Summary: America is on the brink of radical changes resulting from decades of almost open borders. Only fast and effective policy action can prevent irreversible and ugly results. We successfully handled a similar situation in the past, and can do so again.
The Census 2010 American Community Survey (pdf here) found that 25% of children in America a foreign born parent (19% with two, 6% with one). That number is higher today. As of 2017, 13.4% of the US population is foreign-born. At these growth rates, their numbers will hit a record level sometime in the next ten years. See this Census report, and their headline graph …
Another 12.1% is second generation. Equally important, 21% of the population over five years of age speak a language other than English at home. Three-quarters of the US population grown comes from first generation migrants and children of the second generation. Of the foreign-born population …
- 15% entered the US in 2010 – 2017,
- 51% are from Latin America,
- 48% are naturalized US Citizens, and
- 17% had less than a 9th grade education (as of 2013).
As in the early 20th century, this massive flow of migrants is depressing wages and overwhelming our ability to assimilate them. It took four decades, but in the 1920’s immigration was slowed and then halted. This allowed our society’s powerful assimilation machinery to absorb the first and second generation of migrants – and wage growth to resume, producing (for the first time in American history) a large middle class.
Now we face the same situation, but with differences that will produce a different ending – unless we change course.
The previous wave of immigration was assimilated by often harsh public policies – rooted in effective schools – plus an economy that provided adequately paying jobs for low-skilled workers. Today we have public policy rooted in multiculturalism – actively discouraging assimilation – plus ineffective (often chaotic and gang-dominated) schools, with an economy providing falling wages for low-skilled workers. It is the recipe for building an even larger underclass.
This works for the rich, who get cheap workers. This works for the Left, who will harness these new voters into a block to reshape America by cultivating their hatreds and promising free stuff. It is mainlining poison for America.
The solutions are not even difficult, as such things go. They only require a national will, which we lack. We are receiving people from India, China, and Latin America. The first two are from very different cultures, but tend to have good educations and assimilate well. The people from Latin America are from more similar cultures, and if we work at it they will assimilate unless present in overwhelming numbers.
First, the flow of low-skill immigrants must be slowed. It is overwhelming our ability to assimilate. Worse, Latin American immigrants are forming self-sustaining communities (not just urban neighborhoods) in which their home culture becomes stable over time.
Second, we must reinstate the strong assimilationist policies that worked so well in our past.
Third, we must rebuild America’s schools. That means ejecting the current Leftist establishment whose feckless policies have slowly been wrecking them since the 1970s.
Warnings from experts, which we have ignored
For decades research has warned about the ugly consequences of our current policies. Leftist journalists hide this news. Libertarian (pro-open borders) conservatives cooperated. Now those warnings looks prescient. But it is not yet too late to listen.
Note that these papers focus on migrants from Mexico, their findings also apply to migrants from other Latin American nations.
By Edward P. Lazear in the Journal of Political Economy, December 1999.
“Common culture and common language facilitate trade between individuals. Individuals have incentives to learn the other languages and cultures so that they have a larger pool of potential trading partners. The value of assimilation is larger to an individual from a small minority than to one from a large minority group. When a society has a very large majority of individuals from one culture, individuals from minority groups will be assimilated more quickly. Assimilation is less likely when an immigrant’s native culture and language are broadly represented in his or her new country. Also, when governments protect minority interests directly, incentives to be assimilated into the majority culture are reduced. …
“The theory is tested and confirmed by examining U.S. census data, which reveal that the likelihood that an immigrant will learn English is inversely related to the proportion of the local population that speaks his or her native language.”
“Multiculturalism, or the tolerance by a society of many different cultures and languages, seems to be on the rise in the United States. This shows up in a number of ways. One of the most tangible of these is the recent growth of bilingual education. In the past, most immigrants insisted that their children be taught in English so that they could become ‘‘Americans.’’ The growth of multiculturalism, for good or bad, takes the view that Americans speak many languages and have many different cultures.
“In 1900, 85% of immigrants were fluent in English. Surprisingly, in 1990, the fluency rate among immigrants was only 68%, despite dramatic improvements in communication during the century. What accounts for the change over time? When do immigrants hold on to their native cultures and languages? Under which circumstances is assimilation most likely to occur? Given that society exists at a point in time with more than one culture, do the benefits from moving to a common culture outweigh the costs of the transition? How do government transfer policies affect assimilation? Is the localization of minorities into neighborhoods a natural outgrowth of maximizing behavior and is subsidized integration welfare enhancing? Is chauvinistic behavior by some societies socially beneficial or merely an emotional response without any social value? These questions are addressed below. The theory is confirmed by an empirical analysis based on U.S. census data from 1900 and 1990. …
Summary and Conclusion.
“Individuals from minority groups are more likely to adopt the culture and language of the majority when the minority group accounts for a small proportion of the total population. The incentives are greater for any individual to learn the majority language when only a few persons in the country speak his or her native language. Thus slow and balanced immigration, where the flow of individuals from any one culture is small, results in more rapid assimilation than immigration that favors any one particular group. Individuals from the majority may learn the language or culture of one of the minorities. But it is less likely that the majority will learn a minority language than that a minority will learn the majority language.
“Empirical evidence from the 1900 and 1990 U.S. censuses demonstrates conclusively that immigrants are most likely to be fluent in English when they live in communities that have small proportions of individuals from their own native country. Individuals who are from poorly represented groups learn English quickly. Those from groups with large proportions in the local population learn English more slowly. This is a rational response to the differences in the value of learning English across groups. The finding holds up within cultural groups as well as across groups. Some additional points are summarized below.
“(1) Government transfers, which place a floor on consumption, reduce the incentives to adopt the majority culture and learn the majority language. …”
George Borjas (Editor).
Report of a conference in 2005, the fourth of a series sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research (2007).
by George Borjas (editor).
“There is a great deal of concern over the possibility that the Mexican immigrant influx, which is predominantly low-skill, adversely affects working conditions for low-skill workers already residing in the United States. Similarly, there is a heated debate over the possibility that Mexican immigrants and their descendants may assimilate slowly – relative to the experience of other immigrant waves – and this slow assimilation may lead to the creation of a new underclass.
Reflecting the increased interest on issues regarding the economic impact of immigration, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has held four separate research conferences on immigration in the past two decades.
The empirical findings reported here summarize much of what is currently known about the economic impact of Mexican immigration to the United States. …A common theme runs through the essays: The sheer size and uniqueness of the Mexican immigrant population in the United States ensures that the economic impact of this immigrant influx is pervasive and will likely form an important part of the discussion over many aspects of social and economic policy for decades to come. …
The huge increase in the size of the immigrant influx in recent decades can be traced to changes in U.S. immigration policy. …
The size of the large Mexican immigrant influx of the past few decades is unique not only relative to current immigration, but also even relative to the very large migration of some European national origin groups at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1920, for example, the largest two immigrant populations were those of persons who originated in Germany or Italy, and together those two populations comprised about 23.7% of the foreign-born population at the time …. As noted in the preceding, in 2004 Mexican immigrants alone account for 28.3% of the foreign-born population. Put differently, the dominant position of Mexican immigration in determining the ethnic composition of the immigrant population represents an important outlier in the history of U.S. immigration. …
By George J. Borjas and Lawrence F. Katz.
The analysis of the economic performance of these immigrants throughout the twentieth century yields a number of interesting and potentially important findings:
- Mexican immigrants have much less educational attainment than either native-born workers or non-Mexican immigrants. These differences in human capital account for nearly three-quarters of the very large wage disadvantage suffered by Mexican immigrants in recent decades.
- Although the earnings of non-Mexican immigrants converge to those of their native-born counterparts as the immigrants accumulate work experience in the U.S. labor market, this type of wage convergence has been much weaker on average for Mexican immigrants than for other immigrant groups.
- Although native-born workers of Mexican ancestry have levels of human capital and earnings that far exceed those of Mexican immigrants, the economic performance of these native-born workers lags behind that of native workers who are not of Mexican ancestry. Much of the wage gap between the two groups of native-born workers can be explained by the large difference in educational attainment between the two groups.
- The large Mexican influx in recent decades widened the U.S. wage structure by adversely affecting the earnings of less-educated native workers and improving the earnings of college graduates. …
We ignore these facts and the implications at our peril. An underclass is almost impossible to fix. We are building a new and larger one, a multicultural one with radically different values. It will radically and irreversibly change America for the worse.