Immigrant advantage

Definition: Term used within sociology to describe distinctions among minority groups within a larger society and those peoples who immigrate to these societies voluntarily from other nations

Significance: Immigrants who are considered members of ethnic groups already residing within the United States often have advantages over native-born members of those groups.

Members of resident minority groups are often “marginalized,” living on the fringe of society, often in poverty, lacking education, occupational skills, political power, or the means to integrate into the mainstream. These groups, much like immigrant groups, are frequently made up of ethnic and racial minorities. However, compared with marginalized groups, immigrants have numerous advantages and often become successful, productive members of a society.

One of the primary advantages that many immigrants have is that most people who immigrate to a new country typically do so by choice and therefore arrive already motivated to succeed. Another advantage is that they often have the resources needed to relocate to a new country. National immigration services typically work at keeping out low-skilled and poorly educated immigrants.

A third advantage is that immigrants to the United States tend to believe in the “melting pot” ideal and want to join the mainstream society and learn the new language. To become citizens of the United States, for example, immigrants must speak, read, and write English and pass an examination on U.S. history and government. Therefore, although immigrants may start on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, they often move up more quickly than members of marginalized resident minorities. In many cases, their rise is accelerated by their ability to take advantage of affirmative action programs that were originally designed to benefit native-born members of disadvantaged minorities.

Rochelle L. Dalla

Further Reading

  • Barone, Michael. The New Americans: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again.Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2001. 
  • Cook, Terrence E. Separation, Assimilation, or Accommodation: Contrasting Ethnic Minority Policies. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003. 
  • Jacoby, Tamar, ed. Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means to Be American. New York: Basic Books, 2004. 

See also: Affirmative action; African Americans and immigrants; Assimilation theories; Civil Rights movement; Employment; Hansen effect; “Immigrant”; Melting pot theory; “Middleman” minorities; Migrant superordination; “Model minorities.”30.01.2012 18:01

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