Tuesday, May 24, 2005
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Arabs at home and abroad
In Foreign Policy, Moises Naim makes an interesting point about Arab Americans:
For Naim, this success presents an interesting puzzle:
Read the whole thing. And thanks to Colin Grabow for the link.
UPDATE: Hmmm.... Naim may have spoken too soon. Many thanks all of the commenters -- especially Andrés Vernon -- for pointing out the differences in the attributes of Arabs emigrating to the U.S. versus Arabs emigrating to Europe. Vernon provided a link to this Arab American Institute web page on Arab demographic. Two graphs worth reprinting:
BREAKDOWN OF ARAB AMERICANS BY COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
BREAKDOWN OF ARAB AMERICANS BY RELIGION
The second graph is particularly telling. I seriously doubt that only 24% of Europe's Arab influx is Muslim -- which means that the Arab immigrant stream into Europe is demonstrably different than those Arabs who empigrate to America. For more on the European side of the equation, see Claude Salhani analysis for UPI from last December.
And thanks to all the commenters for picking up the flaw in Naim's data.
LAST UPDATE: See Reihan Salam for more on this.posted by Dan on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM
Just a thought, but I would suggest that Arabs immigrating to the US are of a different mind than Arabs immigrating to Europe. Most of the French Arabs are from North Africa and have a colonial history with France. Its unlike they choose to come to France to become Frenchmen (if such a thing is even possible). Meanwhile those who choose to come to the US largely do wish to become American. The latter may attract enterpeneurs while the former attracts those looking for a free ride. Or so it would seem.posted by: Mark Buehner on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Following up on Mark's comment, you'd have to compare the respective origins of Arabs now resident in the States to those of Arabs who have moved to Europe. My guess is that you'd find a relatively greater number of Lebanese, Palestinians, and Egyptians, in about that order, and a much higher percentage of Christians among Arabs that have emigrated to the States.
Are these significant predictors of economic or educational performance. They could be.posted by: Zathras on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
I agree with the previous post that there are differences in the two populations, though not for the same reasons. Not that I have hard data to point to, but I think that the majority of Arab immigrants to the United States tend to be legal immigrants, and to be better educated to start with. It is their education that qualifies many of them for visas to immigrate legally, and those who would like to immigrate illegally have a much more difficult time coming across the Atlantic to the United States than they do going across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Similarly the vast majority of Muslims in Germany are Turkish "gastarbeiter" (not technically Arabs, but the article conflates the two somewhat), who by definition are going to be worse off because they've been "imported" to do jobs Germans don't want to do.
Ken makes a very good point. Legal immigration (and citizenship assimilation) is far easier in America. Most EU countries have very limited legal immigration, especially from non-white or non-former-colony countries. Refugees make up a huge proportion of immigrants from the Middle East.
Say you're an Arab looking for a better life in another country. If you can only raise $1000, say, going to the US may not be an option. It's much cheaper to get to France or the UK from Iraq than it is to America.
Finally, often in Europe qualifications obtained in Middle Eastern countries aren't recognised, so trained doctors have to work as cleaners or whatever.posted by: Ginger Yellow on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
The main characteristics of the Arab American population can be found here:
In effect, most are of Syrian/Lebanese/Palestinian/Assyrian ancestry and only 24% are Muslim. In Europe, most Middle Eastern immigrants are North African Muslims or Turks.
I've read that in the Mediterranean Middle East, Christian Arabs were traditionally the most prosperous and educated group, which would certainly explain why they've done so well in the U.S. In that respect, the immigrant group they most resemble Cuban Americans, along with the fact that they left their respective nations due to ideological/religious conflicts with the majority of the population.posted by: Andrés Vernon on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
How is this different from any immigrant group to the US since 1650? Europe has not really been open to immigration either legally or culturally since around 1000 A.D. While immigrants to the US, particularly those who don't look Irish, have their problems, eventually they are assimilated/accepted. I haven't found that to be the case in Europe even when speaking of 3rd-generation families.
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Most Arabs in America are Christians. Most Arabs in Europe are Moslem.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Excellent find, Dan - Thanks for posting.
And excellent comments - with the terrific anti-academic "slap-upside-the-head" from Cranky at the end.
"Since around 1000 AD" : Ouch! Ha.posted by: Tommy G on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Unusually, I agree with all the comments thus far. To which I add: Naim is right to praise the US's greater capacity for successful assimilation. However, because more recent Arab immigrants to the US more closely resemble those going to Europe (less educated, more Muslims, etc) this is no time for resting on one's laurels. As for Arabs in Europe, of course they don't prosper--no one not of European blood prospers there, do they? It's a clause in the new Constitution, I believe.
As for the comparison between Arabs and Mexicans, I haven't seen too many stories about the rising tide of anti-social, anti-western, terrorism-fomenting Mexican movements in urban US ghettoes, have you?posted by: Kelli on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
I, too, agree with many of the comments made thus far. And shall ponder others.
In a similar vein, see my post of the other day:
You make the statement: Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates.
Could you please define American?
I would like to know when I meet one
Thank youposted by: Michael on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
The author wants us to overlook his rhetorical slight of hand when he conflates "Arab" with "Muslim."
Arab-Americans do so well because of the disproportionate number of Christian Arabs in America compared with Arabs in Europe or Arabs as a whole. Andre Vernon mentions this in passing: 24% of Arab-Americans are Muslim. What the he failed to mention is that 66% are Christian of some sort. This undoubtedly makes assimilation (or at least integration) with mainstream USA easier.
This statistic does not undo or even address the cultural determinist argument. Christian Arabs do not share the same cultural as Muslim Arabs, especially Christian Arabs who have been in the US for several generations.
To my knowledge no Western nation has had much success in assimilating Arab Muslims into the mainstream of society.
The author is right in that Europe does not have an "Arab problem." It has a "Muslim problem."posted by: Thomas Neeley on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Thanks to Andres for the link. It pretty much confirms what I thought.
Countries around the world have populations concentrated in trade and the professions -- Jews in Europe, ethnic Chinese in east Asia, Indians in Africa -- whose relative economic success and cultural and/or religious distinctiveness can make them the object of envy or worse from the popular majority. Christian Arabs could be said to fit this profile; they would have incentives to emigrate to countries that would allow them to use their education and talents, and that would not subject them to persecution. The United States is not the only such country, but it is by far the largest.
Nothing important ever happens for only one reason, and other factors cited by posters here are probably important as well.posted by: Zathras on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
I think the illegal immigration point is the big one. It's very easy for an Arab to sneak into Europe, due to proximity and you will find those willing to put up with less resistance going that way. What would be interesting to see would be to examine how Hispanic immigrants do in Europe compared to the United States. Do they do better here because of the greater opportunities or are they better off in Europe because the lower quality jobs and lesser education of illegals brings down the average?posted by: Mo on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
I haven't seen it mentioned much, but there's a major difference between what any immigrant from anywhere can expect to be given in terms of welfare and assistance in the U.S. compared to most Western European countries. To be blunt, welfare in the U.S. sucks, and most Americans prefer it that way. And the reason is very simple and illustrated by this survey.
If you give most people a choice between earning their own way with a reasonable amount of dignity versus subsisting on government handouts with no dignity and little hope for change, who do you think is going to prosper more?posted by: Frank on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
A couple of comments on US and European immigration.
Thanks to one and all for the excellent comments on this thread -- see my update above.posted by: Dan Drezner on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
When I read this three objections immediately popped into mind. The first two have been well covered in the comments section here, namely:
1. Arab emigrees to the U.S. are not representative of their countries of origin. They tend to be better educated than their compatriots, which is how they get the visas that allow them to come here in the first place. (Also, these are the people who are already most exposed to Western culture.)
2. Most Arab-Americans are Christians not Muslims. Culture theory, from Weber on down, has always considered religion an integral part of culture.
But I think what is most important is the third objection. The author considers "people of Arab descent living in the United States." He then uses them as representatives of Middle Eastern Arab culture. While this may be justified in cases of first-generation immigrants raised in that culture, it is totally inappropriate for 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation immigrants. These are people born and raised in the U.S. Considering Obj. 2 above, many of them have been educated in Catholic schools (particularly Lebanese Maronites). How exactly does a person who grew up here, whose parents grew up here, who's never been to the middle east in his life, represent that culure, instead of the one in which he was raised?posted by: Todd on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Why not look at South Asian/American immigrants for a test case? Many South Asians (persons from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and close nighbors) have similar culural and lingusistic roots - they differ most sharply in religion. I know SA's of Bengali origin who are Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, for example.
Virtually all S. Asian immigration is very recent and is much more geographically dispersed than the Arab Amercican population.
Simularly we should be able to compare this data with that from Europe which has also seen a fair amount fo S. Asian immigration.posted by: Jos Bleau on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
The answer as to why Arabs in America do better than in Europe or their native lands is quite simple. Arabs are assimilated into American culture, whereas in Europe they have remained separate. Add to that the greater freedom resulting from lower taxes - in Europe high taxes to maintain the social welfare system have kept total employment stagnant for over two decades - and Arabs, just as other recent immigrants to America, have a field day of opportunity. You undoubtedly will find similar success statistics among Chinese, Vietnamese, Nigerians, Indians, and other recent immigrants to America. Among current Americans, Blacks have maintained a culture that has held them back; it is unbelievable that a Nigerian refugee, black, with no English skills and just the shirt on his/her back, will in a generation have accumulated more wealth and achieved a higher level of education than a Black whose family has been here over a hundred years. Only the Mexicans, who bring their culture with them, have difficulty prospering in America as a group. Needless to say, many Mexicans also do very well in America, much better than they would in any other part of the world given that they usually start here with no education, no capital, and no marketable skills.
If I may Dan:
Two items, echoing comments supra, but being intimately familiar with the North African context (that being where I do business, the MENA regoin).
First, I note Naim did this already in FT, on which I myself commented:
Second, the problem is with comparable data, Arab American is not necessarily recent immigrant. Wheras North Africa immigrant (actually most coming from Morocco and Algeria are Berbers) are all pretty recent, for practical purposes since the 1960s.
Third, structurally it's very different, if only by geography. The relationship US-Mexico is more reasonable point of comparision - indeed the comment supra comparing say Latin American emmigrants to Spain to those to the US would likely be evocative. Distance and cost alone being key selection bias points.
I would suggest that the religion angle is more or less a red herring. Arab Xian and Arab Muslim culture, I report having a decade of experience in the region is less dissimilar than Arab Xian to Euro Xian. However, as Arab Xians tended to adopt Western education more quickly, ceteris paribus, the group does tend to be a bit wealthier than the Muslims. A bit, varies by country of course.
I also note that the populations are different, there are effectively zero Maghrebine Xians, contra in the Machriq, a strong Xian minority.
Finally, I would note that I suspect given my experience across the region and in Europe that there is a strong element of truth in Naim's observations, but it is muddied by the .... well incompatible and irrelevant data he chose. I would draw your attention to recent commentary in the FT interviewing Maghrebine entrepeneurs - well integrated Muslims of North African origin - who draw comparisons between France and the American North East in terms of polite left and right racism. Having travelled with a non-Muslim but southern Mediterannean origin (i.e. very Arab looking) friend in France, I also can report the disparaging "dirty Arab" type commentary was not hard to hear.
One can also cite to the recurrent scandals in the French employment agency industry of rank job discrimination against job candidates with the "wrong" kind of name.posted by: collounsbury on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
First to reply to Kelli, I wasn't suggesting a comparison between Mexican to the US and Arab immigrants to Europe in terms of relative rates of anti-western attitudes, but rather in terms of the variables considered by the study: education and income. Spain has an official policy of preferring Latin American immigrants over North African immigrants because of similarities in Language and culture (read: catholicism). It would be interesting to compare the relative wealth and education levels of Mexicans who come across their northern border to the United States to large and long established Mexican immigrant communities, many coming illegally and in search of unskilled labor, with those who satisfy the criteria for immigration to Spain. Mexican immigrants to the United States might be analogous to North African immigrants to Spain and Arab immigrants to the United States might be analogous to Mexican immigrants to Spain.
As for the Muslim-Christian issue, I wouldn't be surprised if it played a role, but I do know many very successful Muslim Arab immigrants to the US. I think it is more likely that the greater factor is the fact that North African immigrants go to Europe to fill demand for unskilled labor, while Arab immigrants to the United States represent more of a brain-drain phenomenon: talented, motivated, well-educated men and women we need because our own population does not produce enough of them.
I don't want to pass entirely on the opportunity to gloat a bit over our relative success in integrating Arab immigrants compared to Europe's. It was galling to be in Europe in the late 80's and early 90's and have to listen to Europeans condemn Americans as racists who lacked the humanity and tolerence of the Europeans. Large scale immigration and the process of social and cultural integration takes generations and causes friction. It is a bit gratifying to see that the Europeans do not deal with the process any better than Americans.posted by: Ken Garden on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
The US/Europe distinction isn't about predominantly Muslim vs mainly Christian immigrants; it's about strivers vs resenters, and the types of political economies and cultural backdrops that favor one vs the other.
Andres V's explanation would hold if one could show a hugely disparate set of outcomes for Christian vs Muslim Arab immigrants to the US. I've not seen any such evidence. It's far more likely, given the extraordinary success of all kinds of non-mainstream religious groups in the US throughout our history, that there's something different about the economic, political and cultural environment in the US that enables religious minorities to succeed here in ways they do not in Europe.
What is it that has enabled quakers, mormons, hasidim, hindus, sikhs, and yes, even Irish Catholics (by 1980), to come to the US and achieve greater economic and financial success than the mainstream protestant majority?
I'd argue that, with the exception of the Irish fleeing desperate poverty and famine, members of these groups were attracted to the US by the opportunity to not only practice their faith but also to build economically-viable communities. Crucial factors here include the American habit of giving immigrants of all stripes the chance to own land, build businesses, create and run their own schools and then generally leaving them alone.
Offer opportunity and stay out of the way, and you attract and reward strivers. In contrast, immigrant resenters tend to languish in poverty in this country, devoid of the rich panoply of safeguards, esp the generous dole, made available to arab immigrants in Europe.
In fact Europe since the first wave of postwar arab immigration has become practically a magnet for resenters. In the 1950s and 1960s, maghrebins and Turks came primarily to work in European factories. These jobs are gone, and there's far less opportunity to start and grow a small business in Europe for today's immgrants to Europe than for their counterparts in the US. The few religious immigrant groups that Europe does leave alone - most notably, the hasidim in Antwerp - tend to thrive economically.
The solution to Europe's immigrant problem lies partly in the solution to Europe's economic problem. Give businesses opportunity to hire and fire, more chances to raise capital, and to compete fairly with big firms, and you'll inevitably make your country attractive to hardworking, entrepreneurial strivers of every faith and nation. Especially if the state leaves them alone instead of trying to co-opt them with neo-corporatist scams like Sarkozy's separate muslim parliament.
Also, before we go all macro, maybe we should go micro: How much of the difference in success rates is correlated to education, and esecially, of teh eudcation of women?
Simply put, groups tend to either aspire to (A) obtain for their women as much education as possible or (B) obtain as little education as possible (IE, as required by law). The impact of religious doctrine, culture, tradition, class and status are all arguable but educational attaintment is not.
Educated women are more economically successful and have fewer children at a later age than unedecated women, and tend to choose husbands who are similarly successful, which effects the next generation, and so on.
So what I'm most interested in comparing is rates of educational attainment for women who are the children of immigrants. That will tell us more about what's going in terms of EU/US differences re:Muslim economic success.posted by: Jos Bleau on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Tightly-knit religious communities offer plenty of advantages to their more entrepreneurial members, especially when it comes to 1) raising capital on favorable terms; 2) supplying labor that's not only cheap but reliable and disciplined due to social/community pressure; 3) transmitting needed skills to less-educated members of the community. This is how the Irish in the 20c pulled themselves up from their white wage-slave status in the prior century, and how every other group of less- or uneducated immigrants succeeds in this country.
Immigrant savings banks flourished throughout our history, and still flourish (esp among Asian communities in NYC and elsewhere). There may well be many similar banks in Europe focused on the needs of immigrant businesses, but the Europeans have failed to remove the other key hurdles to growing a company from a cottage business into one that can offer hundreds of immigrants a way up, most importantly, the ability to hire and fire easily and deregulation of markets to allow small businesses to compete.
Perhaps I'm naive, but I'd be very surprised if muslim immigrants to any west European nation that deregulated and offered a much more favorable environment for small business did not very quickly advance economically. I suspect that Britain's muslim immigrants, overall, have had far greater success than muslim immigrants in countries that are more hostile to small business creation and labor flexibility such as Germany and France.posted by: thibaud on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
I hate to be tedious but before going "micro" know your dataset; the North Africans have already begun a serious demographic transition in their home countries, with current birth rates only slightly above European levels.
This is not the 3rd world stereotype of uneducated people pumping out 10 babies a family (well Egypt comes close but for Europe it is largely the Maghreb that is providing the most direct flow). While there are certainly severe weaknesses in women's versus men's education in the Maghreb, the source of most of these new flows, I frankly suggest that this is fuzzy twaddle as an explanation for the problems seen in Europe at present.
In the Maghreb itself, education correlates poorly with economic success (higher unemployment among uni grads than illiterates) - of course a statement re maladaption, but also I would suggest the current fashion to erect women's education as some pillar of economic development is wildly exagerated (although it is good in its own right).posted by: collounsbury on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Several years ago Virginia Postrel had a column that compared the fortunes of Bosnian Muslim refugees in the US with those in Sweden. In the US, the Bosnians were very entrepreneurial, were revitalizing run-down neighborhoods, and were beginning to achieve success. In Sweden they were trapped on welfare without opportunities to improve their circumstances and were becoming frustrated and resentful. The reality is, as others have pointed out, that the European socialist dream stifles individual initiative and entrepreneurship, and therefore offers very few opportunities to rise out of one's starting point.posted by: phil on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Re. the question of women's status as indicative of a group's willingness to adapt, adopt and improve, here are a couple of questions/observations. What percentage of Muslim immigrants to Europe are on the dole (I know it varies from country to country, but roughly) and how many give positive incentives to bear children in the form of child allowances, etc.? Muslim families in the US have no incentive to move here, NOT work, but marry early and bear many children. They also do not live in the kind of ethnic enclaves wherein men are allowed to pressure (that's putting it kindly, eh) women into leaving school, getting married and staying home to change diapers. Is it any surprise, really, that we hear frequent stories from across Europe of "honor murders" whilst they remain blessedly rare here?
I have to take issue with you, collousbury, on this score. Women's opportunities (in education, family and professional matters) make all the difference in the long term for any group of people. The ultimate betrayal of the European elites--one that will bite them in the ass for decades hence--is the abandonment of Muslim girls to the more reprehensible members of their "community." So long as I hear nothing of the sort goes on in my own country, I feel relatively confident in the future.posted by: Kelli on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
The "no Irish need apply" legend is actually a myth. There were no such signs. Anti-Irish bigotry in America has been greatly exaggerated, as this Journal of Social History article makes clear:posted by: Ph. on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Dan, the first pie chart in your Update is screwy; the percentages add to 117%, and the 24% slice labelled "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac" is way too small. It's probably supposed to be 7%, which would make the total 100%. (Then we just need to figure out the difference between the 15% "Arab/Arabic" and 7% "Other Arab".)
A couple of points not mentioned:
It may be that part of the high Christian proportion of Arab-Americans is effect (ie, result of assimilation) as well as a cause of their greater assimilation.
Thomas Sowell has written extensively on the success of expatriate groups (eg, the Chinese) vs the their homeland populations. So, I disagree with Naim that "Arab leaders should be ashamed when they see their emigrants prospering in the United States while their own people are miserable." The comparison between American and European Arabs seems more appropriate, with the caveats others have mentioned.
...immigrants to the US, particularly those who don't look Irish, have their problems...
Cranky, when the Irish came over, Americans of the time thought they looked different (see cartoons of the period, especially around the Civil War). They were followed by all those even-more-different-looking Italians...posted by: PJ/Maryland on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Here's a link to the Postrel piece:
And here are some excerpts:
EDWARD HANNA, the mayor of Utica, N.Y., seems perplexed. Ever since The New York Times ran a story about how his town is rebuilding its economy by welcoming refugees, he has been deluged with calls. Reporters as far away as Germany want to know what's going on in Utica: Aren't immigrants, especially refugees, supposed to be a drag on the economy? Don't they consume tax dollars and take jobs?
...More to the point, they're people who start businesses, buy houses and keep up their neighborhoods. An old industrial town in a generally depressed region, Utica suffers high unemployment. Its population is half what it was in 1960. Refugees from Bosnia, Vietnam, and Belarus are injecting much-needed vitality into the city's economy. "Business, the professions and others are grateful for the influx," says Hanna...
...Sweden has historically welcomed refugees as a humanitarian imperative. But unemployment among newcomers is reaching crisis proportions. Over the past decade about 400,000 immigrants have come to the country of around 9 million, and the economy has produced no jobs to absorb them. Private-sector employment in Sweden has been dropping for decades, but the effect was masked until recently by growth in government jobs. In the 1990s, however, the public sector, too, stopped growing, curtailed by the limits of tax-and-spend economics.
So while Bosnians have been creating an economic rebirth in Utica, their counterparts in Sweden have 60% to 70% unemployment. And that's a great success compared with the 95% rate among Somalis who moved to Sweden.posted by: phil on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Don't forget the cultural aspect. Even heavily regulated economies that offer small communities of religious immigrants some degree of economic freedom need to also avoid the kind of suffocating social "protection" that in France and Sweden is usually accompanied by heavy state interference in the cultural affairs of the minority.
For example, there are mormon farming communities in remote parts of northern Mexico (Sonora, I believe) that flourish economically, in large measure because the Mexican government is wise enough (or just too inefficient) to settle for having increased tax receipts and leaves the mormons alone to run their own schools, banks, and communal affairs as they desire. (These are the only high schools in Mexico that have cheerleaders and US football teams....)
As to the Bosnian example, I wonder how Bosnian muslim immigrants to Britain have fared over the last decade?
This would offer an even better test of the thesis, as Britain IINM tends to have even less cultural intervention in the affairs of relgious minorities than Sweden or any other northern European polity. Also, has transitioned from labor inflexibility to much greater flexibility, from heavy regulationposted by: thibaud on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
A few random observations:
posted by: Dave Schuler on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Before you conclude that Muslim Arabs are less successful than Christian Arabs, I think you need to confirm that the 24% of Arab Americans who are Muslim are also less wealthy, on average, than the Christians. Until you do that, you are just guessing and possibly perpetuating harmful stereotypes. (It's become quite acceptable to make generalizations about Arabs and Muslims in the U.S.--If you said similar things about Catholics or Jews or Blacks, you'd be roundly condemned as a racist.)
I happen to have both Christian and Muslim Arab relatives and friends; overall, the Muslims are better educated and often wealthier (although many are students and therefore not making much money yet). Most of the Muslims are relatively recent immigrants, while the Christians have been here for several generations. The recent Muslim immigrants I know come here for the education and tend to be upwardly mobile. The Christians are more settled in their social class.
Of course, my evidence is completely anecdotal and therefore rather useless. More rigorous examination of your statistics is needed to make any conclusion that isn't pure speculation.
As an ex-Chicago student, I'd hope to see that kind of rigor from today's crop of U of C professors! Please don't disappoint.posted by: RSL on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
There are examples of refugees to the US who have had trouble assimilating (example the Hmong). Similarly, my impression was that Kosovars had not done that well in England too (although they are very recent vintage refugees).
posted by: Marsh on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Facile comparisons are not at all helpful here. There are profound differences between Arabs based on ethnic and national backgrounds, and not merely on religion, though the latter's significance should not be underestimated for purposes of assimilation in Christian countries.
As an example, Arabs from the relatively recently created "Palestinian" ethnicity tend to be more economically successful in other Arab countries than native-born Arabs there.
The distance travelled is also a factor, as is the presence of existing immigrant communities of similar ethnic, nation and religious affilation to recent immigrants. This has certainly been true for a long time for non-Arab immigrants.
While I don't dispute that Arabs in America are far more successful economically and in assimilation than Arabs in Europe, just about every conceivable racial, ethnic and religious group in the world is more successful economically and in assimilation in America than in Europe.
So the differences in economic success and assimilation here are likely due at least as much to differences between America and Europe as those between Arab immigrants here and in Europe, not to mention other factors.
IMO it will take a long time and much effort to effectively parse out the many, and often overlapping, reasons for differences in Arab assimilation success in the U.S. versus Europe.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Assimilation per se is beside the point. The issue is the degree of economic success attained by the immigrants. As I noted above US history is replete with examples of minority religious communities that preserved their separateness and attained very signficant economic success. The two are related: Europe's main failing is the heavyhanded statist approach that seeks to organize the social and economic activities of its minority religious groups. In some cases, we are now seeing a new version of the old fascist attempt to control these groups by co-opting their leaders into political institutions co-managed by the state, as in France.
The right approach is exactly the opposite: make your society attractive to strivers of any faith, give them a wide open economic playing field on which to compete, and then *leave them alone*.posted by: thibaud on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
This depends on your definition of preserving separateness. Most minority religious communities that are or have been successful preserve some of their own religious traditions and customs, but are in other aspects assimilated.
Assimilation is very much a part of success in US society -- it is possible for some groups to achieve success without assimilation, but those that have higher per-capita incomes than the median family tend to be assimilated. The same holds to a large extent within immigrant groups. I speak from personal experience, being an immigrant from South Asia myself.
I'd define it mainly in terms of separate schools and observance of religious traditions that are significantly outside the mainstream. Maybe also some formal group leadership structure in which elders or religious leaders exercise power to adjudicate disputes or otherwise govern intragroup commercial behavior.
Three examples that come to mind are the mormons, hasidim, and urban irish catholics in the late 19c-early 20c. Perhaps also today's sikhs?posted by: thibaud on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Another example of Naim conflating Arabs with Muslims as a whole:
In Britain, the Muslim population has the highest unemployment rate of all religious groups.
In fact, the vast majority of British Muslims are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin.posted by: jic on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
I doubt that US mormons would consider themselves "assimilated." Irish Catholics, of course. Hasidim, of course not. All these groups have been hugely successful in business and exercise political influence out of proportion to their numbers.
When Europe learns the meaning of real toleration of religious minorities, ie figures out how to give them as wide a berth as we do in the US, only then will muslim immigrants to Europe achieve American-style relative economic success rates.posted by: thibaud on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Hasidim, no. Sikhs: Yes (beyond the first generation). Mormons (yes, in many ways, but not in all). In fact, given that Mormons were largely home grown, it could be argued that they were never that unassimilated.
Mormons were persecuted in the US. On the other hand, certainly the persecution was far higher in Europe historically.
I'm not really disagreeing with you -- I'm saying that your explanation represents only part of the solution. FWIW, many immigrant groups have done well in Canada too.posted by: erg on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
"...many immigrant groups have done well in Canada too."
Yes, and we'd probably see the same kind of success in Australia as well. Which brings us to the topic of the role of Anglo-Saxon culture in the successful establishmnt of stable, affluent, democratic societies that offer people from many different cultures opportunities that are not offered in any other cultural framework. And the extent to which a country like Canada fails is directly proportional to its adoption of socialist policies.
posted by: phil on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
> For Cranky Observer. Your comment about Irish
Sorry if I was unclear - I meant "since 1970". I would have said Northern European, except that I don't think there are many Germans or Swedes immigrating to the United States these days, but in the 1970-1990 period there were still a lot of Irish doing so. Not any more I think.
As far as assimilation, there is what the parents think about how seperate their families have stayed, and what their teenage children think. Often a bit of difference there...
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Canada immigrants are actually probably *more* sucessful (relatively speaking) than the US. Canada does do filtering at the input of immigrants (except for refugees).
Australia has generally had a somewhat restrictionist immigration policy, starting with the 'White Australia' policy. I'm not sure it can be held up as any sort of paragon of open immigration policies.
posted by: erg on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
"Sorry if I was unclear - I meant "since 1970". I would have said Northern European, except that I don't think there are many Germans or Swedes immigrating to the United States these days, but in the 1970-1990 period there were still a lot of Irish doing so. Not any more I think."
I thought you talking about the 1800s. During that time German immigrants were the largest non-British, non-English speaking immigrants. 1970-1990: After the changes in immigration laws in the mid-60s we have seen an explosion in immigrants from Latin America, East and South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; I don't know where the Irish fit in in terms of numbers, but it can't be that much.
Nevertheless, the big scheme point should be that the US and other Anglo-rooted countries are better at integrating the vast sea of humanity and offering them oportunities to actualize their potential as human beings than any other culture.posted by: phil on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
One long-term established immigrant group in the US that has not fully assimilated, nor invested in education, but that apparently still is quite successful is the Amish. (There is some assimilation to general US mores; a few years ago two Amish men were arrested for dealing cocaine.)posted by: Acad Ronin on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
To see some good work on the overall question of immigration in the US go to this CBO report.posted by: spencer on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
@Major Combs: Only the Mexicans, who bring their culture with them, have difficulty prospering in America as a group. Needless to say, many Mexicans also do very well in America, much better than they would in any other part of the world....
Mexicans do so well in the US, that the money they send back to Mexico is that countries #1 moneymaker, bigger than oil or tourism. That's from 12 million illegal Mexicans in the US vs what 70 million Mexicans in Mexico.
A huge difference in assimilation is that to be an American, you just accept Americanism, a belief in freedom, constitutionalism, rule of law and personal responsibility. How can a foreigner become French, German, Swedish or English? That's a question of ethnicity, not ideas. Anyone can become American, you don't even have to be in America.;^)posted by: Jabba the Tutt on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
@Ken Garden: It was galling to be in Europe in the late 80's and early 90's and have to listen to Europeans condemn Americans as racists who lacked the humanity and tolerence of the Europeans.
Believe me, this was just as galling in the 70's. But the Europeans were simply clueless of what was going on the US. I was from Southern California. The biggest racial tensions were between blacks and hispanics. The Germans were stuck on the idea that all the the US was like the Jim Crow South.
The Europeans just want to pound their chests and claim moral superiority to the Americans. I heard more racist comments in Europe, than I ever heard in the US.posted by: Jabba the Tutt on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
There's a set of very good discussions and offerings on the emphasis upon European ethnicity, the ideological underpinnings, how it forms conceptions of citizenship, etc., here at American Future and variously at Transatlantic Intelligencer here, here and here.
Also, if interested, a substantial reading list on the Volkisch ideology can be found here.posted by: Michael B on 05.24.05 at 11:36 AM [permalink]
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