Traditional Theory of Assimilation • The US economy/society allows equal opportunity for those who are poor to become wealthy through hard work and education. • Immigrants arrive poor and with less education than their US counterparts. • Through hard work and education of their children, their children attain middle-class status.
The Theory of Segmented Assimilation • The US is an increasingly bifurcated economy/society by race and class. • Service-sector is fastest growing sector of the economy: highly skilled workers in the knowledge economy and many unskilled low-level jobs • Income disparities, and education as the key to one’s income/occupation. • It becomes harder to move between economic levels (Waters, p. 254-255).
The Theory of Segmented Assimilation • Therefore, immigrants are not necessarily assimilating into the middle class but into these bifurcated sectors of the economy: the professional class and the unskilled class. • Where they end up is dependent on their race and class
A Little Background about School and Neighborhood Segregation in the US What are immigrants assimilating into?
18% of children live in poverty* but they tend to live in areas and go to schools where poor children are in the majority. *Federal poverty threshold = $19,350 for family of four in 2005; Orfield is using reduced or free lunch as the indicator of family poverty, which goes up to $22,290 for family of four (2005-2006) National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, “Low-Income Children in the United States,” January 2006.
What is the effect of concentrated poverty on school achievement?
The underlying problem is neighborhood segregation,by class and race.Schools reflect that segregation, but do not create it.
Neighborhoods Provide and determine: • Education • Recreational facilities • Insurance rates • Employment • Transportation • Safety • Health • Tax base for government services
What happens when poor people are concentrated together? • Loss of private businesses: grocery stores, banks, etc • Loss of political power: environmental discrimination (waste processing facilities and chemical plants) • Lower property values: deteriorating buildings and and unsavory facilities (jails) • Loss of medical facilities and clinics • Loss of revenue for public schools Massey, Douglas S. 1990. “American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. American Journal of Sociology 96(2): 329-357
While the majority of poor people are white, they are less likely than poor African-Americans and Latinos to live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.
Racial discrimination combines with class segregation for African-Americans and Latinos to produce “hyper-segregation,” particularly in old industrial areas of the Midwest and Northeast.
Three-quarters of African-Americans live in highly segregated neighborhoods today, whereas 90-100% of other groups experience only moderate levels of segregation.Massey, Douglas S. and Mary J. Fischer. 2000. “How Segregation Concentrates Poverty.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 23(4): 670-691.
Why do many African-Americans live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and racial segregation?
Racial Discrimination • Individual prejudice and feelings of comfort/discomfort • Discrimination in real estate and banking industries • Government policies increasing racial and class-based housing segregation
1992 Detroit Survey on Neighborhood Preference • Neighborhood that is 20% black: One-third of whites uncomfortable and unwilling to live there. • Neighborhood where one-third of the residents are black: 59% of whites would be unwilling to live there, 44% would be uncomfortable, and 29% would seek to leave. • Neighborhood that is 50-50 black and white: becomes unacceptable to all but a small minority of whites.
1992 Detroit Survey on Neighborhood Preference For African-Americans: • The most popular choice is a neighborhood that is half black and half white. • 87% willing to live in a neighborhood that is 20% black.
Neighborhood Turnover • In a neighborhood that is 20% black, whites begin to not move in because they are uncomfortable, blacks move in because they comfortable with that balance. • The balance tips towards a mix of 70% white, 30% black, and now some whites begin to sell their houses in order to move out.
Neighborhood Turnover • When the neighborhood is 50-50, blacks begin to move in because the neighborhood is ideal; the majority of whites want to sell their houses • Soon the neighborhood is entirely black • Waters, p. 250: quote from Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton
Neighborhood Turnover • This is what happened in central cities during the 1980s and 1990s, in which white people for the most part abandoned cities and fled to the suburbs • However, now, the same thing is happening with the inner ring of suburbs so that segregation is maintained even in the suburbs
What does the situation of neighborhood and school segregation mean for immigrants? What does it mean for (black) West Indians?