Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Immigration Success: Among the Best Things I've Read This Year

This weekend, there appeared in the New York Times an opinion called The Immigrant Advantage by Anand Giridharadas. This captivating piece has a personal story to anchor it and marvelous insights about what it takes to succeed in the U.S. It raises the provocative question "Are you better off being born in some of the poorest parts of the world and moving here than being raised in the poorer parts of the United States?"

As Giridharadas notes:

Statistics show that if you are born elsewhere and later acquire American citizenship, you will, on average, earn more than us native-borns, study further, marry at higher rates and divorce at lower rates, fall out of the work force less frequently and more easily dodge poverty.

What Giridharadas argues for most clearly is that success--when you are pulling yourself up from little--takes a combination of personal motivation and help from and connection to others. He goes on to say:

In those places where mobility’s engine is groaning and the social fabric is fraying, many immigrants may have an added edge because of their ability to straddle the seemingly contradictory values of their birthplaces and their adopted land, to balance individualism with community-mindedness and self-reliance with usage of the system.

A person on twitter sent me the perfect summary of the piece: "I think the key statement was the blend of personal initiative and institutional support. Best of both worlds in a sense." I do not personally know Shane Spencer (@OvercomerNation) but he nailed it with that line.

 Giridharadas' article is excellent. If you are at all interested in these themes, it will make you think.