Immigrants Come to Resemble Native-Born Americans over Time

But integration not always linked to greater well-being for immigrants, according to national study in which UCR researcher participated

report coverAs immigrants and their descendants become integrated into U.S. society, many aspects of their lives  improve, including measurable outcomes such as educational attainment, occupational distribution, income, and language ability, but their well-being declines in the areas of health, crime, and family patterns, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.   At the same time, several factors impede immigrants’ integration into society, such as their legal status, racial disparities in socio-economic outcomes, and low naturalization rates.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate dean of the University of California, Riverside School of Public Policy and professor of political science and public policy, is a member of the National Academies Committee on Integration of Immigrants Into American Society, which conducted the study and wrote the report that was released today in Washington, D.C. He directs the Immigration Research Group at UCR and is the lead campus representative on the UC-wide California Immigration Research Initiative.

Ramakrishnan and Sono Shah, a Ph.D. student in political science at UC Riverside, also helped produced another report released this week, this one from the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs of the Iowa Department of Human Rights on the contributions and needs of Iowa’s rapidly growing population of Asians and Pacific Islanders.

“It was an honor to be included in this distinguished group of social scientists from across the country,” Ramakrishnan said of the National Academies study. “The integration of immigrants in American society is a vitally important topic, and this is the most ambitious effort so far to shed light on how immigrants are faring, on a vast array of social, economic, health, and civic indicators.”

Integration is a twofold process that depends on the participation of immigrants and their descendants in major social institutions such as schools and the labor market, as well as their social acceptance by other Americans, said Mary Waters, M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and chair of the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report, “The Integration of Immigrants into American Society.” “The U.S. has a long history of accepting people from across the globe, and successful integration of immigrants and their children contributes to our economic vitality and a vibrant, ever-changing culture.” There are 41 million immigrants and 37.1 million U.S.-born children of immigrants in the United States today. Together, the first and second generations account for one-quarter of the U.S. population.

In comparison with native-born Americans, the report says, immigrants are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and all cancers, and they experience fewer chronic health conditions, have lower infant mortality and obesity rates, and have a longer life expectancy. However, over time and generations, these advantages decline as their health status converges with that of the native-born population.

Karthick Ramakrishnan

Karthick Ramakrishnan

Other measures of individual and community well-being show the same pattern, the committee found. Neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have much lower rates of crime and violence than comparable nonimmigrant neighborhoods. Foreign-born men age 18-39 are incarcerated at one-fourth the rate of native-born American men of the same age. However, in the second and third generations, crime rates increase and resemble that of the general population of native-born Americans.

Similarly, immigrant divorce rates and out-of-wedlock birth rates start off much lower than native-born Americans, but over time and generations, they rise toward those for native-born families. This indicates that immigrant and second-generation children across all major ethnic and racial groups are more likely to live in families with two parents than are third-generation children. Because single-parent families are more likely to be impoverished, this is a disadvantage going forward, the report says.

The study was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, with additional funding from the National Academy of Sciences’ Kellogg Fund. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.  The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

The Iowa study, “State of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Iowa, 2015: Closer look at a rapidly growing population,” is the first comprehensive report in over a decade to feature the state’s AAPI community.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013 more than 68,000 Iowa residents identified as being Asian alone and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, accounting for about 2.2 percent of the state’s population. This population has grown by 72 percent since 2000, even faster than the national average for AAPIs, with refugee populations accounting for a significant share of the state’s AAPI population. The AAPI population in Iowa is projected to grow to about 106,000 residents by 2040.

On the surface, it appears that AAPIs in Iowa are doing well across a variety of areas, from employment to education, and health status to median household income. However, the report reveals that AAPIs are a highly diverse group dealing with a variety of social, political, and economic issues. One in three AAPI individuals is Limited English Proficient, according to the report.

AAPIs who are first-generation immigrants and refugees are the most disadvantaged groups of Asians in Iowa. Since 1975, Iowa has welcomed refugees from Southeast Asia and continues to do so today. However the support system for refugees has grown weaker at both federal and state levels, making integration of refugees much more challenging.

In addition to drawing attention to the particular concerns of refugees, the report covers key topics such as education, health care, economic activity, language access, and civic participation concerning Iowa’s AAPI population. In doing so, it draws attention to a population that is often overlooked in the national picture, notes Ramakrishnan, director of AAPI Data, which provided research and production assistance for the report.

“Often, it is AAPIs in large states like California and large cities like New York that draw attention, and this is an important opportunity to provide a detailed look within smaller states that are more recent destinations for these immigrant and refugee populations.” At the same time, large gaps in data on AAPIs present barriers to understanding and addressing the problems they face. There is a strong need for further data collection, disaggregation, and analysis on the AAPI population both in Iowa and the United States.

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