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East Meets West

Monday, July 30, 2012

A recent study by the Pew Research Center shattered many longstanding conceptions about the nature of immigration to the United States. Many in the press, such as the New York Times, were most struck by one finding: Asians have now surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of immigrants to the U.S. ( Experts assert this change has several factors behind it, such as the protracted economic woes of the United States, higher deportation rates of undocumented residents, tighter border enforcement, and a decline in birthrates in Mexico.

However, what many in the media failed to emphasize were the academic and attitudinal characteristics of Asian immigrants who have arrived in our country. According to Pew Research, roughly six-in-ten Asian immigrants between the ages of 25 to 64 who have come to the U.S. in recent years have at least a bachelor’s degree ( This is twice the percentage of non-Asian immigrants who have arrived here recently, making new Asian immigrants the highest educated group of immigrants in American history (and in our opinion, it also highlights that America continues to move toward an information-based economy that is fueled by innovation and advances in technology). Interestingly, while family reunification is the most common legal avenue to the U.S. for recent Asian arrivals – as well as all immigrants for that matter – Pew Research also found Asian immigrants are approximately three times more likely than other recent immigrants to receive their green cards through employer sponsorship.

Which brings us to some of the study’s heartening findings. While immigrants from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan are certainly not a monolithic group, they share many similarities in their optimistic attitudes toward hard work and the potential to get ahead in America. By a margin of 69% to 58%, Asian Americans believe they can get ahead through hard work compared to their American counterparts. They are also more likely to start their own businesses, making them job creators compared with other previous waves of immigrants who came here with equally great ambitions but lacked the educational background to fuel their entrepreneurship.

Another encouraging observation from Pew Research’s study was that despite dramatic improvements in the standard of living in their countries of origin, this Asian wave of immigration was nonetheless drawn to America not merely for economic opportunities, but also political and religious freedoms as well as the beneficial environment for raising children. (In fact, most felt the only area in which their home countries were superior to America is family ties.) So much for America’s best days being behind her.

Lately, Americans have been stewing in doubt and despair about the future of their country. But as recent Asian arrivals show, the U.S. remains a vital center of promise and potential. When we all embrace this empowering perspective, we can fulfill the dreams that are unique to America, a place where freedom serves as a foundation to unleash the bridled passion to survive and thrive in an ever more complex and competitive world.

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