Why Do Migrants Integrate More In The US Than The EU?

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Why Is Europe Failing To Integrate Its Immigrants?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you probably already know that Europe is having a trying period with its recent wave of immigration. From the massive wave of refugees to large-scale anti-immigrants riots in Germany and Italy or the rise of far-right parties in the polls and in the urns across the continent, all signs point to a dire diagnostic: Europe needs a remedy.

The situation is so bad that President Obama had to call up on his European allies for ‘failing to integrate their Muslims. Yet, beyond the religious factor, it is their immigrant population as a whole that doesn’t appear to have the means to thrive in the Old Continent.

First of all, it is important to note that for acculturation is not necessarily a requirement for immigrants to be successful. Many have thrived and contributed to their host countries without fully embracing their new countries culture and way of life. However if migrants are going to contribute on a large scale to a countries economy, culture and political system, then integrating into society and way of life helps migrants thrive.

When it comes to integration, it is often tempting to compare the E.U. with the U.S.: currently undergoing its 4th wave of migration, the U.S. has immigration in its DNA and appears as a successful experiment when it comes to integration of foreign-borns.

But are things are simple as that? In the New World, immigration can also be a source of debate, even rancor, as the 2016 presidential race clearly shows. But while it is an often discussed topic, that generates a host of emotions, there has recently not been a backlash against immigrants in the US on the same level as we are currently seeing in Europe. Americans are not marching through major cities demanding people be deported at least not on the scale of Europe.

What is Europe doing so wrong? Could the U.S. serve as role model? If so, what can we learn? Most importantly, is the situation really as it seems?

Snapshot Of The Immigration Situation In the U.S. And In the E.U

Immigration is both an important part of the national identity and an ongoing process in the United States. Statistics show that more and more immigrants are moving to the U.S. and that immigration is at its highest level today than it was since the 1970s.

A 2011 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 12.9% percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born, approximately 40 million immigrants. 17 million children (25%) born in the U.S. has a least one foreign-born parent.

However, the United States is not an out-performer in terms of having a significant foreign-born population. As a matter of fact, it is just below the OECD median

What makes United States unique is the incredible diversity of its immigrants. Latin Americans make up the largest portion of this group (53.1%), followed by those from Asia (28.2%) and Europe (12.1%).

Screenshot 2015-09-01 at 12.16.47
Image Source: US Census

Another way immigration to the U.S. differs greatly is in the category of migrants admitted: 74% of new migrants are granted immigration status on the basis of family preference, and only 6% are granted permanent entry on work-related visas. In other words, a large majority of migrants heading to the US already have family ties established in the country. 

Europe: An Expatriate Nation

Traditionally, the Old Continent is an expatriate country, a feature perhaps inherited from their colonial and expansionist legacy. As a result, the proportion of immigrants is more modest in the EU than in the U.S. and than the rest of the OECD.

According to Eurostat, there were 33.5 million immigrants living in an EU Member State in 2014 (7% of total EU population), including 19. 6 million Non-EU born living in the EU (4 % of the population) in 2014, about 5% of the total working age population. 

Net migration into Europe has been decreasing since 2010, but grown by more than 30% since 2000 over the past decade, making immigration the largest component of population change: 25 million young people (5%) is the child of at least one immigrant.

New immigrants to the EU comprises people from a wide range of countries that extent far beyond Europe’s border, bringing a greater diversity of languages and cultures than in the past. China and India sent more migrants to the EU than Morocco in 2010, 2011, and 2012, so that, combined, there are now as many migrants from India and China combined than from Morocco.

Where Are Migrants Settling In Europe? 

Immigrant populations are concentrated across 5 countries: Germany (20%), Italy (17.8%), France (13.8%), Spain (13.7%), and the U.K. (12.3%). Some European states, typically in the Baltic and Scandinavia, have only recently become countries of immigration, with no experience of integration strategies. 

The continent’s integration strategy is still a work in progress. Member States are divided on how to best handle immigrants between those in favor of multiculturalism (British model) and those who prefer assimilation (French model). The French model, incidentally, has been formulated as early as the country’s Roman, Vikings, and Merovingiaen conquests and was the way France administered its foreign territories in the Colonial Era. 

Last, unlike the U.S., immigration to the E.U. is primarily work-related. In the European Union, excluding the free movement flows allowed intra-EU since 2005, work-related visas comprise 40 % of all immigration.

This is important considering that Europeans often claim that their negative views on immigration stems from abuses of their welfare programs. People are coming to work not to live off the system, but they often have little or no previous ties to the continent, and many are completely alone upon arrival. 

In America Like In Europe, Integration Requires Time

Integration is the process of developing a society in which all communities share an equal socioeconomic status and cultural life. It is not necessarily a smooth process: it entails uncomfortable adjustments among immigrants, their descendants, and the host society in which they settle. 

Language: The First Step To A Successful Integration

Language proficiency is important to guarantee a successful integration: a good command of their host country’s language will enable newcomers to deal with administration procedures, find job opportunities, and interact with locals. It can also reflect the efforts taken by migrants to understand and, to some degree, embrace the culture of their host country.

In the U.S., language remains a barrier to integration in the short to medium-term for first-generation immigrants. A study published by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) shows that South American immigrants are at a disadvantage: only 35% of Hispanics have a level above Limited English Proficiency. However, Asians (53.4%) and Europeans (60.2%) are doing better, and the study shows that all immigrants are able to improve their language skills the longer they stay in the U.S.

Yet, by the third generation, virtually all those with immigrant backgrounds speak good English. In fact, a study by Claude S. Fischer and Michael Hout shows that today’s immigrants are learning English faster previous newcomers.

Furthermore, the US doesn’t have an official language. English is the largest spoken language, but a significant percentage of the country can speak Spanish, a factor that helps first generation migrants contribute immediately in the work place.

Meanwhile, the diversity of languages spoken across the E.U. makes it challenging for immigrants to acquire fluency. Language, however, is crucial to integration: each host country boasts their own official language; governments have made fluency a requirement to residency and nationality; and European populations have little tolerance for immigrants that don’t speak their language. 

study conducted by MPI shows that inadequate language skills language hampers the integration of the children of immigrants in Europe, leaving many struggling to find work. A recent report published by the OECD finds that youth with immigrant parents experience nearly 50% more unemployment in the European Union than those with native-born parents.

The report finds that low-educated immigrants have higher employment rates than their native-born peers, but often are stuck in low-paid jobs with poor working conditions. Across the EU, 42% of highly educated employed immigrants with foreign degrees have jobs that would require lower levels of education, twice the number of those who hold a qualification from the host country.

The Level of Residential Segregation: A Sign That Integration Works

Another element that illustrates a successful integration is residential segregation, a form of segregation that arranges population groups into various neighborhoods.

In the U.S., a report by E. Glaser with the Manhattan Institute has shown that residential segregation has decreased substantially since 1960s. Glaser even makes the case that “immigration has made a dent in segregation.

  • The most standard segregation measure shows that american cities are now more integrated than they’ve been since 1910. Segregation rose dramatically with black migration to cities in the mid-twentieth century. On average, this rise has been entirely erased by integration since the 1960s.

  • All-white neighborhoods are effectively extinct. A half-century ago, one-fifth of America’s urban neighborhoods had exactly zero black residents. Today, African-American residents can be found in 199 out of every 200 neighborhoods nationwide. The remaining neighborhoods are mostly in remote rural areas or in cities with very little black population.

  • Gentrification and immigration have made a dent in segregation. While these phenomena are clearly important in some areas, the rise of black suburbanization explains much more of the decline in segregation.

However, MPI notes that residential segregation is still highly uneven between immigrants groups and higher among Latinos than among Asians, Blacks, and Whites.

In Europe, residential segregation is more acutely felt: immigrants remain concentrated in particular regions and cities, and may remain excluded even after they and their second-generation offspring have become nationals according to MPI.

Legalization: A Sign That Immigrants Can Build A New Life in Their Host Country

Undocumented Immigrant Buses Turned Away in California
Image Source: Breibart

Another factor that contributes to integration is legalization, a polarizing issue on both sides of the Atlantic. Opponents of legalization claim that such measures serve as amnesty for lawbreakers and encourage illegal immigration while not meeting their other goals.

Supporters, meanwhile, argue that there are significant economic and integration benefits of legalizing certain unauthorized immigrants, particularly long-term residents with established families and strong ties in their country of destination.

In the U.S., the increasingly greater number of illegal immigrants between the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s has put pressure on the country. The recent economic crisis that has cost millions of U.S. jobs and the prolonged labor market recovery makes it more difficult to convince the public of the merits of a legalization program.

In the EU, regularization is a delicate matter as well. Due to the Schengen agreement, unauthorized migrants who are regularized in one Member State are automatically afforded the opportunity to travel and even reside elsewhere within the EU. While this is also the case in the United States, there is still far less of an environment of collectivism in Europe. People do not feel “European” on the same scale as they feel “American” thus there is still much infighting beteen European nations over who should take a greater responsibility. 

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So What Is Europe Doing Differently?

Activists Hold Anti-War Rally In New York
Image Source: Aljazeera

In the U.S., integration has been achieved with no to little government involvement. Since the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was dissolved in 2003, it is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that promotes citizenship and immigrant civic integration. 

Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees. Under President George W. Bush’s FY2008 budget request, direct congressional appropriations made about 1% of the USCIS budget and about 99% of the budget was funded through fees.

In 2014 USCIS had a budget of $3.2 Billion (US) funded almost exclusively by fees, in 2015 the US government has allocated $10 million (US) to promote integration

By comparison, Europe’s integration budget, at 825 million for 2007-2013, seems astronomical.  

Spearheaded by the Europe Integration Fund (EIF), the fund is in charge of initiatives to ease the integration of non-EU nationals, as well as the development of relevant strategies in this field.

With a focus on new immigrants, the EIF co-financed projects meant to ease communication between immigrants and hospital staff (Greece), increase awareness and prevention of female genital mutilation (Spain), as well as language programs for migrant children (Latvia). According to a 2011 European Community report, the EIF had filled a gap, but its implementing rules are complex and require simplification to be more effective.

Thus it looks as though throwing money at the problem is not the answer, especially in terms of simple handouts.

Impact On The Economy

Both the US and the EU need immigration considering immigrants incredible impact on the economy.

First, they are 30% more likely to start businesses than non-immigrants, according to the Small Business Administration.

Despite being 13 % of the U.S. population, immigrants comprise 16 % of the labor force and 18 % of small business owners, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

In the State of California alone, immigrants accounted for 34% of total economic output in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and 29% in the San Francisco metropolitan area, paying over $30 billion in federal taxes, $5.2 billion in state income taxes, and $4.6 billion in sales taxes each year. 

Immigrants also support cutting-edge American companies, providing leadership and labor for the expansion key economic sectors, from telecommunications and information technology to health services and housing construction.

According to the Census Bureau, immigrants account for 33% of total engineers in the U.S., 27% of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists, and 24% of physical scientists.

Furthermore, immigrants are vital to creating the companies that will support job creation.

The Kaufman Foundation found that among engineering and technology companies founded in the United States between 2006 and 2012, 24.3% had at least one key founder who was foreign-born. In Silicon Valley, the proportion was 43.9%.

Nationwide, these companies employed roughly 560,000 workers and generated $63 billion in sales in 2012. 

On the other hand, Europe is having more difficulty recovering from the 2007 economic crisis than the U.S., and the impact of immigration on its labor market is mixed. Also, conflicting data on the impact of immigration on the labor market furthers the negative perception on immigration.

Little is known about the extent to which immigrants have participated in the economic recovery in Europe. Immigrants to Europe are often credited with lower educational attainment levels which suggests that their proportion of entrepreneurs in professional occupations is relatively low.

A study estimates that there are about 1 million self-employed immigrants in the E.U., roughly the same as self-employed EU-born.

Due to varying economic performance across Europe, the proportion of self-employed immigrants is much higher within the old EU member states than in the new member states. Also, the report shows that in nearly all European countries, self-employment rates of EU migrants are higher than of immigrants from outside the EU, the only exceptions being Luxembourg and Finland in the old EU member states, and Czech Republic and Poland in the new member states.

The impact of immigration on the labor market is mixed as well. A controversial 2012 report unpublished report by the British migration advisory committee found that for every extra 100 non-European migrants who come to Britain, 23 fewer British residents are employed. 

Meanwhile, another study published in The Guardian from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research published earlier that year found that even in the recent recession there was no direct impact.

However, the consensus seems to be that immigrants to the E.U., if they don’t necessarily have a positive impact on the economy, don’t have a negative impact either.

A study published by the OECD showed that: 

  • ‘The impact of the cumulative waves of migration that arrived over the past 50 years in OECD countries is on average close to zero, rarely exceeding 0.5% of GDP in either positive or negative terms.”

  • “The impact is highest in Switzerland and Luxembourg, where immigrants provide an estimated net benefit of about 2% of GDP to the public purse.”

  •  “Immigrants are thus neither a burden to the public purse nor are they a panacea for addressing fiscal challenges.’

What the report shows however is that migrants to the E.U. fill important niches, both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy, and contribute significantly to labor-market flexibility: immigrants represented about a quarter of entries into the most strongly declining occupations in Europe (24%).

The report also highlights that migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in individual benefits.

What’s Next for Immigration?

Image Source: Nypost

The E.U. ought to resolve its integration problems, fast. The consequences of a failed integration are numerous and could damage the E.U. model.

A concerning potential outcome that could seriously impact Europe in the long term is the flight of its human capital, a phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘brain drain’.

So far, Europe does suffer from this effect about 10 times more than the U.S. (0.5%), but the emigration of its most highly skilled and educated workers is still relatively modest (5.4% in 2011). However, the ‘brain drain’ is felt more acutely in such countries as Ireland (17.4%), Portugal (12.7%), or even the U.K. (10.8%), where natives are not likely to stay within the E.U.

Most troubling however is the rise of xenophobia in Europe, as well as a growing feeling of frustration and resentment from the migrants themselves, resulting in protests, riots, and sometimes violence on both sides.

In the U.K., the feeling of insecurity is intensifying as hundreds of Roma migrants are “terrorizing” the population.

The 2005 riots in France were the byproduct of France’s failed integration efforts, which climaxed with the death of minorities. The same happened in Sweden most recently.

Yet, there is a growing consensus that it is inequality, not immigration, that sparks the unrests. 

Declining Native Populations

Immigration is all the more critical for Europe than its Members are facing the problem of declining populations.

Aside from France (2.09), the only European country to meet the replacement rate, all 26 other Member States have a birth rate below 2.1, a troubling issue that is bound to impact the economy, welfare systems, and future of the Old Continent.

In the absence of a sudden surge in European birth rates, large-scale immigration will be necessary to stave off the worst effects of population aging and decline.

Integration is a two-way street: it is a dynamic process involving both immigrants, communities, public institutions, and private organizations. It is equally the responsibility of new entrants to embrace the new customs, laws, and language of the country as it is their host country’s duty to give them the tools to thrive.

If immigration is going to work, these new migrants will have to be fully incorporated into society, and most importantly into the economy. Work, not culture, needs to be the basis of immigration policy in Europe. In other words, policy should be designed to get immigrants into jobs as soon as possible.

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