Friday, July 30, 2010

Immigrants and being a real American

General Social Survey respondents, both Americans and immigrants in America, were asked: "Some people say that the following things are important for being truly American. Others say they are not important. How important do you think it is to have American ancestry?"  I've listed the percent who answered "very important" by ethnic group (sample size = 1,184):

Percent

Amerindian 56.0
Black 47.4
Irish 40.7
Italian 34.7
English/Welsh 27.5
German 27.1
Mexican 23.3
Jewish 9.4
Chinese 0.0

I'm surprised how common it is to believe that you need to have American ancestors to be truly American (I shouldn't be surprised, given that just about every country in the world focuses on ancestry). "Ancestors" sound pretty old, but I take it that it means at least that your parents had to be born here. So it suggests that people who agree don't think that immigrants can be real Americans. I didn't put the numbers in the above table, but 54 percent of all respondents and 52 percent of whites feel it is very or fairly important to have American ancestors to be truly American.

In the table, you can see that old American groups with a history of mistreatment are most likely to think that immigrants cannot be real Americans.  Those of English or German ancestry, on the other hand, are more likely believe that Americanness is not an ancestral thing. Groups with many recent immigrants and (pro-immigration) Jews are least likely to place importance on ancestry.

5 comments:

  1. Do the Irish surveyed here include "Scots-Irish"?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes. I seperated them and got 43% of Irish Protestants and 47% of Irish Catholics thinking ancestry is very important.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm surprised Italians are at 35% considering so many are from recent immigrants.

    Though I'm not sure about the question. If your grandparents were immigrants, but your father and mother were born here, does that constitute "American ancestry"?

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  4. Anonymous3:25 PM

    I seperated them and got 43% of Irish Protestants and 47% of Irish Catholics thinking ancestry is very important.


    I've noticed that on most issues, the much touted differences between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants (in America) do not really exist.


    you can see that old American groups with a history of mistreatment are most likely to think that immigrants cannot be real Americans


    That seems counter-intuitive, no? People from immigrant groups which suffered from xenophobia are themselves the biggest xenophobes?

    (I hate the word "xenophobes" and am using it here in the non-pejorative sense)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous3:27 PM

    I didn't put the numbers in the above table, but 54 percent of all respondents and 52 percent of whites feel it is very or fairly important to have American ancestors to be truly American.



    In that context, Jews stand out as an even more distinctive outlier.

    ReplyDelete

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