This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Integration of Immigrants into American Society

Two days ago I noted that the National Academy of Sciences was holding a briefing on immigration to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the current immigration law in the U.S. The briefing highlighted a new report published by the National Academy Press called "The Integration of Immigrants into American Society," edited by Mary Waters and Marisa Gerstein Pineau. In a nutshell (and from their introduction), the panel found that:
Overall, the panel found that current immigrants and their descendants are integrating into U.S. society. This report documents the course and extent of integration and the report’s chapters draw 18 formal conclusions with regard to integration. Across all measurable outcomes, integration increases over time, with immigrants becoming more like the native-born with more time in the country, and with the second and third generations becoming more like other native-born Americans than their parents were.  
For the outcomes of educational attainment, occupational distribution, income, residential integration, language ability, and living above the poverty line, immigrants also increase their well-being as they become more similar to the native-born and improve their situation over time. Still, the well-being of immigrants and their descendants is highly dependent on immigrant starting points and on the segment of American society—the racial and ethnic groups, the legal status, the social class, and the geographic area—into which they integrate. There are three notable outcomes where well-being declines as immigrants and their descendants converge with native-born Americans: health, crime, and the percentage of children growing up with two parents.
The bottom line, then, is that the descendants of immigrants eventually become "Americans" but that isn't always good for their health and well-being. But, being an immigrant can also be hard on your health, as we were reminded today on NPR's "The California Report." The issue here is that an increasing fraction of migrants (usually undocumented) from Mexico are from the southern states of Mexico, where Spanish is not the first language. [Note that Piotr Jankowski, Justin Stoler and I analyzed this trend in a paper we published a few years ago.] These migrants often speak only native languages such as Mixteco or Triqui, and there are no translators to help health providers understand their health problems. Here at San Diego State University we have a program to work with members of these linguistic communities, but the obvious goal has to be to bring them into English proficiency so that they can better navigate the host society.

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