Chapter Two
Assimilation and Pluralism: From Immigrants to
White Ethnic to White Americans
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Assimilation and Pluralism

Assimilation is a process in which formerly distinct and
separate groups come to share a common culture and merge
together socially.


As a society undergoes assimilation, differences among groups
begin to decrease.
Pluralism, on the other hand, exists when groups maintain
their individual identities.

In a pluralistic society, groups remain separate, and their cultural
and social differences persist over time.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Assimilation and Pluralism

In some ways, assimilation and pluralism are contrary
processes, but they are not mutually exclusive.

They may occur together in a variety of combinations
within a particular society or group.

Some segments of a society may be assimilating,
while others are maintaining (or even increasing)
their differences.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Types of Assimilation

Melting pot—a process in which
different groups come together and
contribute in roughly equal amounts to
create a common culture and a new,
unique society.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Types of Assimilation

Americanization or Anglo-conformity

Rather than an equal sharing of elements and a
gradual blending of diverse peoples, assimilation
in the United States was designed to maintain the
predominance of the British-type institutional
patterns created during the early years of
American society.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Types of Assimilation

Under Anglo-conformity, immigrant and minority
groups are expected to adapt to Anglo-American
culture as quickly as possible.

Americanization has been a precondition for access to
better jobs, education, and other opportunities.

But Americanization has also created conflict, anxiety,
demoralization, and resentment.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
The “Traditional” Perspective on
Assimilation: Theories and Concepts

Robert Park and “Race Relations Cycle”
–
–
–
–
Contact
Competition
Accommodation
Assimilation

Assumed that Assimilation is inevitable in a democratic and industrial
society.

In a political system based on democracy, fairness, and impartial
justice, all groups will eventually secure equal treatment under the law.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
The “Traditional” Perspective on
Assimilation: Theories and Concepts

Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life (1964)

Differentiated between:
– Culture
– Social structure
• Primary networks
• Secondary networks
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Gordon’s Stages of Assimilation
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
The “Traditional” Perspective on
Assimilation: Theories and Concepts

Human Capital Theory

More a status attainment theory than assimilation
theory.
– Incomplete in explaining status attainment as it deemphasizes structural factors in favor of individual
factors.
– Also assumes fairness in U.S. society.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Pluralism

Horace Kallen (1915) rejected the notion of Anglo conformity, which was
inconsistent with democracy and other core American values.

Evidence that full assimilation has not materialized, even among European
ethnic groups

Interest in pluralism has also increased due to



Increasing U.S. diversity
Global conflicts rooted in ethnic differences
Multiculturalism has been and will be an ongoing debate
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Types of Pluralism

Cultural pluralism exists when groups have not acculturated and each
maintains its own identity.

Structural pluralism exists when a group has acculturated but not
integrated. That is, the group has adopted the Anglo-American culture
but does not have full and equal access to the institutions of the larger
society.

Integration without acculturation reverses the order of Gordon’s first
two phases.
– Enclave and Middleman Minorities
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Other Group Relationships

Separatism goes well beyond pluralism and exists
among groups in French Canada, Scotland,
Chechnya, Cyprus, southern Mexico, Hawaii, etc.

Revolution seeks to switch places with the dominant
group and become the ruling elite or create a new
social order
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
From Immigrants to White
Ethnics

A massive immigration from Europe began in the
1820s

They came as immigrants, became minority groups
upon their arrival , experienced discrimination and
prejudice in all its forms, went through all the
varieties and stages of assimilation and pluralism, and
eventually merged into the society that had rejected
them
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
From Immigrants to White
Ethnics

Industrialization and Immigration – Industrialization
destroyed the traditional way of life as it introduced new
technology, machines, and new sources of energy to the
task of production. In response, peasants began to leave
their home villages and move toward urban areas

The first wave or “Old Immigration” came from Northern
and Western Europe in the 1820s; the second wave or
“New Immigration” began arriving from Southern and
Eastern Europe in the 1880s
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
From Immigrants to White
Ethnics

Northern and Western European immigrants included English, Germans,
Norwegians, Swedes, Welsh, French, Dutch, and Danes. These groups
were similar to the dominant group in their racial and religious
characteristics and also shared many cultural values with the host
society, including the Protestant Ethic.

Immigrants from Norway – On a per capita basis, Norway sent more
immigrants to the U.S. before 1890 than any European nation except
Ireland

Immigrants from Germany – The stream of immigration from Germany
was much larger and German Americans left their mark on the economy,
the political structure, and the cultural life of their new land
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
From Immigrants to White
Ethnics

Assimilation patterns – By and large, assimilation for
Norwegian, German, and other Protestant immigrants from
Northern and Western Europe was consistent with the
traditional views discussed earlier

Immigrant laborers from Ireland and Southern and Eastern
Europe – these “immigrant laborers” came in two waves: the
Irish took part of the Old Immigration, while Italians and other
Southern and Eastern Europeans made up the New
Immigration
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
From Immigrants to White
Ethnics

Eastern European Jewish Immigrants and the Ethnic Enclave – Jewish
immigrants from Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe settled in the
urban areas of the Northeast and Midwest; NY city was the most
common destination.

Unlike most European immigrant groups, Jewish Americans became
heavily involved in commerce and often found ways to start their own
businesses.

The enclave economy and the Jewish neighborhoods established by the
immigrants proved to be an effective base from which to integrate into
American Society.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
From Immigrants to White
Ethnics

Chains of Immigration – All of the immigrant groups tended
to follow “chains” established and maintained by the members
of their groups.

Someone from a village would make it to the United States;
the successful immigrant would send word to the home
village; within months, another immigrant from the village,
perhaps a relative, would show up at the address of the original
immigrant
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
The Campaign against Immigration:
Prejudice, Racism, and Discrimination

Anti-Catholicism – Much of the prejudice against the Irish and the new
immigrants was expressed as anti-Catholicism

Anti-Semitism – Jews faced intense prejudice and racism as they began
arriving in large numbers in the 1880s

The prejudice and racism direct against the immigrants also found
expression in organized, widespread efforts to stop the flow of
immigration. The National Origins Act established a quota system that
limited the number of immigrants that would be accepted each year from
each sending nation, a system that was openly racist, allocating nearly
70% of the available immigration slots to the nations of Northern and
Western Europe.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Patterns of Assimilation

The Importance of Generations - It takes time to become completely
Americanized.

First generation (immigrants) - Settled in ethnic neighborhoods and make
limited movement toward acculturation and integration. Focused energies on
family and social relationships.

Second generation (children of immigrants) - Psychologically or socially
marginalized as part ethnic, part American. Many experience conflict between
school and home worlds which reflected different cultures. Enjoyed wider
choices and opportunities than their parents.

Third generation (grandchildren of immigrants) - Usually born and raised in
non-ethnic settings. English is their first language. Ethnicity is a minor part of
their self-image. Attain high levels of integration at secondary and primary
levels.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Patterns of Assimilation

Ethnic Succession
 A second
factor that shaped the assimilation experience
is captured in the concept of ethnic succession or the
myriad ways in which European ethnic groups
unintentionally affected each other’s position in the
social class structure of the larger society.
 Politics – After
a period of acculturation and adjust, the
Irish began to create their own connections with the
mainstream society and improve their economic and
social position
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Patterns of Assimilation

Ethnic Succession

Labor unions – The labor movement provided a second link
between the Irish, other European immigrant groups, and the larger
society.

Religion – A third avenue of mobility for the Irish and other white
groups was provided by the religious institution.

Other pathways – besides party politics, the union movement, and
religion, European immigrant groups forged other not-solegitimate pathways of upward mobility.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Patterns of Assimilation

Continuing Industrialization and Structural
Mobility
 Structural
mobility resulted more from changes
in the structure of the economy and the labor
market than from any individual effort or desire to
“get ahead”
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Variations in Assimilation

Degree of Similarity –The degree of resistance,
prejudice, and discrimination encountered by the
different European immigrant groups varied in part
by the degree to which they differed from these
dominant group characteristics.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Variations in Assimilation

Religion - A major differentiating factor in immigrant
experiences.

Kennedy (1944) found the immigrant generation chose marriage
partners from a pool whose boundaries were marked not just by
ethnicity, but also religion. As children and grandchildren of
immigrants married based on religion but less so by ethnicity (i.e.,
a triple melting pot)

Herberg (1960) - Acculturation didn't affect all aspects of ethnicity
equally. European immigrants wee encouraged to learn English,
for example, but not to change their religious beliefs. Religion
became a vehicle by which immigrants could convey their
ethnicity.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Variations in Assimilation

Social Class - A central feature of social structure
that affected immigrants.
 Gordon
(1964) argued that the U.S. in the 1960s had not
three, but four melting pots, one for each of the major
ethnic/religious groups and one for black Americans,
which were subdivided by class. Believed the
intersection of religious/ethnic and social class
boundaries or "ethclass" was the most significant
structural unit in U.S. society.
 Social
class affected structural integration.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Variations in Assimilation

Gender - Experiences of women immigrants recorded less than were
men's experiences.





Many immigrant women came from patriarchal cultures and had less
access than men to leadership roles, education, and good occupations.
Men immigrants outnumbered women immigrants.
Women immigrants' experiences varied depending on their country of
origin.
Women also began the process or acculturation and integration. For
example, many Irish immigrants were young single women who came to
the U.S. seeking jobs.
The type and location of women's employment varied. Irish women, for
example, concentrated in domestic work and factories. Italian women did
tasks that could be done at home such a laundry and piecework. Women's
wages tended to be about half of what men earned.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Variations in Assimilation

Sojourners – (Or “birds of passage”)
 Some
immigrants had no intentional of becoming
American citizens and therefore had little interest
in Americanization.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
The Descendants of European
Immigrants Today

The largest ancestry group in the United States is German American.

Integration and Equality - White ethnic groups are today on the verge of
being completed assimilated.

The Twilight of White Ethnicity? - Hansen’s principle of thirdgeneration interest: “what the second generation tries to forget, the third
generation tries to remember”
 Ethnic revival – a notable increase in the visibility of an interest
in white ethnic heritage

White Ethnicity in the 21st Century: From White Ethnics to White
 Symbolic ethnicity or an aspect of self-identity that symbolizes
one’s roots in the “old country”
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Contemporary Immigrants: Does
the Traditional Perspective Apply?

Assimilation today is fragmented or segmented and will have
a number of different outcomes: some groups will integrate in
the middle-class mainstream, others will find themselves
permanently mired in the impoverished, alienated, and
marginalized segments.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Implications for Examining
Dominant-Minority Relations

Minority group status has much more to do with
power and the distribution of resources than with
simple numbers or the percentage of the population in
any particular category.
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Comparative Focus:
Immigration, Emigration, and Ireland

Like the United States, Ireland finds itself dealing with diversity and
debating what kind of society it should become.

The number of newcomers entering Ireland increased more than 4 times
over between 1987 and 2008, to almost 90,000, and the number of
people leaving decreased dramatically, to less than 20,000.

These numbers are miniscule compared to the volume of immigrants
received by the U.S. each year, but the percentage of the Ireland’s
population that consists of immigrants (13.8%) is actually greater than
the comparable percentage in the United States (12.8%)
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Comparative Focus:
Immigration, Emigration, and Ireland

The immigration is changing the racial composition of Irish
society.

Although still a small minority of the total population, the
number of Irish residents of African descent has increased by
a factor of 8 between 1996 and 2006.

Although many Irish are very sympathetic to the immigrants
and refugees, others have responded with racist sentiments
and demands for exclusion, reactions that ironically echo the
rejection Irish immigrants to the U.S. experienced in the 19th
Century
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
Comparative Focus:
Immigration, Emigration, and Ireland

The rejection of non-Irish newcomers was manifested in the passage of the
“Citizenship Amendment” to the Irish constitution, which was
overwhelmingly supported (80% in favor) by the Irish electorate in June
2004.

Prior to the passage of the amendment, any baby born in Ireland had the
right to claim Irish citizenship.

The amendment denied the right of citizenship to any baby that did not
have at least one Irish parent and was widely interpreted as a hostile
rejection of immigrants.

One poll suggested that people supported the amendment because they
believed that there were simply too many immigrants in Ireland
© Pine Forge Press, an imprint of Sage Publications, 2010
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