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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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 1, 2015

Migrant Journeys Last a Lifetime

For many years, Rubén Rumbaut and his colleagues have been studying the processes by which immigrants adapt to and, eventually, assimilate into their new home country. This is a slow and cross-generational process, with a thousand possible bumps in the road. I was thinking of this today as two pieces of news came across my screen. The first is the latest iteration of the European migrant crisis, as Hungary loaded a bunch of people onto a train and sent them on to Germany--which is where they want to go because it is a big country with a big economy. The New York Times, among many others, has noted that this crisis has really put Europe's open border policy to the test. It wasn't designed to deal with a bunch of people arriving without documentation, but hoping to be granted refugee status so that they can stay in Europe for a better life than they would have had wherever they came from.

It seems very likely that, once settled, their lives will in fact, be better than before. It could certainly take a while to get to that point, however. The people who may wind up suffering most from the new place will be the children. A report out just today from the Migration Policy Institute reviews the evidence about discrimination against immigrant children in the United States, but it is reasonable to expect that this could happen in Europe as well:
Report author Christia Spears Brown, an associate professor of developmental psychology at the University of Kentucky, examines the literature on discrimination in school settings. Studies show that by elementary school, children of immigrants report being treated unfairly by teachers, receiving verbal insults, being excluded from activities or being threatened with physical harm by peers. By their teen years, immigrants’ children report that they have been graded unfairly, discouraged from joining advanced-level classes and disciplined excessively for the same behaviors as other children.
So, the point is that the trauma for immigrants doesn't end when they are finally settled in a place. The cultural problem of dealing with differences, as I've noted before, is going to be an issue for some time to come. It may not be until the third generation--some 50 years from now--that the descendants of these immigrants will finally be part of the "mainstream." In the meantime, there will need to be many kinds of adjustments on the part of immigrants and the host society. With luck, immigrants and the host society collectively will be better off as a result, but it won't be easy.

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