LATINO ASSIMILATION FACTS....

LATINO ASSIMILATION FACTS. Along with the fake issue of immigration and national security is the fake concern that Hispanic immigrants don't assimilate. For example, Robert Samuelson earns his bones today as one of those white pundits, employed by white editors, writing for an audience of white people, who has the courage to speak uncomfortable "truths" about how non-white people are bad:

How fast can they assimilate? We cannot know, but we can consult history. It is sobering. In 1972 Hispanics were 5 percent of the U.S. population and their median household income was 74 percent of that of non-Hispanic white households. In 2004 Hispanics were 14 percent of the population, and their median household income was 70 percent of the level of non-Hispanic whites. These numbers suggest that rapid immigration of low-skilled workers and rapid assimilation are at odds.

That's some seriously messed up math. If you want to judge how rapidly people are assimilating, you need to first look at a group of people in some year -- 1972, say -- and then look at how those people and their descendants are doing in 2004. Samuelson is comparing the Hispanic population in 1972 to an entirely different population which, obviously, proves nothing. Via Tyler Cowen, here's some proper longitudinal data. We learn that "In a 2003 study by the RAND Corporation, economist James P. Smith finds that successive generations of Latino men have experienced significant improvements in wages and education relative to native Anglos." As Smith puts it, "Each new Latino generation not only has had higher incomes than their forefathers, but their economic status converged toward the white men with whom they competed."

It's also clear from polls that lots of people are upset that Hispanics in the United States "refuse to learn English," which would be a legitimate concern except that it's not true: "Spanish is the primary language among 72% of first-generation Latinos, but this figure falls to 7% among second-generation Latinos and zero among Latinos who are third generation and higher." The whole idea that this could possibly be a problem is just absurdly ignorant anyway. If you leave the United States, you'll be struck by the fact that huge numbers of people everywhere learn at least some English and would like to learn more. The reason, of course, is that knowing English is a very useful skill. It's even more useful if you actually live in the United States and, what's more, it's obviously much easier for an American-born child of immigrants to learn English than it is for someone growing up in Bangalore or wherever.

--Matthew Yglesias

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