Multiculturalism and immigrant incorporation

Generally-speaking, there are two major schools of thought concerning the way in which a government should try to incorporate foreign immigrants into the community. Multiculturalists advocate a more accommodating approach, favoring programs like dual-language educational programs, exemptions from dress codes based on religious identity, affirmation action programs, etc. Critics of multiculturalism argue that such efforts make it more difficult for immigrants to assimilate and incorporate because it allows them to maintain their cultural distinctiveness, decreasing the likelihood that immigrants will make a good faith effort to adopt the prevailing culture, language, and values. These critics ultimately argue that multicultural policies make it impossible to achieve a sense of common identity and purpose that is necessary for “modern society to function smoothly” (see article citation, below).

A new article by Matthew Wright and Irene Bloemraad seeks to empirically test these competing theories. They find that immigrants in countries with strong multicultural policies are “[no] less attached to or less engaged in the political community” than those without these multicultural policies. They also find that immigrants in Canada, where multicultural policies are much more popular than they are in the U.S., are substantially more likely to be economically and culturally integrated into society than immigrants in the U.S.

Ironically, these findings seem to support the argument that policies like Official English laws or bans on “ethnic studies” in public schools (e.g. Arizona’s recent law) might actually make it more difficult for immigrants to successfully integrate and assimilate into society.

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