BOTH immigrants and host country often feel ambivalent about the way they live together. Immigrants want to feel at home—but they also want, to varying degrees, to keep their original values and culture. Host countries want immigrants to integrate—but some also harbour a sneaking hope that the newcomers will eventually go home. Pull up too many cultural roots, lose the ancestral language, and that becomes hard.
How to make Americans
Such ambivalence is greater in Europe than in the United States. Not only does America have an unusually clear idea of what it stands for as a country; it has had enough experience of accommodating different cultures to have created a template for cultural co-existence. Europe lacks both advantages. Europeans often mistrust national pride and lack moral self-confidence; they are also new to the business of living in a multicultural society, and are not helped by the sheer size of the Muslim population in some of their countries.
For instance, what moral values and rules of behaviour should modern societies insist that people share? In the name of protecting freedom of speech and religion, should they tolerate incitement to violence by imams? Pim Fortuyn, a maverick homosexual Dutch politician, raised such questions before he was murdered earlier this year. He opposed immigration precisely because of the clash of values it brought. “Christianity and Judaism have gone through the laundromat of humanism and enlightenment, but that is not the case with Islam,” he said.
Optimists argue that Europe will eventually learn from America. Aristide Zolberg, of the New School University in New York, recalls that the first big crisis in American immigration came in the 1830s when the Catholic Irish began to arrive. Their religious loyalties were assumed to be to a foreign potentate who deplored the liberalism and republican values for which the United States stood: “Everything now said in Europe about the unsuitability of Muslims for life in a liberal democracy was then said about the Irish.” But America's schools and other institutions consciously turn immigrants into Americans.
As long as migrants think they will eventually go home, integration is bound to come slowly. Germany's Turkish guest-workers and their families believed, right up into the 1980s, that one day they would leave. That caused problems: many first-generation Turks sent their children “home” to school, thus ensuring that the second generation was badly prepared for work in Germany. And the Turkish community made fewer demands on its host country than it might otherwise have done. “Only when Turkish Muslims realised that they would stay in Germany did they begin to build proper mosques and demand religious education for their children,” says Peter Heine, an expert on Islam at the Humboldt University.
In fact, the nature of migration has altered in ways that encourage ambivalence. In the 19th century, the migrant and his family would board a ship for a new land knowing that they might never return home. Now, migration is rarely a single decision, but more often involves a series of steps: a succession of short visits that grow longer; or marriage and the arrival of a child; or a study course that leads to a job that turns out to be permanent.
That should help immigrants to span two cultures. Doing so is easier thanks to modern communications, and works well if immigrants feel welcome and accepted by their hosts. “My concept is of a hyphenated identity,” says Cem Ozdemir, a former member of Germany's Parliament. “I can criticise this country because it's my country—but I'm not a Christian, I was born into a Muslim family, and my mother-tongue is Turkish. I want both sides to accept that.” The hyphen comes more readily to non-observant Muslims like Mr Ozdemir than to young Turks who are captivated by Islam. Germany's Turkish-language press is far more outspoken than anything published in Ankara.
If the second generation cannot define its place in a society that accepts and incorporates cultural diversity, it may become hostile and alienated instead. Immigrants' children, unlike their parents, do not see the new country as the promised land. Moreover, they may well have grown up in poverty. Their parents are disproportionately likely to be in low-wage jobs or, in continental Europe, to be out of work. Migrants are twice as likely as natives to be unemployed in Denmark, three times as likely in Finland and four times in the Netherlands. There is nothing inevitable about such vast gaps: they scarcely exist in America or Australia. But they matter, because of the power of the job market itself to promote integration.
Immigrants' children are also likely to have parents with a poor command of the host country's language. Yet countries have only gradually woken up to the importance of learning the local language for economic and social integration. In California, Ronald Unz, a wealthy supporter of integration, championed a vote against Spanish-language education. Evidence from Britain shows that fluent English boosts a migrant's earnings by around 17% an hour. In Denmark and Britain, legislation will now compel some immigrants to take compulsory language lessons. In Germany, politicians from the opposition Christian Democrats such as Thomas Strobl go further: they want no more immigration until integration is under way. “The key to integration is the German language,” he argues. “Some families have been living in Germany for 30 years, but the children don't speak a word of German when they start school.”
The young find integration harder when they grow up in segregated communities. Immigrants always converge initially on a handful of cities. William Frey, an expert on social geography at the Milken Institute, talks of “demographic Balkanisation”, with two-thirds of the immigrants who arrived in America in 1985-96 concentrated in ten “gateway” cities from which native whites and blacks move out. The rest of the country, he fears, will look demographically quite different, and be less tolerant of ethnic diversity. In New York's metropolitan area, argues Professor Beveridge, newcomers are far more diverse than at the height of the first great immigration wave, in 1910. Five nationalities then accounted for 80% of immigrants, whereas now 22 nationalities account for only 66%. But they are also more segregated, with Washington Heights dominated by Dominicans, Flatbush by West Indians, Iron Bound by Portuguese and Union City by Cubans. “Will they all be incorporated into the wider society?”, he wonders. “Or will we become a plural society, where each group retains its own identity?”
School is where the melting-pot succeeds or fails. There, a disturbing ethnic divide emerges in several countries: some immigrants' children (usually those of the smaller groups) do far better than others. In the United States, concludes a recent study of more than 5,200 second-generation children in Miami and San Diego, the children of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian immigrants had grade-point scores averaging at least twice those of Mexican and Cuban children—even after adjusting for family and school characteristics. In Germany, it is the children of the Turks who cause concern: only 8% of Turkish children pass the Abitur, the tough German high-school-leaving exam, compared with 12% of the children of all foreigners and 30% of Germans. In Britain, the children of East African Asians thrive at school; Bangladeshi kids struggle.
Why these differences? Much of the answer is parental background. Britain's East African Asians were mainly urban professional Gujarati Hindus and Punjabi Sikhs, fleeing Uganda's Idi Amin. Most of them were English-speaking. All this seems to benefit their children educationally.
By contrast, an immigrant child such as Mr Ozdemir had some of the same handicaps as America's young Mexicans or France's Maghrebis. He had to repeat first grade because his German let him down, and his Turkish-speaking parents could not help. “The hardest kind of immigration you can have”, he says, “is from a rural area to a complex modern society.” It is even tougher when the low wages that make unskilled immigrants so attractive to employers condemn their children to poverty and struggling inner-city schools.
In Los Angeles, Joy Chen, a second-generation immigrant, the daughter of an MIT-educated Chinese father, is deputy mayor. She waves a sheaf of charts showing that the Latino population of the city has outstripped the white; that the new jobs for which demand will grow fastest will require a college degree; and that only one in ten Latino youngsters completes college. That is half the rate for the city's blacks.
Still more alarming is the performance of the immigrants' grandchildren. Of foreign-born Latinos, 35% have no more than a sixth-grade education, and another 27% do not finish high school. The comparable percentages for second-generation Latinos born in America are 1% and 17%. But for the third generation, they are still 1% and 19%. “By this time,” says Ms Chen, incongruously, “they're us.”
Not surprisingly, then, the children of the educated and skilled rise more easily through the educational system of their new country than the children of the rural unskilled, and the second group has problems in the job market. The children of the unskilled, unlike their parents, are not keen to work for low pay in jobs that natives shun. After all, they are natives too. And two-thirds of them had hoped for a college degree and a professional job. Instead, a disproportionate number of second-generation youngsters are out of work. Add in discrimination by employers and competition from new waves of immigrants, and their job prospects are often even bleaker than those of the unskilled children of natives. With aspirations far outstripping their qualifications, many immigrant children feel alienated. “Petty crime is linked to immigration,” admits Claude Bertrand, deputy mayor of Marseilles. “The reason is that the young do not feel part of society—or, when they do, it's at the lowest level.”
Some Americans wonder whether the United States may be treading the same unfortunate road as Europe did in the 1960s, importing low-wage migrants to do industrial jobs. Now those jobs have gone, but the migrants are still there, trapped, with difficult consequences for their children. Because one-third of America's Latinos are under 18 years old, the future of the next generation is a social issue of crucial importance. For them, there is no simple route back. As Mr Suro from the Pew Hispanic Institute observes, “They will grow up just about the time the baby-boomers retire. So we have four to five years left to deliver the workforce we want by late this decade. If we have only a 60-70% success rate, we will double the poverty class.”
Such fears raise the most difficult question of future immigration policy. Easily the biggest economic gains from migration arise from allowing the unskilled to move from poor countries to rich. But easily the biggest challenges of integration, and the highest costs, arise if the unskilled settle down and have children. If society fails to integrate the next generations, those costs may stretch far into the future.
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