February 24, 2004


The Americano Dream: Contrary to what the political scientist Samuel Huntington
says, Latin American immigrants are assimilating into
American culture. (DAVID BROOKS, 2/24/04, NY Times)

In their book, "Remaking the American Mainstream," Richard Alba of SUNY-Albany and Victor Nee of Cornell point out that though there are some border neighborhoods where immigrants are slow to learn English, Mexicans nationwide know they must learn it to get ahead. By the third generation, 60 percent of Mexican-American children speak only English at home.

Nor is it true that Mexican immigrants are scuttling along the bottom of the economic ladder. An analysis of 2000 census data by the USC urban planner Dowell Myers suggests that Latinos are quite adept at climbing out of poverty. Sixty-eight percent of those who have been in this country 30 years own their own homes.

Mexican immigrants are in fact dispersing around the nation. When they have children, they tend to lose touch with their Mexican villages and sink roots here. If you look at consumer data, you find that while they may spend more money on children's clothes and less on electronics than native-born Americans, there are no significant differences between Mexican-American lifestyles and other American lifestyles. They serve in the military — and die for this nation — at comparable rates.

Frankly, something's a little off in Huntington's use of the term "Anglo-Protestant" to describe American culture. There is no question that we have all been shaped by the legacies of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. But the mentality that binds us is not well described by the words "Anglo" or "Protestant."

In fact, we need Catholic Latino immigrants precisely because their social views are more conservative than those of most Americans.

Critics Assail Scholar's Article Arguing That Hispanic Immigration Threatens U.S. (DAVID GLENN, February 24, 2004, Chronicle of Higher Education)

On Monday, critics of the article attacked both its factual premises and its analytic framework. In a letter to the editors of Foreign Policy, Andrés Jiménez, director of the University of California's California Research Policy Center, wrote that the article was "misinformed, factually inaccurate, inflammatory, and potentially injurious to public policy because of its potential for being used as a further baseless rationalization for anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican politics."

In an interview, Mr. Jiménez said that Mr. Huntington was wrong to suggest that Hispanic families place a lower value on educational achievement than do native-born Americans. He cited a January 2004 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, which found that Hispanic parents are more likely to attend PTA meetings and to help their children with homework than are white or African-American parents.

He also argued that Mr. Huntington was foolish to describe the history of Hispanic families' educational and labor-force status without acknowledging the history of formal and informal segregation in the Southwest. As recently as the 1950s, he noted, the State of Texas maintained separate schools for Hispanic students, which did not continue past the sixth grade.

Mr. de la Garza, of Columbia, said in an interview that Mr. Huntington's fear that Hispanic immigrants would maintain strong loyalties to their countries of origin was not grounded in empirical fact. Mr. de la Garza cited a 1998 study by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Los Angeles, that, he said, demonstrated that Hispanic residents of the United States have a relatively low level of engagement with the politics of their home countries and are much more oriented toward events in the United States.

James P. Smith, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, said in an interview that Mr. Huntington's analysis appeared not to distinguish fully between the experiences of first-generation immigrants and those of their children and grandchildren.

"It's not unique to him," Mr. Smith said. "He's using the convention of the field, and I think the convention of the field is methodologically flawed."

A more precise analysis would show that Hispanic immigrants have actually made rapid progress from generation to generation, Mr. Smith argued.

He added that he saw no reason yet to believe that the United States was becoming a binational society. "To say that some time in the future we might become like Canada, and that we should keep our eye on separating the country that way -- that's fine. But I don't think we're there yet," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2004 10:50 AM

Sadly, you wouldn't know that from the abortion rates.

Posted by: Chris at February 24, 2004 11:24 AM

Are not the higher abortion rates a rather inevitable function of higher pregnancy and birth rates?

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2004 11:48 AM

Not necessarily -- although, the better statistic to study to dispose of this issue would be abortions per (unthreatened) live birth. As it stands now, you could have the same number of abortions per woman and still produce more children; however, I'm not sure that's reflective of any social conservatism, or at least, any meaningful kind.

Posted by: Chris at February 24, 2004 12:20 PM

It can't be conservative, but the greater opportunity for sin plays a real role in the stats, no?

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2004 12:23 PM

I've been thinking more and more that Bush's immigration plan is an effort to import christians.

Posted by: NKR at February 24, 2004 12:32 PM

Whether or not they will behave themselves what
will they contribute to our civilization?

Posted by: J.H. at February 24, 2004 1:21 PM

As I think I've mentioned here before, when I lived in Iowa in the mid-1970s, there were enough Mexicans to have organized a statewide Mexican Basketball League.

Of course they assimilate.

I might help, though, if somebody had actually read Huntington. He put himself on the fence whether Latin America should be regarded as a separate civilization from "the West."

Posted by: Harry Eagar at February 24, 2004 1:34 PM

The map in 'Clash' does show Latin America and North America in the same culture area. Harry, when you say that Huntington's "on the fence," have you a link to this specifically?

Posted by: Brian (MN) at February 24, 2004 1:42 PM


Different book.

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2004 1:56 PM

Same author.

Sorry, Brian, but when he introduces the idea of 7 civilizations in "Clash of Civilizations," he spends several paragraphs trying to decide whether L. America is part of the West. He decides he isn't sure.

Maybe he evolved.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at February 25, 2004 12:14 AM


Primarily, babies.
Assuming that said children grow up to be "Americans", then they'll ease the burden of caring for the retiring Boomers, and help foster the spread of democratic capitalism globally, by example and deed.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 25, 2004 2:42 AM


"Assuming that said children grow up to be "Americans", then they'll ease the burden of caring for the retiring Boomers,"

Now there is an inspring dream to offer new immigrants. Not only are they expected to keep the birthrate up, they will be charged with funding the not-so-greatest generation's efforts to set longevity records.

Land of the free?

Posted by: Peter B at February 25, 2004 5:17 AM

Peter B:

That's the price of admission. If you don't like it, stay home.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 26, 2004 12:45 AM