N.C. Aizenman of the Washington Postoffers "Study Says Foreigners In U.S. Adapt Quickly", an article about a new Manhattan Institute report called "Measuring Immigrant Assimilation", authored by economist Jacob Vigdor of Duke University. He constructed an "assimilation index" based on economic, cultural, and civic assimilation. One of the issues with the index is that it probably doesn't include a question on whether those immigrants subscribe to our laws or whether they think they don't apply to them, and it probably doesn't cover irredentism-related issues. It's also a mixed bag; while the headline of the WaPo article spins it in the way we've come to expect from the WaPo, even N.C. Aizenman offers the following as the third sentence of his article:
The gap between today's foreign-born and native populations remains far wider than it was in the early 1900s and is particularly large in the case of Mexican immigrants, the report said.
And, Howard Husock, vice president for Policy Research at the Manhattan Institute, says:
It turns out there is plenty of assimilation going on. Cubans and Vietnamese, for instance, are economically indistinguishable from natives. Germans are indistinguishable both culturally and economically. Some cities are doing better than others at assimilating newcomers. Houston, where Mexican and Central Americans predominate, has an assimilation index of just 19. New York, where no one group predominates, has a score of 31.
But the most striking finding is much less positive. The current overall assimilation level for all immigrant groups combined, measured on a scale of zero to 100, is, at 28, lower now than it was during the great immigration wave of the early 20th century, when it never went below 32. What’s more, the immigrant group that is by far the largest is also the least assimilated. On the zero-to-100 scale, Mexicans — 11 million emigrated to America between 1980 and 2006 — score only 13.
Although Mexican assimilation does occur, it’s extremely slow. Mexicans who arrived in 1995 started out with Index scores around five — and increased only to around 10 by 2005. In other words, our largest immigrant group arrived with little education and even less knowledge of English, and they have stayed that way for an extended period.
On the same theme, Eunice Moscoso offers "Immigrants less integrated than before, study finds" (link).
Oddly enough, those hacks who support massive and/or illegal immigration only seem to have read the headline of the WaPo piece.
They include David Weigel of Reason Magazine ("The Washington Post reports on a new study revealing the quicker and quicker adaptation of immigrants to American norms."; reason.com/blog/show/126477.html). He's taken to task here.
Someone else weighing in is Duncan Black (aka Atrios) under the title "Paging Lou Dobbs" (eschatonblog.com/2008_05_11_archive.html#7247266138416718020):
Haven't looked at the study myself, so put this in the category of "confirms what I already thought," but as someone who lives in a city which still has plenty of white ethnic enclaves I've long been puzzled by the widespread belief that today's immigrants are somehow "different," aside from the skin color of some of them.
That's not only sleazy race-baiting, but it contains two logical fallacies: he's drawing a false conclusion based on a small sample size (i.e., his limited experiences) and based on past behavior despite the underlying conditions having changed.
Next up is Matt Yglesias, who links approvingly to both the WaPo and Atrios in "Assimilation Then and Now" (matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/05/assimilation_then_and_now.php).
Last and least at least as far as traffic is concerned, Daniel Drezner takes a content-free swipe at both Lou Dobbs and Mickey Kaus (http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/003815.html)
UPDATE: Looking at the study (manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_53.htm), here's what "cultural assimilation" means to the author the study:
* Ability to speak English
* Intermarriage (whether an individual’s spouse is native-born)
* Number of children
* Marital status
One will note a few things missing, such as whether they buy in to our laws (or think they don't apply to them) and whether they support our borders (or think they have a Blut und Boden-style right to move anywhere within the Americas).
An intellectually honest index would take those into account. The civic index has similar issues as well, one of which the author acknowledges (military service being a fast-track to citizenship).