Much of the immigration debate has focused on assimilation rates for second and third generation Latinos. But put that aside and consider the rest of the arrivals. It is striking to me how very rapidly they assimilate, and I don’t just mean the Canadians (on a given day, could you tell which of the writers of this blog is from north of the border?). I mean the Russians, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Indians, and many others, including most of the Muslim immigrants. They don’t become culturally identical to the native-born, but in terms of economic and social indicators, you couldn’t ask for a much better performance.
The assimilation problem in fact comes from the longstanding native-born Americans, often of more traditional stock. The country around them has changed rapidly, and they do not assimilate so well to the new realities. And since they are not self-selected migrants who know they will face hardship, they are not always so inclined to internalize a “suck it up” kind of attitude. Many complain, others settle into niches of failure or mediocre careers.
In this regard, encouraging the actual arriving immigrants to assimilate better or faster can make the actual assimilation problem worse, because it will change the home culture more rapidly too.
Often, the real impact of immigration is not on wages or electoral outcomes, but it is the assimilation burdens placed on some of the longer-standing traditional natives of the home country. And the more productive and successful the immigrants are, the more serious these problems may become.
I am grateful to the Cato liberaltarian group for a discussion of this issue; I have drawn on remarks from that dialogue, including from Will.