Recent immigrants to the United States tend to assimilate better than their counterparts in Europe, according to a new report by Jacob Vigdor, a scholar at Duke University and the Manhattan Institute, who examined international immigration trends and data from the last decade.
The report indicates that immigrants in America continue to assimilate strongly along economic lines in 2009 — indicating that they quickly closed in on native-born Americans, in terms of economic well-being — while remaining less likely to assimilate along cultural lines (such as the ability to speak English), and even less on civic lines.
Groups that tended to assimilate quickly in America included Filipinos and Vietnamese. Natives of Mexico and Guatemala were poorly assimilated, the report found. The differences between the U.S. and European nations were particularly stark when it came to Muslim immigrants. While 48 percent of Muslims were naturalized in the U.S., only 7 percent were naturalized in Italy, 10 percent in Switzerland and 25 percent in Spain.
"Immigrants from the Muslim world who come to the United States tend to be a little bit better educated than immigrants from say, Mexico and Central America," he said. "Culturally their likelihood of speaking English is fairly high, and once they spend enough time in the country their rates of naturalization are fairly high."
Philip Kasinitz, sociologist at the CUNY Graduate Center and co-author of "Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age," said he thinks Vigdor "has it right."
"The United States on the whole has done a better job in terms of incorporating immigrants," he said. "That doesn't mean we don't have very real problems," he said, pointing to anti-Muslim rhetoric. "Those elements of the Muslim community that in some ways are making the greatest efforts to be part of the civic life of the city are finding themselves rebuffed."
The group he worries more about is the large population of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Many of them, he noted, are young people "who discover upon entering the labor force or trying to get into college that they are really excluded from being fully-functioning adults in American society, because of their legal status. That's a tremendously dangerous situation."