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Achieving Anew

Achieving Anew: How New Immigrants Do in American Schools, Jobs, and Neighborhoods

Michael J . White
Jennifer E. Glick
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 236
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    Achieving Anew
    Book Description:

    Can the recent influx of immigrants successfully enter the mainstream of American life, or will many of them fail to thrive and become part of a permanent underclass? Achieving Anew examines immigrant life in school, at work, and in communities and demonstrates that recent immigrants and their children do make substantial progress over time, both within and between generations. From policymakers to private citizens, our national conversation on immigration has consistently questioned the country’s ability to absorb increasing numbers of foreign nationals—now nearly one million legal entrants per year. Using census data, longitudinal education surveys, and other data, Michael White and Jennifer Glick place their study of new immigrant achievement within a context of recent developments in assimilation theory and policies regulating who gets in and what happens to them upon arrival. They find that immigrant status itself is not an important predictor of educational achievement. First-generation immigrants arrive in the United States with less education than native-born Americans, but by the second and third generation, the children of immigrants are just as successful in school as native-born students with equivalent social and economic background. As with prior studies, the effects of socioeconomic background and family structure show through strongly. On education attainment, race and ethnicity have a strong impact on achievement initially, but less over time. Looking at the labor force, White and Glick find no evidence to confirm the often-voiced worry that recent immigrants and their children are falling behind earlier arrivals. On the contrary, immigrants of more recent vintage tend to catch up to the occupational status of natives more quickly than in the past. Family background, educational preparation, and race/ethnicity all play a role in labor market success, just as they do for the native born, but the offspring of immigrants suffer no disadvantage due to their immigrant origins. New immigrants continue to live in segregated neighborhoods, though with less prevalence than native black-white segregation. Immigrants who arrived in the 1960s are now much less segregated than recent arrivals. Indeed, the authors find that residential segregation declines both within and across generations. Yet black and Mexican immigrants are more segregated from whites than other groups, showing that race and economic status still remain powerful influences on where immigrants live. Although the picture is mixed and the continuing significance of racial factors remains a concern, Achieving Anew provides compelling reassurance that the recent wave of immigrants is making impressive progress in joining the American mainstream. The process of assimilation is not broken, the advent of a new underclass is not imminent, and the efforts to argue for the restriction of immigration based on these fears are largely mistaken.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-703-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    The faces of new arrivals to our shores, ports, and cities reinforce the self-image of the United States as a country of immigration. At the same time, this newest wave of immigrants brings challenges and opportunities. In the eyes of some observers, it challenges key values of American society. For others, it reinforces those values. For some, it strengthens the economy; for others, it limits the economic opportunities of residents and raises the prospect of a mass of unskilled newcomers on the bottom rungs of society. Unquestionably, recent years have witnessed one of the largest flows of immigrants in U.S....

  6. Chapter 2 A Tidal Wave of Immigration? The Scale of the Contemporary Immigration Flow
    (pp. 8-27)

    The united States is typically characterized as a nation of immigrants. More than 70 million people were counted as immigrants to the United States between 1820 and 2005 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security 2005). But how large is the current immigration flow to the United States, and how does it compare across historical periods? This chapter examines the trends in immigration to the United States and places the most recent wave of immigration in demographic, historical, and geographic context.The problem one faces in an exercise of this sort is finding useful and appropriate points of comparison. Absolute numbers suggest one...

  7. Chapter 3 Revisiting Assimilation Theory
    (pp. 28-54)

    Even as the United States has continued to admit substantial numbers of immigrants in recent decades, scholarly discussion has raised questions not only about how well these new arrivals are doing, but also what theoretical framework would best underpin our understanding of their relative success. In this chapter we examine this discussion about the progress of immigrants and their descendants in the United States.

    Assimilation theorists and policy analysts, while acknowledging that assimilation or adaptation is a process bound in time, often conduct their discussion at an aggregated level (Alba and Nee 2003; Brubaker 2001), and therefore have not been...

  8. Chapter 4 Immigration and Immigrant Policy
    (pp. 55-77)

    Immigration is one of the few areas of population change where governments can actively intervene to control or direct population. High-income societies—western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, and the United States—make rules about who gets in. Equally important, rules about admission also determine the composition of the immigrant flow. In this chapter we discuss policy regarding immigration, setting the backdrop for our understanding of the scale and origin of contemporary immigration flows, the assimilation of new arrivals and their offspring, and current debates about policy. We briefly outline complex (even convoluted) arguments that have, on and off, occupied policy...

  9. Chapter 5 School: Educational Attainment of Immigrants and the Second Generation
    (pp. 78-111)

    For the Individual, educational attainment is a key determinant of future economic mobility in the United States (Becker and Tomes 1986; Blau and Duncan 1967). Certainly, our conventional American dream is predicated, in part, on the notion that universal access to education is a hallmark of opportunity. In the case of minority groups, education, often in combination with subsequent geographic mobility, has been shown to be critical to reducing disparities (Smith and Welch 1986; Montero and Tsukashima 1977). Schools provide the key sites in which a society provides human capital, the resources for achievement and income later in life.A wealth...

  10. Chapter 6 Work: Labor Market Achievement
    (pp. 112-149)

    The question of how well immigrants do is often answered with an evaluation of the labor force experience and earnings of the foreign born. Of all the areas of immigrant adaptation that generate concern in the policy realm, labor market performance has received perhaps the most attention and research.¹ Much of the economic focus has been on the relative performance of new immigrants. Controversy about the economic success or poor performance of immigrants probably accompanies all waves of immigration. The most recent came in the 1980s and 1990s with the claim that previous cohorts of immigrants started out less disadvantaged...

  11. Chapter 7 Neighborhood: Residential Assimilation of Immigrants and Ethnic Groups
    (pp. 150-170)

    Patterns of neighboring give us a particularly clear window into the process of adaptation, adjustment, and assimilation of immigrants and ethnic groups in American society. Although violent confrontation is relatively rare, tension over who lives next door speaks of the visceral importance of neighborhood in American society.Who one’s neighbors are is important not only for social interaction, but also for a host of perceived material resources and concerns: public services, access to schools, property values. Neighborhoods provide friends and are a source of role models and socialization for children.We derive some of our social status from those with whom we...

  12. Chapter 8 Conclusion: Immigrant Assimilation and Social Policy
    (pp. 171-190)

    Perhaps one of the most enduring images of American culture is that of near-penniless immigrants arriving at Ellis Island and, through dint of hard work, clambering their way up the ladder of success in the land of opportunity. No one doubts the power of this image, but how accurate is it? Do those who now come through the nation’s jetways or across the land border match the myth developed from the experience of those who, several generations ago,walked down the nation’s gangplanks? Do today’s immigrants lift themselves by their bootstraps? Do they adjust, adapt, accommodate, assimilate?

    Unlike many nations, the...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 191-202)
    (pp. 203-220)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 221-226)