immigrants, legal or illegal, do not have to assimilate, because the native born are assimilating to them, so to speak. Eliot Spitzer's idiotic idea of providing driver's licenses to illegal aliens is one example. Printing many paperwork forms in languages is another. The study also does not address the irrefragable fact of today's assimilation debate: cheap transportation means that immigrants from Central America have little reason to assimilate. They are not in the position of the old style immigrants who likely fell into two categories: a) the permanent resident, who came to this nation to live the rest of their lives here, as a citizen in many instances (though not all, as the Chinese and Japanese would remind you) or b) the immigrant who came to "make his pile" and then return to his native land. The rise of cheap transportation and the welfare state has weakened both these reasons for assimilating, to no good end.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

"One notion I did NOT see in the study is that to some extent, immigrants, legal or illegal, do not have to assimilate,"

Your position is undercut by the fact that today's immigrants are assimilating more rapidly than those from prior generations.

Dear Anonymous: That you don't stand behind your comment says a great deal about it. But here's some more:

"Your position is undercut by the fact that today's immigrants are assimilating more rapidly than those from prior generations."


"Today's immigrants" is vague. What group? The Vietnamese, who are doing a great deal better than the Mexicans? Where? In San Diego, on the border with Mexico, which, the study says, has the second highest rate of assimilation in these States? Or in Fresno County, California, 500 miles north of San Diego, where in the samll country towns assimilation is a joke? The answers to these questions might move this discussion along, but it will be hard for you to find them in the darkness of anonymity. Come out in the sunlight with the rest of us. To be sure, you will likely be hit with the club of facts while your eyes blink, but life is heck and then you kick the bucket.


Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Proud that my hometown San Diego has the highest assimilation rate, but curious about the rubrics used for these civic and cultural assimilation ratings. Take military service, which is a measure of civic assimilation. Such a measure is automatically going to move the navy/marine town San Diego and the historically navy-linked immigrant group Philipino up in the charts. Then there's interrmarriage. I'd be very curious which immigrant groups are intermarrying most with black and white Americans. My San Diego impressions are that white/mexican marriages can't be that far behind white/asian marriages, but judging by the results of this study my impressions must be radically wrong. Another oddity is that the intermarriage rate in the study only measures whether you marry a native-born American. So if you are an illegal immigrant from Mexico whose parents crossed in 1997 (when you were, say, 10) and you marry a native-born Mexican American whose parents crossed (also illegaly) in 1987, that's going to count as assimilation. And it looks as if little to no effort has been utilized to measure the extent to which various immigrant groups buy into what many scholars (and on different sides of the issue of illegal immigration), have called the American Creed or the American basics, or the extent to which separationist ethnic pride is bought into or dual citizenship schemes are advocated. I.e., there's a pretty weak vision of culture here. I'll be looking to see what Heather MacDonald, Victor Davis Hanson, and Tamar Jacoby make of all this. But overall, and I am an anti-amnesty conservative (a "restrictionist" as Jacoby would say) the results look overall heartening. Things may remain pretty messed up with our immigration law enforcement, but the Blade Runner scenario isn't going to happen.

"One notion I did NOT see in the study is that to some extent, immigrants, legal or illegal, do not have to assimilate, because the native born are assimilating to them, so to speak."

That is a very good point and I am sure the study authors would simply say that such things are the subject of other studies, but are incredibly difficult and often times futile to attempt with Regression models.

Basically the regression technique is only good for predictive power...

I recommend Ian Ayres and his book Super Crunchers for a primer, or if you would rather not read a book go straight to his website and play around. http://islandia.law.yale.edu/ayers/predictionTools.htm

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