Dorothy Book Scholar and Associate Dean of Research David Takeuchi presented recent, cutting-edge research on the integration of immigrants into American life at Boston City Hall this past week, helping to paint a complex portrait of the 41 million foreign-born individuals living in the U.S.
Entitled the Integration of Immigrants into American Society report and published by the National Academies of Sciences, its findings showed that as immigrants and their descendants become integrated into society, many aspects of their lives improve: They achieve higher levels of education, secure better jobs, make more money, and enhance their language ability. Many other realities, on the other hand, impede successful integration into American life altogether – factors such as legal status, racial disparities in socio-economic outcomes, and low naturalization rates.
The report also found that, in three distinct areas (crime rates, health, and families affected by divorce) integration leads to a lower quality of life for immigrants to America. Takeuchi presented on health and healthcare at City Hall; this represented one of ten chapters in the report.
“The key finding is that, over time and generations, immigrants lose their health advantage when compared to the native born,” Takeuchi explained, before going on to show that, initially, immigrants actually have a longer life expectancy than native-born Americans, fewer chronic health conditions, lower rates of obesity and infant mortality, and fewer learning disabilities. Unfortunately, these realities change the longer they are in the United States. To date, there is no definitive explanation for this decline.
Takeuchi was joined at City Hall by the report’s lead author, Harvard sociologist and Chair of the National Academies of Sciences panel, Mary Waters, and Felix Arroyo, Boston Chief of Health & Human Services. Alvaro Lima, director of research for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, also presented data on immigrant integration for the city of Boston, in comparison with the national numbers culled from the report.
“Whenever Congress or the president wants to know the answer to a question they go to the National Academies of Sciences,” said Waters. “…they picked us, a panel of 18 top researchers from across the country – anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, columnists, political scientists, and psychologists – all working together to answer [the question] how are immigrants integrated into American society.”
Since its publication in October of 2015, this uniquely comprehensive study has been widely covered in the media. In fact, the quality of this masterwork in scholarship was significant enough for The Washington Post to call the document “the most authoritative report on the subject in nearly two decades,” produced by “a rockstar panel of sociologists.”
A free PDF of the report, in its entirety, is available online from the National Academies Press. You can download it here.
Immigrant Integration is an issue that is especially important to BC Social Work. Learn more about our school’s Immigrant Integration Lab, directed by Associate Professor and immigration expert Westy Egmont.