Read Complete Research Material


Paths and Barriers to Assimilation

Paths and Barriers to Assimilation


International migration is rarely controversial with respect to social and political categories. In contrast, international migration often arouses heated controversies and inflammatory rhetoric. That may seem odd in the context of the United States since we like to think of ourselves as a “nation of immigrants.” Why are there such passionate arguments about people who seem to like our country so much that they want to move here?

It is worth taking a moment to address this question since it puts the more technical issues in a larger, interpretive framework. Not only has this but it also hovered around the social and political categories, which results in the barriers against the assimilation of immigrant in U.S.

Taken together, the direct and indirect impacts of immigration on the U.S. population are startling. The Census Bureau projects that the entire U.S. population will grow to 439 million by 2050, an increase of 157 million, or 56%, since 2000. To put this in concrete terms, this is equivalent to adding the entire populations of Mexico and Canada to today's population of the United States. Over four fifths of that growth will be due to immigrants and their descendents. Thus, immigration is dramatically increasing the number of people living in the United States.

Rapid population growth puts stress on society, on the environment, on the economy, on schools and neighborhoods, and on government. More people mean more pollution, more crime, more crowding, and more need for government services. Americans take pride in their immigrant history, but they are also concerned about the impact of global immigration, particularly when much of it seems to be illegal and uncontrollable. They are empathetic with immigrants, but they also are concerned about their own citizens and their own national identity. That conflict explains the intensity of the debate about U.S. immigration policy. Americans are caught between competing ideals, and neither side of the debate is obviously right.


Perhaps the key issue at stake in the debate about immigration is the degree of job competition. The claim that immigrants “take jobs that Americans do not want” reflects a misunderstanding of microeconomics. The extent to which Americans want jobs (the labor-leisure trade-off) is a function of their pay. If labor supply shocks created by immigration drive down the wages in these jobs so that native workers leave them, it does not follow that Americans do not want these jobs. In the absence of immigration, wages would rise and American workers would be drawn back into them.

One way of examining this issue is to compare the occupational distribution of immigrants to natives. The two show significant overlap. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, fewer than 1 in 20 foreign-born Hispanics are in agricultural or related occupations. While illegal Hispanic workers are likely undercounted in these estimates, this however suggests that the common perception that most Hispanic immigrants work in the fields—the classic “jobs that Americans do not want” is ...
Related Ads