Good grief

By the 1920’s, nearly one-third of the American population consisted of immigrants and their families. The birthrate among this segment of the population suggested that the proportion of the population they represented would continue to increase. Moreover, intelligence tests administered to U.S. Army recruits during World War I were interpreted to mean that southern and eastern Europeans were of lesser intelligence than northern Europeans. The mythology of the superiority of the Nordics, or northern and western Europeans, was addressed in a popular book written by the American anthropologist Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race (1916). Grant argued that both physical and mental characteristics of eastern European immigrants were below the standards of the dominant Protestant stock. Unless restrictions were placed on this population—and a program of eugenics was considered as a portion of such control— both the quality of life and the characteristics of a Protestant-dominated society would suffer. Limits to immigration represented the clearest support for Grant’s arguments. The effect on Asian or African immigration was even greater. The 1924 act excluded Asians “and their descendants” as well as descendants of “slave immigrants.”

Source: Immigration Act of 1924

This chart illustrates the trend in immigration. As of now, immigration accounts for the majority of U.S. population growth and within about 20 years, will account for 100% of U.S. population growth due to the sharp decline in fertility rate.

The U.S. Immigration Debate | Council on Foreign Relations (cfr.org)

I suspect – but have not confirmed – that the timing of this trend might impact public perceptions. Those “Boomers” who entered the job markets in the late 1960s to late 1970s, entered at a time of favorable job opportunities. Those who entered in the late 1970s through the end of the 1980s, entered a combination of the peak of the Baby Boom all entering the job market at once, coupled with a return to traditional immigration levels. The effect is that the first half of the baby boom had enhanced job market opportunities while the second half had greater competition.

Reminder – the peak of birth was 1958. This cohort entered the job markets about 1980 onwards, as immigration was growing in the U.S.

U.S. fertility rate chart

Would this influence how one views immigration?

Today’s Gen Z and millennials have come of age during low fertility rates (see chart above) and immigrant workers are the only major component (not both as they were for the “Generation Jones” late Baby boom). Further, a large portion of Gen Z and Millennials have done international travel and research indicates those who have traveled internationally view immigration more favorably.

Again, would these differences influence how one views immigration?

By EdwardM