Kotkin on Immigration

Joel Kotkin offers some fact-based analysis of the The Multiculturalism of the Streets now ongoing in America. Kotkin details how, below the radar, immigrant America is integrating itself into the American economy, and American life more generally. He also notes that the idea that our Southwestern states will become “Spanish Quebecs” is not supported by the evidence:

Linguistic trends show a similar trajectory. Despite fears of an emerging Babel, Latinos and Asians are becoming ever more English-dominant. Ninety percent of Latino high school graduates prefer to speak English over Spanish. This is largely a matter of generational change. The Spanish-dominant first generation is becoming a progressively smaller percentage of the Latino population. By 2040 the second generation is expected to double while the third generation, the vast majority of whom speak no Spanish at all, will expand threefold. As a result, English-dominant Hispanics, who already account for some three-fifths of Latino spending power, will become the prime “ethnic” market.

Though some people won’t like to hear it, the prognosis is for America remaining “the young, dynamic world-nation of the 21st Century”, as I previously predicted.

To be sure, this culture fusion will not please some conservative intellectuals, who will not look kindly on the incorporation of Spanishisms into our daily language any more than the rising popularity of Yiddish words appealed to Henry James a century ago. For the most part, however, this informal, undirected and mostly market-driven form of integration bodes very well for the continued dynamism of both American culture and economy. It guarantees that America will remain youthful, changeable and, very likely, strongly family-oriented. And it points to a major difference within the civilizational West—for most European countries have yet to figure out how to blend and thrive as has the United States.

Contrary to the concerns of some conservative critics, or the hopes of P.C. campus radicals, the emerging American national reality will not be shaped by the pronouncements of either left-wing academics or conservative political warlords. The new America will be more the product of the street-level trends that operate below the radar of intellectuals—just as it always has. If we’re smart, we’ll let what comes most naturally to American society take its course.

Sounds good to me. (RTWT)

UPDATE: Peter St. Andre offers some thoughts in response to the Kotkin article.

(Cross-posted at Albion’s Seedlings)

16 thoughts on “Kotkin on Immigration”

  1. As Claudio Veliz pointed out, the very fact that US Latino culture is a hybrid of English and Spanish puts it on the Anglosphere side of the equation. However, beyond the cultural is the political. The London bombers of 7-7 were from all appearances culturally assimilated into the UK — they liked soccer and cricket, and spoke colloquial English, yet they felt completely alienated from the political and social English nation. The assimilation of the immigrants of the 1900s to American ideals was accomplished by a firm cultural and political self-confidence that did not hesitate to teach its values to young immigrants. How can we assure that the same thing will happen this time around?

  2. Your previous comments are exactly correct. There’s no way to control this; attempts to do so are futile and most likely counter-productive. You have to trust the outcome to the cultural mechanisms that exist; they’ve worked well in the past and are part of the “genius” of this country.

  3. Assimilation, or as I like to think of it. alloying, takes time. I think we tend to intuitively underestimate how long it took groups in the past to meld into the the whole and this makes it appear that the same process isn’t working as well in the present day as it did in the past.

  4. Oh, for God’s sake. Examine a map of Colorado. notice that town and place names tend to be English north of the Arkansas River, and Spanish south of the river. Not coincidentally, the Arkansas River was the northern border of New Spain. In my home towns of Alamosa and Pueblo, the proportion of people who speak Spanish at home is greater than 30 percent, and the proportion of natives who don’t have at least a little Spanish is near zero. (Go to places like San Luis, or Española, or Cuba, and the proportion is more like 90 percent.)

    If the Southwest hasn’t become a Spanish-speaking Quebec by now, what makes them imagine it might anytime soon?

  5. Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. And so will we. After acculturation, there will be dispersal and intermarriage (like GWB’s sister-in-law), although the original place of concentration will always have a more pronounced ethnic character. The US changes a little with every significant addition, which is something that the Europeans don’t understand and don’t like. The “contamination” of their supposedly pure national identity with American products is a bigger part of anti-Americanism than GWB. We like to cherry-pick from the new arrivals.

    In terms of politics, it is difficult to see where there would be any qualitative change attributable to Latino immigration. First, Latinos are far from homogeneous (they have nearly all been at war with their Spanish-speaking neighbors at one time or another – I can’t think of an exception offhand). Chileans and Dominicans have less in common with each other than we have with Australians. Second, there is no political program in their countries of origin that they can bring with them, like politicized Islamism. More likely than not, they will join one of the two major coalitions already in existence, depending on the fit (Cubans and Venezuelans to one side, Mexicans and Guatemalans to the other).

  6. This is purely anecdotal – not a demographic study of any sort, just observation – but I believe it highlights how this works.

    The area where I live has a large and quite diversified immigrant population: Asian (primarily Indian and Chinese), Eastern European (primarily Russian and Polish which seems to have shifted from Jewish to a more generalized sampling), “Latino” (primarily Mexican), and Phillipino. A decade or slightly more ago there was also something of a Baltic influx but, interestingly, this has long since stopped and even seems to have reversed to a degree with some portion of the Baltic immigrants (Lithuanian and Estonian primarily) “returning” to their “homeland”.

    For what I have no doubt are mostly economic reasons it has been completely common for me to be able to have regular contact with first and second generations from all but the Latino portion of this immigrant diversity. The second generation has always astonished me with how easily they “Americanize”. They speak “standard” local English, they pursue, for the most part, similar activities as the more “native” yutes, etc. They seem quite adept at putting their ethnic/cultural heritage into the American context.

    Beyond contact with “laborers”, however, I have not experienced much contact with the Mexican immigrants. Essentially they’ve always seemed an outlier swarm of sorts. They are easy to see as they go around doing landscaping and waiting tables and such, but they haven’t seemed to be integrating/assimilating/alloying (a good term, BTW). They weren’t moving into neighborhoods, showing up at community sorts of things, or even onto the yute sports fields (with the exception of soccer). This seems, however, to be starting to change. Mexican adults seem to be starting to show up as coaches (still primarily limited to soccer) and in what most would term more “upscale employment” such as having their own small businesses.

    Recently a Mexican family even moved in next door to me. I first met the children. Their English was completely ordinary. They play and chase their kitten indistinguishably from any other children. I recently had the opportunity, which I decided to sieze, to meet the adults. On the surface at least they seem identical in virtually every way, except of course the specifics of their ethnic heritage, to all the other various immigrants I have ordinary contact with. Their English is far from perfect but they, like everyone else around them, are going about their lives and raising their family. They go to work and they come home.

    Funny how this stuff works and seems to do so first time, every time. Kinda like a Timex watch. Nuttin’ fancy, but remarkably predictable.

    Again, purely anecdotal, but I am not seeing anything of the sort from the muslim community. They are here but they seem like a ghost community. I find this interesting and troubling.

  7. Here’s another anecdote – a true story sort. A few years ago (five or six, maybe seven) I was finishing up work on Christmas Eve (no kidding). It was in a fairly large office park sort of place and I was one of the very last to depart for the day. When I went to my car to drive home I discovered it dead as the proverbial doornail. I did what millions of other Americans would have done – I called AAA tow the car to the mechanic I use. That was roughly half-way home and about the edge of the free towing service distance. And, of course, I arranged to be picked up there.

    The tow turned into what may well be the most interesting 20 miles I’ve ever been a passenger. The tow truck dude, it turned out, was Puerto Rican. And, as he informed me as he talked non-stop for the entire ride, not a fake Cuban immigrant Puerto Rican but a “real” one – a “native”. He covered an enormous amount of conversational ground among which was that his cousin was one of the pilots who was shot down and died in the Libyan raid that Reagan launched (he was not fond of the French for denying access to their airspace) and, most importantly to me, he covered the topic of how the United States is “an idea”, a political idea, that was not dependent upon ethnicity or language but, rather, something a person could “buy into” and “embrace” rather than being born into. What a fascinating 40 minutes that was.

  8. On the other hand, are these changes — in total population, in “ethnic” composition, etc — anything most current Americans want? And, if not, why shouldn’t we respect the wishes and preferences of our countrymates?

  9. To my mind, the problem with the current situation isn’t that large levels of Mexican immigration is catagorically bad. The problem is that the easier we make illegal immigration, the harder we have to make legal immigration, in order to keep the overall numbers within reason. And so we’ve in effect put a filter at the border, which stops most law abiding potential immigrants, while allowing through those willing to violate our laws.

    It’s Polyannish to think this is having no effect on the quality of the immigrants coming into this country.

    And, of course, on a personal level it infuriates me to realize just how many people have deliberately been allowed to enter the country illegally, over the months I’ve been attempting to bring my finacee into the country legally. We’re punishing the law abiding, and rewarding criminals.

  10. So, we have an insultingly high level of suspicion directed at people who just want to visit. (My post earlier.) It looks like he’s going to be able to come to the wedding, but one wonders how much some personal appeals, etc. played into the visa. (And not everyone has a chance to have ambassadorial intervention, take 5 months – indeed, many don’t have the patience for all that crap.)

    Good luck Brent. You’ll need patience if not luck.

  11. Brett,

    You’re so right. The illegal situation is also unfairly biased in favor of Latin America and this is exacerbated by the family reunification rules.

    How about the following: a) crack down harder on illegals (by making deportation much easier) b) open up legal immigration more and c) change the rules to favor doctors and engineers and writers over brothers and sisters. These changes would make it easier for Russians, and Koreans, and Poles, and Thais to enter. It would even help those who choose to flee from a decaying EU.

  12. Something like 95% of legal immigration from Mexico is family reunification/family sponsorship. These programs are the largest in terms of numbers of people admitted. There is also an enormous backlog because of the caps on admissions under these programs. I’m not convinced it was meant to be this way.

  13. Hang in there, Brett. I find it amazing that the bureaucracy has little changed in the (almost) 30 years since I married my wife in Japan. I had the Marine Corps and the Catholic Church to satisfy, as well as a couple of governments, but it all worked out.

    Mitch said we like to cherry pick from the new arrivals. Isn’t that the truth. Salsa has replaced catsup as the most popular condiment. I’m glad I grew up before the era of political rectitude, but there is a lot more choice these days.

  14. Klotkin obviously does not live on the “street.” I see more segregation every day, but at the instigation of immigrants.

    In my CA suburb, the Korean parents have broken away from the PTA in our once prize winning high school and started their own for their own agenda. Their kids do not date anyone outside their race, so there is less intermarriage, not more.

    In the five years since Bush stopped prosecuting employers for hiring illegals, the Latino gangs are now within two blocks of my house instead of two miles, and the Asian gangs (hunting for the cash kept at home because of their illegal cash economy) are new additions to our city. I don’t do business with them anymore because I cannot take the chance of doing business in cash–the IRS knows me, if not them.

    50% of Latinos do not graduate high school.

    Cultural institutions like the museums, the performing arts center, civic celebrations are dying out because of the demographic shift: They are rejecting Us, not the other way around.

    My friend in an upscale neighborhood has a boarding house for 25 illegals next door (houses being too expensive for regular families to buy). The economic failure of early examples of this insular, short term thinking, like Little Saigon, abound.

    I hope he’s right and I’m wrong, but that’s not my experience and I do live on the “street.”

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