Center for American Progress

PRESS RELEASE: Assimilation Today – New Evidence on the Advancement of Immigrants in California Culture and Economy
Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: Assimilation Today – New Evidence on the Advancement of Immigrants in California Culture and Economy

Read the report here.

Read the "Fast Facts" here. (PDF)

Listen to today’s press call here. (mp3)

Washington, D.C,—A majority of immigrants in California became citizens and homeowners after 18 years of residency, according to a new study released today by the Center for American Progress.

Moreover, of the immigrants who have lived in the United States at least 18 years, almost 62 percent earned above low incomes and about 65 percent speak only English or speak English well, according to new research based on U.S. Census Bureau data through 2008.

As in California, immigrants across the United States are assimilating at high rates, most notably in the areas of homeownership and citizenship in the first 18 years of residency, and show high rates of advancement the longer they live here.

The findings are contained in the report, “Assimilation Today: New Evidence Shows the Latest Immigrants to America Are Following in Our History’s Footsteps,” by Dowell Myers and John Pitkin of the University of Southern California’s Population Dynamics Research Group. The basic research was supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to the USC team.

Among the key findings in California:

  • Immigrants total 10.3 million or 27 percent of the state’s population. As one of the traditional immigrant destination states, California has the highest foreign-born population in the United States.
  • A majority of those who arrived between 18 and 27 years ago—53.2 percent—achieved homeownership despite the state’s high housing costs.
  • Almost 65 percent of immigrants who arrived before 1990 now speak only English or speak English well.
  • Among Latino immigrants in the Golden State, three-fifths of those who arrived before 1990 now earn above a low income.

Nationally, assimilation by all foreign born can be seen in the rising rates of earnings and high school completions. Children of Latino immigrants are more likely than their parents to have B.A. degrees, higher-paying occupations, be living in households above the poverty line, and own homes.

The study refutes claims from immigration opponents who question immigrants’ contributions to U.S. society and economy, and shows robust integration by newcomers since 1990, regardless of their social or economic starting points.

“These findings affirm America’s history. Immigrants are not static in their assimilation. Despite claims to the contrary, history is repeating itself and today’s newcomers are becoming tomorrow’s new Americans,” said Angela M. Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress.

Many Americans believe immigrants are, like Peter Pan, forever frozen and never advance economically or socially, but “the data on immigrant advancement may be surprising and should help dispel the illogical Peter Pan fallacy,” write the authors.

The report uses key benchmarks such as naturalization to citizenship, homeownership, and earnings to measure assimilation. The assimilation rates can be found here.