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Positive impact of immigration in united states us

Looking Backward to the Future Charles Hirschman Charles Hirschman surveys the history of immigration in America in an attempt to understand current attitudes and the future. The current debates and hostility to immigrants echo throughout American history. There is a strong base of support for continued immigration as a necessary ingredient for economic growth and as an essential element of a cosmopolitan society among many Americans.

Almost 60 million people — more than one-fifth of the total population of the United States — are immigrants or the children of immigrants. On the other side, there is a substantial share, perhaps a majority, of Americans who are opposed to a continuation of large-scale immigration. Many opponents of immigration are old-stock Americans who have all but forgotten their immigrant ancestors. They often live in small towns or in suburban areas, and many have relatively little contact with immigrant families in their neighborhoods, churches, and friendship networks.

Beyond the debate over the economic consequences of immigration, there is also an emotional dimension that shapes sentiments toward immigration. Many Americans, like people everywhere, are more comfortable with the familiar than with change. They fear that newcomers with different languages, religions, and cultures are reluctant to assimilate into American society and to learn English. Although many of the perceptions and fears of old-stock Americans about new immigrants are rooted in ignorance and prejudice, the fears of many Americans about the future are not entirely irrational.

The news media often cite examples of industries that seek out low-cost immigrant workers to replace native-born workers. Some sectors, such as harvesting vegetables and fruits in agriculture, have very few native-born Americans seeking jobs in them, but immigrants are also disproportionately employed in many other sectors, including meatpacking, construction, hospitals, and even in many areas of advanced study in research universities.

These examples are fodder for unscrupulous political leaders who seek positive impact of immigration in united states us exploit popular fears to their own ends. Not only have almost all immigrants or their descendents assimilated over time, but they have broadened American society in many positive ways.

In this review, I discuss the popular fears about immigrants by old-stock Americans and the historical record of immigrant contributions to the evolution of the industrial economy, political reform, and even to the development of American culture. A short overview of immigration Immigration to North America began with Spanish settlers in the sixteenth century, and French and English settlers in the seventeenth century.

In the century before the American Revolution, there was a major wave of free and indentured labor from England and other parts of Europe as well as large-scale importation of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. Although some level of immigration has been continuous throughout American history, there have been two epochal periods: During some of the peak years of immigration in the early 1900s, about one million immigrants arrived annually, which was more than one percent of the total US population at the time.

In the early twenty-first century, there have been a few years with more than one million legal immigrants, but with a total US population of almost 300 million, the relative impact is much less than it was in the early part of the twentieth century. The first impact of immigration is demographic. The 70 million immigrants who have arrived since the founding of the republic formal records have only been kept since 1820 are responsible for the majority of the contemporary American population.

The one segment of the American population with the longest record of historical settlement are African Americans. Almost all African Americans are the descendants of seventeenth- or eighteenth-century arrivals. Early in the twentieth century, when immigration from southern and eastern Europe was at its peak, many old-stock Americans sought to preserve the traditional image of the country as primarily composed of descendants from northwest Europe, especially of English Protestant stock.

The first American census in 1790, shortly after the formation of the United States, counted a bit less than 4 million people, of whom at least 20 per cent were of African descent. The estimates of the non-English-origin population in 1790 range from 20 to 40 per cent.

In May 1844, there were three days of rioting in Kensington, an Irish suburb of Positive impact of immigration in united states us, which culminated in the burning of two Catholic churches and other property. The rising tide of nativism — the fear of foreigners — had deep roots in anti-Catholicism and a fear of foreign radicals.

  • This demand has been met, in part, by allowing many talented foreign students in American universities to convert their student visas to immigrant status;
  • Yet they continue to come;
  • Although many of the perceptions and fears of old-stock Americans about new immigrants are rooted in ignorance and prejudice, the fears of many Americans about the future are not entirely irrational;
  • Many opponents of immigration are old-stock Americans who have all but forgotten their immigrant ancestors.

The Immigration Restriction League, founded by young Harvard-educated Boston Brahmins in 1894, advocated a literacy test to slow the tide of immigration. While some reformers, such as Jane Adams, went to work to alleviate the many problems of urban slums, others, such as Henry Adams, the descendent of two American presidents and a noted man of letters, expressed virulent nativism and anti-Semitism.

From the 1880s to the 1920s, a diverse set of groups, ranging from the old-line New England elites and the Progressive Movement in the Midwest to the Ku Klux Klan, led a campaign to halt undesirable immigrants from Europe. Passing the national origins quotas in the early 1920s was intended to exclude everyone from Asia and Africa and to sharply lower the numbers of arrivals from southern and eastern Europe.

The period from 1924 to 1965, when a highly restrictive immigration policy was in place, was exceptional in American history.

  1. William and Mary Quarterly, 37 1980 , 179-199; Thomas L.
  2. The other half consists of adjustments of current residents who were able to obtain an immigrant visa because of change in employment or family status.
  3. There is wide agreement that clandestine immigration should be stopped and legal immigration should be tightly controlled. In other words, an individual immigrant is about 10 percent more likely to own a business than a nonimmigrant.

For those who were reared in this era, it might seem that the high levels of immigration experienced during the last three decades of the twentieth century are unusual. However, high levels of immigration characterized most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as the first two decades of the twentieth.

The impact of the 1965 Amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act, was a surprise to policy makers and many experts. The primary intent of the 1965 Act was to repeal the national origin quotas enacted in the 1920s, which were considered discriminatory by the children and grandchildren of southern and eastern European immigrants.

The advocates of reform in the 1960s were not pushing for a major new wave of immigration.

  • Applied Economics 1, no;
  • Harvard University Press, 2014;
  • The Anglo-centric core of the early twentieth century has been largely replaced with a more cosmopolitan America that places Catholicism and Judaism on a par with Protestant denominations, and the Statue of Liberty has become the national symbol of a nation of immigrants;
  • Many of these efforts lead to capture and humiliating treatment as criminals;
  • Immigrants and their children were the majority of workers in the garment sweatshops of New York, the coalfields of Pennsylvania, and the stockyards of Chicago;
  • In his recent novel, The Plot Against America, Philip Roth poses the possibility that Charles Lindberg might have been elected president in 1940 and then established a cordial understanding with Nazi Germany.

Their expectation was that there would be a small increase of arrivals from Italy, Greece, and a few other European countries as families that were divided by the immigration restrictions of the 1920s were allowed to be reunited, but that no long-term increase would result. About the same time, and largely independently of the 1965 Immigration Act, immigration from Latin America began to rise.

Legal and undocumented migration from Mexico surged after a temporary farm-worker programme known as the Bracero Program was shut down in 1964.

Immigrants' impact on the U.S. economy in 7 charts

Beginning in the 1970s, there were several waves of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Hmong refugees following from the collapse of American-supported regimes in Southeast Asia.

Then in the 1980s, there were new refugees from Central American nations such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

By 2000, there were over 30 million foreign-born persons in the United States, of whom almost one-third arrived in the prior decade. Adding together immigrants and their children the second generationmore than 60 million people — or one in five Americans — have recent roots from other countries. American history cannot be separated from the history of immigration.

The Effects of Immigration on the United States’ Economy

Irish immigrants worked as labourers in cities and were the major source of labour in the construction of transportation networks, including canals, railroads, and roads. Some have estimated that the manpower advantage of the Union forces during the Civil War was largely due to immigrants who had settled in the northern states.

Immigrant workers have always been over-represented in skilled trades, mining, and as peddlers, merchants, and labourers in urban areas. Immigrants and their children were the majority of workers in the garment sweatshops of New York, the coalfields of Pennsylvania, and the stockyards of Chicago.

The cities of America during the age of industrialization were primarily immigrant cities Gibson and Jung 2006. In 1900, about three-quarters of the populations of many large cities were composed of immigrants and their children, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, San Francisco, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and Detroit.

Although Herbert Hoover defeated Al Smith in 1928, a number of scholars have attributed the shift from the Republican dominance of the government in the 1920s to the New Deal coalition of the 1930s to the increasing share, turnout, and partisanship of the urban ethnic vote following several decades of mass immigration Andersen 1979: In the decades following the World War II era, white Protestants, and especially middle class white Protestants outside the South, have been the base of the Republican Party, while Catholic and Jewish voters have been disproportionately Democratic.

Immigrants and their descendants were also important in the development of popular American culture and in creating the positive image of immigration in the American mind. Immigrants and the second generation have played a remarkable role in the American creative arts, including writing, directing, producing, and acting in American films and plays for most of the first half of the twentieth century Buhle 2004; Gabler 1988; Most 2004; Phillips 1998; Winokur 1996.

Many Hollywood and Broadway productions have also given us poignant accounts of outsiders who struggle to be understood and accepted.

  1. A Policy Analysis, New York 1979. The Immigration Restriction League, founded by young Harvard-educated Boston Brahmins in 1894, advocated a literacy test to slow the tide of immigration.
  2. During some of the peak years of immigration in the early 1900s, about one million immigrants arrived annually, which was more than one percent of the total US population at the time. Immigration, especially clandestine immigration, is higher in the United States than in most other industrial countries, but the underlying dynamics are common to almost all industrial societies Hirschman 2001.
  3. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 136 1992 , 157-175, 165.
  4. However, there is a considerable body of research which shows that the motivations for international migration are huge and that the rewards to migrants, employers, and societies both sending and receiving are enormous. Perhaps it is not so surprising that the Statue of Liberty has become the pre-eminent national symbol of the United States Kasinitz 2004.

Perhaps it is not so surprising that the Statue of Liberty has become the pre-eminent national symbol of the United States Kasinitz 2004: In the early twentieth century, most elites and many social scientists thought that immigrants were overrunning American society. The arguments used to restrict continued southern and eastern European immigration in the twentieth century paralleled those made earlier to end Chinese and Japanese immigration in 1882 and 1907, respectively.

For three decades, the battle over immigration restriction was waged in the court of public opinion and in Congress. In 1910, the Dillingham Commission a congressionally appointed commission named after Senator William P. Dillingham of Vermont issued a 42-volume report, which assumed the racial inferiority of the new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe relative to the old-stock immigrants from northwestern Europe. Looking backward, we can see that the impacts of the age of mass migration from 1880 to 1924 were almost entirely opposite to those anticipated by contemporary observers.

The Anglo-centric core of the early twentieth century has been largely replaced with a more cosmopolitan America that places Catholicism and Judaism on a par with Protestant denominations, and the Statue of Liberty has become the national symbol of a nation of immigrants. Perhaps the most important legacy of the age of mass migration is that the children of eastern and southern immigrants helped to pave the way for the New Deal of the 1930s, the Great Society of the 1960s, and the 1965 Immigration Act that allowed a new wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America to arrive.

In his recent novel, The Plot Against America, Philip Roth poses the possibility that Charles Lindberg might have been elected president positive impact of immigration in united states us 1940 and then established a cordial understanding with Nazi Germany. There was certainly a lot of virulent anti-Semitism in the United States at the time, and the hatred of Franklin Roosevelt by the WASP upper class could have led to elite support for a fascist alternative.

Ironically, the closure of the door to immigration after 1924 and the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North and Midwest may have helped the children of southern and eastern European immigrants to climb up the socioeconomic ladder in the middle decades of the twentieth century. However, recent immigrants and their descendents, when allied with other reform groups, have played a major role in broadening democracy in American society.

Looking to the future The demographic challenges of twenty-first century America are not unique. Immigration, like race, seems to be a continuing source of tension in many societies around the globe. Immigration, especially clandestine immigration, is higher in the United States than in most other industrial countries, but the underlying dynamics are common to almost all industrial societies Hirschman 2001. The other half consists of adjustments of current residents who were able to obtain an immigrant visa because of change in employment or family status.

Many refugees are eventually able to obtain permanent resident immigrant visas. There is also a large, but unknown number of undocumented illegal immigrants, perhaps upwards of 300 000 per year. The major policy discussion in the United States and elsewhere is focused on immigration control. There is wide agreement that clandestine immigration should be stopped and legal immigration should be tightly controlled.

There are arguments over the numbers and types of immigrants to be admitted, but the idea that sovereign positive impact of immigration in united states us can and should control population movements across borders is virtually unchallenged.

However, there is a considerable body of research which shows that the motivations for international migration are huge and that the rewards to migrants, employers, and societies both sending and receiving are enormous. The mass media routinely report the extraordinary investments and ingenuity of Latin Americans, Chinese, and Africans who seek to migrate to North America and Europe.

Many of these efforts lead to capture and humiliating treatment as criminals. In other instances, many migrants die when they are locked into shipping containers or attempt to traverse the deserts without sufficient water and other provisions.

Yet they continue to come. The simple reason is that the economies of the North and South are increasingly integrated through flows of goods, capital, and labour.

  • Dillingham of Vermont issued a 42-volume report, which assumed the racial inferiority of the new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe relative to the old-stock immigrants from northwestern Europe;
  • However, the fiscal impact varies widely at the state and local levels and is contingent on the characteristics of the immigrant population — age, education, and skill level — living within each state.

International migration is a functional component of modern societies, rich and poor, that resolves the uneven distribution of people and opportunities. Most migrants come, not to settle, but to support their families at home. Most industrial economies do not have sufficient domestic supplies of low-cost labour. If this pattern were found in only one country or in only a few sectors, then it might be possible to consider a fairly narrow explanation in terms of political cultures or market rigidities.

The demand for immigrant labour is not restricted to unskilled manual labour. The United States and other industrial countries have encountered a shortage of scientific and engineering workers, particularly in the high-tech sector.

This demand has been met, in part, by allowing many talented foreign students in American universities to convert their student visas to immigrant status. Standard economic theory posits that domestic migration is a functional response to wage differentials between areas. Migration allows for workers to benefit from higher wages in growing areas and stimulates the economy to operate more efficiently by creating larger and more porous labour and consumer markets.

Indeed the logic for lessening barriers to migration is similar to that of international free trade. Economic theory suggests that all countries benefit from the free flow of capital, goods, and technology across international borders. International migration is often excluded from discussions about expanding international trade such as in the NAFTA debatelargely because of political considerations rather than economic theory.