“New” Kind of Immigration
The character of immigration has changed over the last few years, and, as Walter Russel Mead notes it’s going in a positive direction.
The conventional picture is of an unstoppable wave of unskilled, mostly Spanish-speaking workers—many illegal—coming across the Mexican border. People who see immigration this way fear that, instead of America assimilating the immigrants, the immigrants will assimilate us. But this picture is both out of date and factually wrong.
A report released this month by the Pew Research Center shows just how much the face of immigration has changed in the past few years. Since 2008, more newcomers to the U.S. have been Asian than Hispanic (in 2010, it was 36% of the total, versus 31%). Today’s typical immigrant is not only more likely to speak English and have a college education, but also to have come to the U.S. legally, with a job already in place.
What’s responsible for the change? The reasons include a rapidly falling birthrate in Mexico, dramatic economic growth there and the collapse of the U.S. residential construction industry—a traditional market for low-skilled, non-English speaking immigrants whose documentation was often subject to question.
Their country of origin or ethnicity is far less important than what they “bring to the table”.
Asians tend to be better-educated than most of the people in their countries of origin. Steeped in the culture of enterprise and capitalism, they’re more likely than native-born Americans to have a bachelor of arts degree. While family sponsorship is still the most important entry route for Asians (as for all immigrants), this group is three times more likely than other recent immigrants to come to the U.S. on visas arranged through employers.
In many cases, they’re not coming to the U.S. because of the economic conditions back home. After all, places like China, Korea and India have experienced jumps in prosperity and an explosion in opportunity for the skilled and the hardworking. But most of the new immigrants like it here and want to stay (only 12% wish they had stayed home).
More Asian-Americans (69%) than other Americans (58%) believe that you will get ahead with hard work. Also, 93% say that their ethnic group is “hardworking.”
…Nor does the community seem to be inward-looking or unwilling to assimilate. While just over half of first-generation Asian immigrants say that they speak English “very well,” 95% of those born in the U.S. say they do. Only 17% of second-generation Asian-Americans say that their friends are mostly members of their own ethnic group.
Perhaps reflecting this social integration, Asian-Americans are the most likely of all American racial groups to marry outside their own race: 29% married non-Asians between 2008 and 2010; the comparable figure for Hispanics was 26%, for blacks 17% and for whites 9%.
But there is something to be said for traditional cultural and social mores.
Only 16% of Asian-American babies are born out of wedlock, in contrast to 41% for the general population. In the U.S., 63% of all children grow up in a household with two parents; the figure for Asian-Americans is 80%….The hard work and strong family values appear to pay off: Asian-Americans’ median household income is $66,000 (national median: $49,800) and their median household wealth is $83,500 (national median: $68,529).