January 16, 2016


The Irony of Anti-Immigration Racism :Closing our borders won't stop the U.S. from becoming a majority-minority nation. (Reihan Salam, 1/16/16, Slate)

[C]oulter's thought experiment is interesting all the same, because it demonstrates that people who fear the browning of America have already lost. The demographic transformation of the United States into a more diverse society is at this point inevitable. The real long-term effect of immigration takes shape as immigrants have children and then as their native-born children have children of their own. If you can't deport Nikki Haley, you'll have to learn to live with the fact that her descendants will live alongside yours.

There is a widespread perception that advocates of reducing immigration, and of reducing less-skilled immigration in particular, are at least partly motivated by racism. And of course there are plenty of people who believe that racism is doing all of the work of driving anti-immigration sentiment. If you believe (as I do) that there are perfectly sensible reasons to be skeptical about mass immigration--perhaps you're concerned about the ability of less-skilled immigrants to lead dignified lives without a great deal of taxpayer-funded public assistance--this assumption can be frustrating. In "The Hidden Immigration Consensus," political scientists Jens Hainmueller and Daniel Hopkins surveyed Americans on their attitudes toward different kinds of immigrants, and they found a broad consensus. Whether respondents scored high or low on an index of ethnocentrism (i.e., racial prejudice), they had a strong preference for admitting educated, English-speaking immigrants in high-status occupations. Hainmueller and Hopkins found many respondents who were free of racial prejudice yet who nevertheless believed that it made sense for the U.S. to strongly favor immigrants who were capable of providing for themselves and their families. I'd put myself in this category.

Nevertheless, it is hard to deny that at least some anti-immigration sentiment is motivated by racism. So consider this a public service announcement to the racists of America: There's a really good chance that halting immigration will not accomplish what you want it to accomplish. I know this might blow some racist minds, so allow me to explain.

Among Americans under the age of 18, non-Hispanic whites will be in the minority by 2020, according to a recent report from the U.S. Census. What this means is that as older, whiter generations climb the stairway to heaven, they will be replaced by younger, less-white generations that will become the crotchety old people of the future. By the time 2040 rolls around, there is a decent chance that the elderly gentleman demanding that you get off his lawn will be nonwhite. (Truthfully, there's a pretty good chance that this elderly gentleman will be me and that by 2040, I mean next week.) This generational replacement will take place regardless of what happens to future immigration levels. As of 2012, the median age of non-Hispanic whites was 42 while that of Hispanics was just 27. The median ages for blacks and Asians were somewhere in between, at 32 and 35 respectively. What this means is that a higher proportion of Hispanics, and to a lesser extent blacks and Asians, are of childbearing age as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Halting all immigration would certainly delay the majority-minority crossover--the moment when non-Hispanic whites will no longer be in the majority of all Americans--but it won't prevent it from taking place.

The lesson Pete Wilson taught is that you can ride one last racial panic to victory, if you're willing to sacrifice the future.  Not a bad deal for the old white folk who'll be dead soon enough not to care.   

Posted by at January 16, 2016 9:31 AM