Monday, July 25, 2011

A Timely Study About Integrating Immigrants.

John Berry, a Canadian researcher on acculturation of immigrants, gave a report to the World Congress on Positive Psychology that I am attending. He studied the different ways immigrant youth in Canada dealt with the tension between their old and new societies. He identified four ways this tension could be resolved.

The best way, for both the immigrants and the host society, is integration of the two cultures. Some immigrant groups encounter more discrimination, and are more inclined to keep their own culture, leading to separation. A few immigrants favor assimilation to the new society - mostly refugees who fled a bad situation in the old country. Most dangerous for both immigrants and natives is the marginalization of the immigrants, who feel no attachment to either their new or old culture.

The results for his survey of Canadian immigrant youth:
Integration 36%
Separation 23%
Assimilation 18%
Marginalization 23%

This seemed a very timely study to me in the light of the right-wing anti-immigrant terrorism in Norway that happened as the Congress is meeting. Berry reported that settler societies, such as Canada and the United States, promote integration of immigrants, which reduces tensions between the two groups. European nations, by contrast, fall into separation, or worse, which heightens tensions between the two groups - and sometimes leads to nativist terrorism against immigrants and those who welcome them.


Whit said...


What's the difference between "integration" and "assimilation" in this context? To me they seem like the same thing. Once you integrate, you will inevitably assimilate.

gruntled said...

Integration changes the host culture; assimilation does not.

Whit said...


I see your framework for analysis which is helpful.

But it seems to me the difference is only a matter of degree. Bringing in a new cultural group (like adding a new color to an existing colored liquid) will always involve changing both groups. How much each changes to reach the resulting new culture will depend on a variety of factors including the respective numbers in each cultural group, the relative strengths of each culture (that is, all else equal, a self-confident culture will tend to have a greater contribution to the mixture than one of self-doubt), the extent to which a culture's unique aspects enhance or retard success, the extent to which a culture brings with it things incompatible with the host culture (such as arranged marriages) and many other factors. There will, however, always be movement in both directions.

gruntled said...

I am impressed with how powerful American culture is in absorbing immigrant cultures. We integrate the small things, while assimilating newcomers in the large ones.