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The looming transition to diversity in western societies: Challenge and opportunity Richard Alba Graduate Center, CUNY.

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Presentation on theme: "The looming transition to diversity in western societies: Challenge and opportunity Richard Alba Graduate Center, CUNY."— Presentation transcript:

1 The looming transition to diversity in western societies: Challenge and opportunity Richard Alba Graduate Center, CUNY

2 An historic juncture for the west Because of immigration, all western societies are facing a demographic transition to a much more diverse working-age population. During the next quarter century, this transition will result from a conjunction of two forces:  The exit from the work force of the large, heavily native, baby-boom cohorts born after World War II.  The maturation of very diverse youth cohorts, containing many who have grown up in immigrant homes.

3 Blue=non-Hisp. whites Red=minorities MenWomen US population, present & future (projected)

4 Germany, 2009 Light orange= Native Germans Dark orange= Foreigners Green=Naturalized & Second generation

5 Immigrant-origin youth elsewhere In the Netherlands, young people of immigrant origins account for almost a quarter (22.5 percent) of youth under the age of 21 (Statistics Netherlands, 2009). In France, about one-sixth (17 percent) of all children are growing up in immigrant homes. In the United Kingdom, the proportion of all children who come from immigrant families is also about a sixth. In Spain in 2009, 24 percent of babies had at least one parent who was a foreigner.

6 Not all immigrations are the same Immigration tends to be bi-modal. High-status immigrants bring high levels of education and professional qualifications— Indians in GB and US—and their children often excel in western schools. Low-status immigrants bring low levels of education and take low-skill jobs. They often come from former colonies and are racially and/or religiously distinct, such as North Africans in France—and their children face difficulties in western schools.

7 Low-status immigrations & the second generation Two-thirds of immigrant-origin children in the Netherlands have non-western origins, most are in families that come from former colonies or Morocco or Turkey. Sixty percent of such children in the US have Latin American or Caribbean origins. Half of immigrant-origin children in France have African backgrounds.

8 The challenge of integration Meaning of “integration” in this context: Young people of minority origins are prepared to function in the work force in ways that are similar to those of well- trained natives. Without integration, the economic, social and political vitality of western societies are at risk, as mainstream populations shrink.

9 Dimensions of educational outcomes School-taught skills, such as literacy: reasonably well measured by international surveys, such as PISA.  The basis for various international reports, with certain problems of inference as a consequence Credentials acquired: more difficult to measure because of differences across systems and variability of data.  But credentials are a critical dimension of outcomes because of their role in qualifying individuals in the labor market.  There is not a one-to-one correspondence between skills and credentials, in part because of “long route” taken by some in the second generation.

10 Rough similarity of outcomes Consistent differences across societies on skills tests between native students and the children of low-wage immigrants Broad similarity across systems in credential differences  The British exception However, the U.S. does not come out well in these comparisons (despite its history as an immigration society)—it is found at the bottom margin of the range of outcomes observed.

11 Note: Second generation is limited to children of parents without secondary-school credentials PISA reading,

12 Credentials of native and second-generation youth in selected countries

13 Educational systems: Centers of fields of power School systems are “force fields” for powerful social groups that seek to achieve their own ends, to pass on advantages to a new generation. Theories of maximally and effectively maintained inequality (Raftery and Hout, 1993; Lucas, 2001). Third Law of Educational Inequality: for every initiative to reduce inequality there is an opposing (but not necessarily equal) reaction to preserve it.

14 Wherein lies the opportunity? Change = alteration to ethno-racial boundaries, not simply enhanced opportunities for some minority individuals  Example: mid-20 th century assimilation of white ethnics My claim: Key is non-zero-sum mobility, which allows minorities to rise without threat to life chances of majority Exodus of the baby boom from the labor market creates the prospect of non-zero-sum mobility during the next quarter century, into the 2030s

15 The ethno-racial position of Irish and southern and eastern European immigrants Excluded from white Protestant mainstream by religion (e.g., Ku Klux Klan, 1928 election) Problematic racial position betrayed by slurs such as “guinea” Scientific racism “proves” their inferiority (e.g., IQ testing) Targets of immigration restriction: Johnson- Reed Act of 1924 sets baseline for quotas at 1890, before new immigration

16 Mass assimilation, Young ethnics caught up socio-economically to white Protestant counterparts.  Italians erased the education gap.  Quotas limiting Jewish presence in Ivy League were dropped. Marriage across ethnic and religious lines rose sharply. Ethnics accepted as white, entered mainstream. Catholicism and Judaism became charter religions.

17 The sociological puzzle Whiteness theory But past boundaries were not just a matter of racial distinctions but also of religious and ethnic ones. Why would Protestant whites have surrendered their advantages? The counterfactual alternative: A three-tier ethno-racial system, with non-Protestant ethnic whites in the middle, non-whites on the bottom Why did this not happen?

18 A theory for solving the puzzle Non-zero-sum mobility  Rapid emergence of mass higher education  Transformations of occupational structure Socioeconomic mobility → Social proximity to mainstream whites  Post-war suburbanization Ideological change promoting moral parity of ethnics  Wartime journalism and post-war novels and films focus on military “melting pot” for whites

19 Similarities and differences between past and present Demographic changes brighten prospects for non-zero-sum mobility, but not on the scale of the post-war period. The present is a period of far greater inequality than were the post-war decades. The educational system has changed between then and now—e.g., greater inequality, decline in teacher “quality.”

20 Possibilities for the future Boundaries will not fade everywhere They could become more contingent— dependent on socioeconomic position, skin tone, cultural and religious self- presentation  For some non-white individuals, race could become more like ethnicity  Inclusion of versions of Islam within European mainstream (cf. contemporary American Judaism)

21 Possibilities for the future Rising heterogeneity within minority populations  Example: Mexican Americans (Alba, Jimenez and Marrow)  Situation of Mexican Americans depends on socioeconomic position, type of marriage and location with respect to large Mexican-origin populations  Many will be left out.


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