Monday, May 09, 2005

Immigration and assimilation

Put a poor country next to a rich country and labor will move from the former to the latter. Even Japan has its share of undocumented workers from other parts of Asia.

Almost alone among the receiving countries, however, the U.S. has a history of assimilation. Robert A. Levine documents "Assimilation, Past and Present" in the current (final issue) of The Public Interest. Levine's analysis is sobering, even inspiring. He cites convergence of incomes, locations and language habits of second- and third- generation descendants of Hispanic immigrants with other Americans -- mirroring the paths of previous arrival groups. "The evidence is that there is no danger, at least from Hispanic Americans. Taking a larger view, it is clear that Hispanic immigration is part and parcel of broader American patterns of assimilation and integration. Their story, like that of the Irish, Jews and Italians before them, is an American story."

Things would be even better if politicians were somehow able to resist group-think and identity politics, go easy on welfare state policies and pander less to the crazies on either side of the immigration debate.
In any event, Levine's analysis is worthy and timely.