ERIC Number: EJ921482
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar
Reference Count: 16
On the Dangers of Rosy Lenses: Reply to Alba, Kasinitz and Waters
Haller, William; Portes, Alejandro; Lynch, Scott M.
Social Forces, v89 n3 p775-781 Mar 2011
This article responds to the Alba, Kasinitz and Waters' commentary on the authors' article. The authors state that not all kids are doing "all right," and the substantial number at risk of social and economic stagnation or downward mobility looms as a significant social problem. They contend it is true that right-wing commentators may pick on these findings for their own purposes, but this is certainly no reason to obscure the facts. Laying a rosy veil over them is a dangerous strategy. The authors go on to explain that a good part of the divergence in this field has to do with an emphasis on different aspects of the process of assimilation. Many scholars privilege a culturalist perspective where the emphasis is on immigrants, and especially their descendants, becoming indistinct from the natives. After they learn unaccented English, give up loyalties and concerns in their old country, and become fully involved in things American, the process is essentially complete. It matters little, from this perspective, where they end up in the hierarchies of wealth, status and power of American society. The authors point out that what is remarkable about their findings is how fast foreign languages are abandoned and how quickly children internalize the goals, practices and concerns of the host culture. The question they thus pose is not whether second-generation youths are assimilating, but "to what sector" of American society they are assimilating to. This ushers in the second perspective. The structuralist perspective defines assimilation less by whether children of immigrants lose their languages and distinct cultural ways and more by whether they are able to ascend the educational and economic ladders into the American middle class. In that respect, this perspective is closer to the aspirations of immigrant parents themselves--much less concerned with cultural assimilation than with the socio-economic progress of their offspring (Portes and Rumbaut 2001). It is evident that, under present circumstances in the United States, the fulfillment of these aspirations is increasingly difficult. The authors advocate vigorous intervention by government agencies and private volunteer programs in support of immigrant families, helping them overcome the multiple hazards of low human capital, poverty and mainstream discrimination and their children attain a modicum of education.
Descriptors: Immigrants, Acculturation, Parent Child Relationship, Social Problems, Social Mobility, Middle Class, Languages, Socioeconomic Status, Foreign Countries, Human Capital
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Adult Education
Authoring Institution: N/A