How Credit Got So Easy
An Economist Reads Jane Austenania

Assimilation

George Borjas writes:

The Borjas Blog: Should We Encourage The Assimilation of Immigrants?: From an economic perspective, it is actually not so clear whether it is beneficial to encourage assimilation. As I argued in Heaven's Door:

On the one hand, the process of assimilation helps narrow the economic gap between immigrants and natives, reducing the drain on many social services. The rapid assimilation of disadvantaged immigrants would also lower the chances that this population, clustered in poor ethnic ghettoes, becomes a new underclass, the potential source of a great deal of social conflict. On the other hand, the economic gains from immigration are largest when the skills of immigrants most complement those of natives. The quicker that immigrants become like American workers, the faster that those gains vanish...

Needless to say, assimilation is not purely, or even mainly, an economic phenomenon. Delaying the process of cultural assimilation also has significant—and potentially much more serious—social and political consequences. One need not travel far to see the intrinsic dangers that a country faces when it has numerically large, culturally distinct, and linguistically separate minorities.

My impression is that many European countries take a much more active role than the United States in promoting immigrant assimilation--such as "encouraging" immigrants to settle in particular parts of the receiving country. A comparison with the European assimilation experience, however, would seem to suggest that we are not doing so bad; that a little benign neglect may have been very beneficial in this context. On their own, many immigrants saw the economic benefits from assimilation and acted accordingly. The possibility that "immigrant advocates" will play an important role in forming assimilation policy is a red flag to me. Although it's hard to know for sure, this could easily be another example of a wrong-headed Bush immigration initiative.

Whenever I read things like this, I cannot help but think that they are completely turned around. All over the world ministers of culture are frightened because their citizens who have not moved to the United States are "assimilating" to American culture and values--and they are. People who are in America assimilate even faster--albeit not as rapidly as we would, ideally, wish.

For the most mind-exploding example of this I have seen, consider that National Review has a hack named Mark Krikorian who self-identifies as one of the white guys threatened by the looming Hispanic Pizza Menace carried by the swarthy people crossing our southern border. If assimilation were any slower, somebody with the last name "Krikorian" would see himself as a camel jockey with more in common with the people who put chorizo on their pizza than with us waspy types.

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