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What does it mean to be “American” in a country as diverse as the United States?
It has been decades since the Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act) was passed. The law provided for a quota system that led to the slowing down of the rate at which new migrants moved into the United States. Immigration had brought more than 23.5 million people into the United States. Some people argue that the John Reed Act disadvantages some regions of the world while giving preference to others, though not explicitly. One of the regions disadvantaged by the John Reed Act, critics argue, is Southern and Eastern Europe. Critics also argue that the Johnson-Reed Act was one of the reasons Asian migration into the United States slowed down following World War II (Kraut, 2014, p. 707).
The United States enjoys the position of being a land filled with lots of opportunities for nearly all its residents. There are several opportunities for upward mobility and for people born in lower socioeconomic levels to drastically change their fortunes and move up the socioeconomic ladder. Nonetheless, critics of migration argue that migration is a disadvantage to poorer Americans as it leads to lower wages in jobs meant to give the poor a springboard to jump out of their situation. Unskilled immigrants are ready and willing to take various roles at lower wages. These fears have dominated political and economic debates over the past few decades (Ran & Fabio, 2006). A review of contemporary and historical evidence brings forth certain interesting observations. First, over time, the makeup of migration has been changing. In the past, the process of selecting migrants was mixed with skilled and unskilled workers being granted immigration permits. Today, there is a lot of emphasis on skills. Skill is the most observable characteristic being used by immigration offices (Abramitzsky, Platt & Katherine, 2013). This can be explained by a number of factors including by the fact that income inequality is rising in the United States and officials want to give people at the lower socioeconomic levels a fair opportunity to earn good wages. Further, as far as self-selection is concerned, it can be explained by the fact that the process of migration to the United States is an expensive one and the people most likely to take the initiative to go through the whole process are skilled workers with enough money to afford the process. This reality fits perfectly with the Roy model of self-selection (Abramitzky & Boustan, 2017).
The second observation is that the socioeconomic situation of immigrants does not always reflect the notion of the “American Dream.” Both today and in the past, the argument is that migrants come penniless and over the long-term, because of the “American Dream”, they rise to catch up with other Americans. The reality is that both immigrants and natives have almost the same level of wage growth. Since unskilled migrants start at the bottom, with a regular rate of wage growth, they fail to catch up with other Americans in one generation of existence.
This is especially true today but not as true as the pre-1900 era. During the pre-1900 era, migrants and natives held almost the same jobs and wage growth was almost the same across the board. Today, high-paying jobs require advanced specialized skills that may not be easy or affordable to train for as an immigrant. Another reality is that during the pre-1900 era, a typical immigrant was from Europe. Europe then was not as rich as the United States but it was not a lot poorer either.
There were a lot of similarities between jobs available, skills needed, and technology used in Europe and America during that era. Migrants, therefore, shared a lot in common with most American workers and they were able to get almost the same jobs as high-paid Americans. The heterogeneity in skills ensured that immigrants advanced at almost at the same rate as natives and were able to secure the “American Dream” within their lifetime (Ran, Platt & Katherine, 2013).
The third observation is that while immigrants getting employment in the United States might lead to a reduction in wages for some natives, in general, there is no evidence to support the claim that immigrants have a net negative effect on the nation’s economy. The reality, as is normal in most systems, is that immigration leads to winners and losers in the economy but the net effect is positive for the U.S. economy. Even when migrants lead to lower wages, gateway cities with lower wages often see new capital investments in the form of new factories to take advantage of the lower cost of labor (Abramitzsky & Boustan, 2017, p. 2).
Is the Idea of American Culture as a “Melting Pot” Still Valid?
Ethnicity theory over the twentieth-century focused mainly on the question of immigration and how immigrants could culturally assimilate into society.
Stuck Writing Your "Recent Immigration in the United States" Research Paper?
America is made up of several diverse minority communities but the need to fully assimilate into the American way of life is still a need for most immigrants. Israel Zangwill’s The Melting Pot (1908) explored American culture from the races that constitute it and made various theories surrounding ethnic assimilation popular. The play was a success then but many critics now posit that it does not accurately portray how the races of the United States should be accurately studied or understood (Mahfouz, 2013, p, 2).
The cultural mosaic (the salad bowl) theory calls for the United States to integrate its diverse ethnicities as one would combine different ingredients to make up a salad bowl. The model has brought a new way to think about cultural assimilation and the creation of the melting pot. In the creation of a salad bowl, the ethnicities that make up the United States should not lose their unique characteristics as they assimilate with other cultures in the country. There should be heterogeneity in the salad bowl just as fruit and…
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…so unconsciously (Park & Judd, 2005).
The American education system also plays a big role in shaping the identities of the students that go through it. Children of migrants tend to align their ideas more with the mainstream American ideas than their migrant parents do after they go through the American education system. It is noteworthy that the school system in the United States has taken lots of steps to make education more equal for all people no matter their backgrounds.
While legal status still plays a big role in education outcomes, many states such as California, Texas, New York and others have taken steps to allow undocumented children to go to public colleges after graduating from high school at tuition rates similar to those of resident children. Greater access to the entirety of the American education system by migrant children has played a role in shaping the identity of migrant children (Orrenius, 2004, p. 5).
What Is Gained, Or Lost, When Immigrants Become “Americanized”?
An assimilated immigrant transforms into a new person that exhibits passionate love for both America and their home country. Most migrants are acutely aware of the general ever-present requirement that they show dedication to American ideals. The gain from this awareness is that they look at themselves as fully American and begin to push with patriotic spirit for various ethnic causes they care about. In this essence, the rest of America gets to appreciate that their ethnic group is just as American as any other group and takes steps to afford them opportunities that other Americans have that they may have been denied implicitly or explicitly. This leads to the creation of a more harmonious and equal society that is good for all Americans (Hanley, 2012).
Italian-Americans is one of the communities that have immigrated into the United States and taken advantage of their newly formed identity to help their community integrate fully into mainstream American culture. From the 1900s to the present day, Italian-Americans have been a key part of American culture and there are several American advancements that are directly attributable to the presence of Italians in America. All this was made possible by the formation of new identities and assimilation of Italian-Americans into the dominant mainstream American culture. It can be said that Italian-American’s didn’t lose their identity but created a new identity in America (Pechie, 2015, p. 21).
America values productivity and the Americanization of immigrants can be seen in their participation in the labor market. Notably, low-skilled immigrants without a high school diploma are likely to join the workforce at a higher rate than low-skilled natives without a high school diploma. Immigrants are less likely to remain unemployed than natives. The commitment to work is a net gain to the United States.
In fact, on average, an immigrant does better socioeconomically than a similarly skilled native over the course of 16 to 20 years because of their commitment to work. When controlling for factors….....
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