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The myth of imported immigrant success

Submitted by on July 21, 2009 – 1:20 pmNo Comment

The Myth of Imported Immigrant Success

By Tamara K. Nopper, Ph.D.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard people claim that Asian immigrants do well because they migrate with the human capital to succeed, I’d be able to…do many things.

A common sociological explanation for economic inequality between Asian immigrants and “native born minorities,” the importation thesis posits that the “development” of third world countries and policy dictates for skilled and educated labor have resulted in imported success. In other words, immigrants come in with more human capital and thus are able to effectively compete against and sometimes economically surpass other racial groups.

Whereas biological and cultural explanations focus on ethnic group characteristics as facilitators of success or failure, the importation thesis is preoccupied with the selectivity of immigration policy that has diversified the types of migrants the U.S. recruits and receives. Emphasizing the landmark 1965 Immigration Act, which set in motion the increased immigration of ethnicities previously restricted from entry or naturalization, scholars have refocused our attention on the state’s role in shaping contemporary economic inequality between racial groups.

Nevertheless, there are limitations to this approach.

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