Immigration to the United States:recent trends and future prospects / Prof. Charles Hirschman

Hirschman, Charles (2013) Immigration to the United States:recent trends and future prospects / Prof. Charles Hirschman. In: International Population Conference on Migration, Urbanisation & Development, 8 July 2013, Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. (Unpublished)

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The United States is popularly known as a “nation of immigrants.” For recent immigrants and their descendants, this term means that they belong—they are part of a long tradition of peoples who came the United States seeking economic opportunity, fleeing injustice or oppression in their homeland, and a better life for their children. Long term residents of the United States, those who immigration experience is several generations in the past, often have mixed feelings about new immigrants. They may be very proud of their immigrant forbearers from Italy, Poland, or Ireland, but this historical experience does not always generate sympathy for recent arrivals. They often think the new immigrants are somehow different and less deserving than those who arrived in the past. These beliefs about new immigrants are based on assumptions of difference--the recent newcomers have a different religion, a different language, or are from a different country that will make them less likely to assimilate to American society and culture. Then, there is a significant proportion of Americans are strongly hostile to new immigrants – they would like to stop all immigration and even to expel those who are already here, including the estimated 12 million immigrants who do not have any legal standing to be in the US. This ambivalence about immigration, and even hostility to immigrants, is part of the fabric of American society, past and present. Immigrants from around the world have been coming to the United States in large numbers for almost 4 centuries, long before the founding of the nation in 1787. Although immigrants are often welcomed, particularly by family and friends from their homeland, they often encounter indifference and occasional prejudice from long resident Americans. In this overview, I survey the trends in immigration to the United States with a focus on the most recent period—the Post 1965 Wave of Immigration, named for the reforms in immigration law enacted in the late 1960s as part of the Civil Rights revolution. I focus on the absolute and relative volume of new immigrants and their place in American society. Current levels of immigration are very high, but relative the national population, their numbers are about what the US experienced in the first part of the 20th century. In fact, the portion of the US population that is foreign born (or the children of the foreign born) was even higher during the first decade of the 20th century and during the 1840s and 1850s. These earlier waves of mass migration generated an extreme levels of American nativism that were much hostile than those at present. There was a significant number of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the majority originated in Europe. At present, about half of new immigrants come from Mexico and other Latin American countries, and about one-quarter come from Asia, including China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In the 1970s and 1980s, most immigrants settled a few states, particularly California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. In the 1990s, immigrants spread out to “new destinations,” including small towns and cities in the South and Midwest. The most distinctive trait of immigrants is their “selectivity.” They are not the poorest of the poor. While many immigrants have below average educational credentials relative to native born Americans, they are almost invariably positively selective relative to others at their place of origin. Some immigrants arrive with very high educational credentials and play a disproportionate role in the American high tech sector. In general, the children of immigrants do very well in American society, both educationally and economically. Immigrants and their children are also distinctive in terms of their determination to succeed – sometimes labeled “strivers.” Of course, not all immigrants are successful. Some join gangs and experience downward mobility. They may even adopt attitudes that reject the goal of social mobility. But, all in all, most empirical research shows that contemporary immigrants are making a positive contribution to American society, just as earlier waves of immigrants did.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: National Population and Family Development Board(NPFDB) in collaboration with Population Studies Unit, Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya.
Keywords: immigration, foreign-born, United States
Subjects: 300 Social sciences > 303 Social processes
Division/Agency/State: LPPKN - National Population and Family Development Board, Malaysia > Division of Population
Deposited By: Mrs Nor Azaian Abdullah
Deposited On: 26 Jul 2013 00:51
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2014 01:24

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