Are Immigrants To The U.S. Assimilating As Fast As They Once Did?

Mar 3, 2020

Immigrants to the United States assimilate just as quickly as they ever did. We’ll dive into the cutting-edge research from two economic historians and discuss exactly what that means.


Leah Boustan, professor of economics at Princeton University. Co-director of the Development of the American Economy Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Co-author of the current study, “Do Immigrants Assimilate More Slowly Today Than in the Past?” (@leah_boustan)

Ran Abramitzky, professor of economics at Stanford University. Senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Co-author of the current study, “Do Immigrants Assimilate More Slowly Today Than in the Past?”

From The Reading List

“Do Immigrants Assimilate More Slowly Today Than in the Past?” by Ran Abramitzky, Leah Boustan and Katherine Eriksson


Copyright © 2020 by Ran Abramitzky, Leah Boustan and Katherine Eriksson. Reprinted from the American Economic Review: Insights. No part of this paper may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

The New York Times: What Makes an American?” — “One man likens immigrants to snakes, frets that they will never ‘go back to their huts,’ and insists that they threaten ‘jobs, wages, housing, schools, tax bills’ and more.

Another sees a ‘Hispanic invasion,’ fears that it will bring the ‘cultural and ethnic replacement of Americans,’ and warns that the foreign influx endangers ‘our way of life.’

“After last weekend’s shooting in El Paso, it was so hard to distinguish President Trump’s views of immigration (paragraph one) from those of the accused killer (paragraph two) that the suspect offered a pre-emptive defense against charges of plagiarism. In a ‘manifesto’ released just before the massacre, he insisted he wasn’t just mouthing ‘Trump’s rhetoric’ but was offering thoughts of his own.

“I took reassurance this past week in another Texas immigration story, which suggests that America’s powers of assimilation remain formidable. It involves a third grader with an apt name, Precious Lara Villanueva, who lingered at dinner a year after arriving in the United States and said, ‘I sort of agree with Rosa Parks.'”

The Washington Post: The myth of immigrant non-assimilation” — “After the White House abandoned its policy of separating children from their migrant parents, Congress had a little breathing room to try to pass immigration legislation addressing other significant issues. But Republican hard-liners in the House who have foiled past immigration reform attempts have been at it again. In recent days they forced postponement of votes on compromise legislation, and on Wednesday led a revolt against House leadership in voting down the bill.

“There is an irony here: Anti-immigration lawmakers and their supporters frequently cite the failure of illegal immigrants to assimilate as a reason for their hostility, yet they fight the very kind of reforms that encourages assimilation. The best way to foster the integration of undocumented immigrants into American society is to provide a path to legal status. The conservative hero Ronald Reagan knew that legalization works, and he acted on it.

“… The federal government has generally left it to immigrants and the society they encounter to work out the terms of assimilation without any policy intervention. And that has worked pretty well. Assimilation among today’s mostly Latin American and Asian immigrant groups looks a lot like it did generations ago, when most immigrants came from Europe.”

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