Immigrant Assimilation in the US

| |

A new report issued by the Manhattan Institute entitled “Measuring Immigrant Assimilation in the United States” looks at the rate at which immigrants adapt to living in the United States.  The study looked at the degree of similarity between native and foreign-born adults living in the United States using Census data. 

The think tank compared statistics on economic (e.g. income and home ownership), cultural (ability to speak English) and civic (e.g. military enrollment and rates of U.S. citizenship) factors using Census data from 1890 to 2006 and found that rates of assimilation vary greatly among immigrant groups.

The study found that while immigrant groups are assimilating faster than in the past, the slowest rate of assimilation is occurring among Mexican immigrants. 

The significant findings as highlighted in the executive summary are:

  • The degree of similarity between the native- and foreign-born, although low by historical standards, has held steady since 1990. Assimilation declined during the 1980s, remained stable through the 1990s, and has actually increased slightly over the past few years.
  • Newly arrived immigrants of the early 21st century have assimilation index values lower than the newly arrived immigrants of the early 20th century. Growth in the immigrant population usually lowers the assimilation index because newly arrived immigrants drag down the average for the group as a whole. This phenomenon can be seen between 1900 and 1920 and again in the 1980s. The stability of the assimilation index since 1990 is therefore remarkable in light of the rapid growth of the immigrant population, which doubled between 1990 and 2006.
  • Immigrants of the past quarter-century have assimilated more rapidly than their counterparts of a century ago, even though they are more distinct from the native population upon arrival. The increase in the rate of assimilation among recently arrived immigrants explains why the overall index has remained stable, even though the immigrant population has grown rapidly.
  • Yet the current level of assimilation remains lower than it was at any point during the early 20th century wave of immigration.

Read the report (PDF): Measuring Immigrant Assimilation in the United States – Jacob L. Vigdor



Photo of author
About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.