…is Asian, and that’s good for America.
Walter Russell Mead in the WSJ:
…A report released this month by the Pew Research Center shows just how much the face of immigration has changed in the past few years. Since 2008, more newcomers to the U.S. have been Asian than Hispanic (in 2010, it was 36% of the total, versus 31%). Today’s typical immigrant is not only more likely to speak English and have a college education, but also to have come to the U.S. legally, with a job already in place.
What’s responsible for the change? The reasons include a rapidly falling birthrate in Mexico, dramatic economic growth there and the collapse of the U.S. residential construction industryâ€”a traditional market for low-skilled, non-English speaking immigrants whose documentation was often subject to question.
A great deal of mythology has grown up around American immigration. Images of Irish and Italians forced by starvation to emigrate, Jews fleeing Russian persecutionâ€”this was all real, but just part of the story. Waves of educated and professional middle-class people also arrivedâ€”men like Albert Gallatin fleeing the radicalism of the French Revolution, disappointed liberals abandoning Europe after the failure of the revolutions of 1848, and of course the generations of educated exiles from the terrible totalitarianisms of the 20th century.
America needs and benefits from both kinds of immigration. Like all waves, the Asian influx mixes the skilled and the unskilled. But overall it resembles earlier waves of educated and already urbanized immigrants more than the desperate and often unskilled rural groups from Europe and Latin America.
The Pew study found that the new Asian immigrants identify themselves, surprisingly, as 22% Protestant and 19% Catholic, but whatever their religion, most of them have in spades what Max Weber called the Protestant work ethic. Arguably, in America’s long history of immigration, the group that the new immigrants resemble most is the original cohort of Puritans who settled New England.
Like them, the Asians tend to be better-educated than most of the people in their countries of origin. Steeped in the culture of enterprise and capitalism, they’re more likely than native-born Americans to have a bachelor of arts degree. While family sponsorship is still the most important entry route for Asians (as for all immigrants), this group is three times more likely than other recent immigrants to come to the U.S. on visas arranged through employers.
In many cases, they’re not coming to the U.S. because of the economic conditions back home. After all, places like China, Korea and India have experienced jumps in prosperity and an explosion in opportunity for the skilled and the hardworking. But most of the new immigrants like it here and want to stay (only 12% wish they had stayed home).
More Asian-Americans (69%) than other Americans (58%) believe that you will get ahead with hard work. Also, 93% say that their ethnic group is “hardworking.”
There also seems to be some truth in the “Tiger Mom” syndrome described by author Amy Chua. While 39% of Asian-Americans say their group puts “too much” pressure on kids to succeed in school, 60% of Asian-Americans think that other Americans don’t push their kids hard enough.
Other family values are strong as well, according to Pew. Only 16% of Asian-American babies are born out of wedlock, in contrast to 41% for the general population. In the U.S., 63% of all children grow up in a household with two parents; the figure for Asian-Americans is 80%. Some 66% of Asian-Americans believe parents should have some input into what careers their children select and 61% think that parents have something useful to say about their children’s choice of a spouse. The hard work and strong family values appear to pay off: Asian-Americans’ median household income is $66,000 (national median: $49,800) and their median household wealth is $83,500 (national median: $68,529)…