Assignment: The Nation’s Population
In 1970, Latinos and Asians made up only 5 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of the nation’s pop- ulation, but by 2008 these percentages had risen to over 15 percent and 5 per- cent (according to 2007 and 2008 American Community Survey data [Ruggles et al. 2009]). America’s Latino and Asian populations are continuing to grow, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau projections, by the year 2050, they are likely to constitute about 30 percent and 9 percent of the U.S. population, respectively (Sam Roberts, “Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20,” New York Times, August 7, 2008, A15)
Like the declining significance of race, the topic of immigration sparks con- siderable debate. Whereas European immigrants of America’s past have come to symbolize the search for opportunity and hope, today’s non-European immi- grants seem to generate anxiety in the minds of many Americans. At the core of the concern is the question of difference—the degree to which nonwhite immigrants and their descendants are becoming incorporated into the host society. Some native-born white Americans seem to assume the “unassimilabil- ity” of today’s nonwhite newcomers—over 30 percent of whom arrive from Mexico—pointing to their non-European origins, their low education and job skills, and their alleged unwillingness to assimilate and adopt mainstream cul- tural values (Borjas 2001; Camarota and McArdle 2003; Huntington 2004). Others remain apprehensive that a restructured economy has reduced eco- nomic opportunities, which, together with national-origin and racial-ethnic dis- tinctiveness among the new immigrants, might make complete incorporation difficult, if not impossible for today’s newcomers (Portes, Fernández-Kelly, and
12 The Diversity Paradox
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Haller 2005; Telles and Ortiz 2008). Yet other observers adopt an entirely different view and point to the remarkable progress that America’s new non- white newcomers have made since their recent arrival. They maintain that immigrants and their children not only are successfully incorporating eco- nomically, linguistically, and socioculturally but also are achieving rates of mobility comparable to, if not better than, those of the earlier European arrivals (Alba and Nee 2003; Bean and Stevens 2003; Kasinitz et al. 2008; Lee 2005; Smith 2003, 2006).
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