Thursday, October 12, 2006

U.S. population set to hit 300 million

What we can expect from the next 100 million Americans

Sometime next Tuesday, the U.S. population will surpass 300 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The growing population, fueled largely by immigrants and their children, has implications for the economy and the social and political climate. Immigrants, legal and illegal, account for about 40 percent of population growth.

The public is quite conflicted on the impact of immigration and many hold positive and negative attitudes about legal immigration simultaneously. Six in 10 Americans say immigration is a good thing for the U.S., and half of Americans say immigrants contribute to the country rather than cause problems.

Yet, half of the public says there are too many immigrants in the U.S. Four in 10 Americans say
immigrants improve food, music and the arts in the U.S., but many Americans believe immigrants negatively affect the economy, taxes and crime. People are also divided on whether immigrants become productive citizens or if they cost taxpayers too much by using government services.

But what do immigrants think about life in the United States? Public Agenda, a nonpartisan opinion research organization, surveyed immigrants in its Now That I'm Here study. According to Public Agenda, the study revealed an overwhelming majority committed to working hard and staying off government assistance. Almost nine in 10 say it's extremely important for immigrants to learn English and their views on bilingual education are similar to
the general public.

But six in 10 say there is at least some anti-immigrant discrimination in the U.S. Three in 10 say they have personally experienced discrimination.

Find out more Behind the Headlines.

Related: Christian Science Monitor

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dsargent said...

Sigh... "The more things change, the more they stay the same." :-( Richard Florida has some interesting work on this issue at

Alina said...

I am quite convinced immigrants are seen quite differently than they really are in any country. Yes, some might depend on the government for help, but most of them go to any other country than their own to find a better life. They have their minds set on working hard and earning money and strugle for accomplishing their goals.

I can also understand why some my consider them a threat (see UK regarding Romanian and Bulgarian workers). Immigrants, if not well informed and because of a certain discrimination, might be persuaded to accept lower wages and work longer hours.

As for crime, I do believe it keeps growing in any environment characterized by inequal policies and great contrast between the rich and the poor. To obtain that, you do not necessarily need immigrants.

Rose said...

There is going to be two groups of people in the US, the rich and the poor. The problem that I have with immigrants is this: many will not learn and speak English. I am in America and I can't stand it when all these languages are being spoken and I don't understand what they are saying. They could be talking about killing me and I wouldn't know. I shouldn't have to learn 10 languages to live here. Just saying. The other thing is this: they can get loans and many Americans particulary African Americans can not. Still I don't understand why! Those are my issues.

Ian Lidster said...

We're always wary of outsiders when first they come. And then when the next batch arrives, the last batch is wary of them, and so it goes.
We in Canada are going through exactly the same attitudinal stuff the US is, so I can empathize from this side of the border.
Thank you as always to my friend Deb.


Deb S. said...

Everyone has shared such a wide range of opinions on this topic. I appreciate such a thoughtful, often candid exchange.

I am a firm believer in getting to know people of other cultures - having one-on-one conversations about common interests, such as family and values.

My exposure to the international community may have started a little early when compared to the average American of my generation. My initial exposure was through my church when I was kid.

The university I attended had LOTS of international students. I befriended them, asked them about their countries, their cultures and their families.

As a result, I learned that no matter where we come from, most humans are more alike than different. I also learned to understand people who spoke with accents.

This helps me with my work even today because I every day I work, I come into contact with people whose first language is not English. I make a point to refer to them by name. I'm pretty good at pronouncing names in Spanish and Chinese, as well as those originating in Eastern Europe, the Middle East or India. However, I need to take a beginner's class in Vietnamese! (For the record, I am not fluent in a second language.)

If I can't pronounce the name, I ask my guest to pronounce it for me. Oftentimes, they will give me a nickname to make it easier for me. Either way, my guests' eyes shine and they smile just knowing that someone cared enough to call them by their names. That's something that is universal to us all.

Alina and Ian, I appreciate your comments. You are right when you say that many countries, including yours, are working through issues related to immigrants. Both of you make some very valid points.

Rose, you also voice issues that spark conversation. You and Alina raise the issue of class, something we cannot ignore.

Dear Rose, I can understand the challenges you face in understanding immigrants. A lot of people share your views. However, I see things differently when it comes to learning English.

I think most immigrants DO make an effort to learn English. As I see it, the growing number of free programs that teach English to immigrant adults is evidence that people from other countries want to learn English. Many immigrants who come to this country have studied English in school in their native countries. Others have learned English by watching American movies and TV series.

I know that many Americans get offended when immigrants speak to each other in their native tongues. I don't get offended. As I see it, if I were in another country and I encountered another American, it's likely that I'd speak English, not the country's language. The exception would be if a third person, a non-American, were engaged in the same conversation.

When it comes to speaking English, I think we Americans want it both ways. We want immigrants to speak English without accents. Never mind that many Americans who speak a second language do it with an American accent. If we go to another country, we expect people in that country to be proficient in English. We get annoyed if they are not.

I have visited school districts in my region, some of them small, where children speak some 25 to 30 languages. These districts have ELL (English Language Learners) specialists on staff, but these teachers don't speak all of those languages. But they still do a good job of teaching English to immigrant and refugee students. Many such children, in turn, assist their parents in learning English.

One little girl I met was from Bosnia, and she went to adult English classes with her mother to offer her shy mother some support. This little girl was only seven and had been in the U.S. for a little less than a year. Because she was young, she picked up English quickly. The Bosnian adults in the class and the English teachers really admired this child for working so hard and being so encouraging. So did I.

@ Dan: I checked out Richard Florida's site. It's awesome! I've already bookmarked it. For me, this was the tip of the day!

Jet said...

That was such a prolific exchange that went on here. I am an immigrant myself, and while I choose to keep mum about my thoughts, I just wanted to say that I admire the way you've treated the subject matter. It was fair by all counts. And that makes me want to thank you personally.

Deb S. said...

Jet: Thank you for your comment. I, too, think we've had a good discussion here. I make every effort to be fair.

Your kind words are very much appreciated. I hope you visit us again from time to time.