In this chapter of Immigrant America, Portes and Rumbaut convincingly disprove the common misconception that foreign-born laborers in the United States are somehow culturally, intellectually, or educationally inferior to either immigrants of other time periods or even to some classes of the native-born US population. Misconceptions about immigrants being nothing more than “low-level” laborers, combined with a xenophobic alarmism surrounding notions that a new “Third World invasion,” have created a great deal of homogenization of the American foreign-born population. There is a continuing formation of totalizing mentalities about these people that do not necessarily match up with reality.
For example, the authors point out how, in the aggregate, rates of education and the quality of education have not actually been declining over a long period of time. Although traditionally Mexican immigrants have had statistically lower than standard levels of higher education, other ethnic groups, such as peoples coming from India, Pakistan, and Nigeria, have displayed remarkable growth. They have started to saturate certain fields in mathematics and engineering. As the authors remark: “This conclusion is also supported by the results in table 15 that indicate higher proportions of college and high school graduates among immigrants who arrived during the last ten years than among the entire foreign-born population.” If anything, then, recent immigrants to the country as an aggregate are more educated and more highly qualified to enter the workforce.
The authors also use metrics associated with occupational placement and the entrepreneurship of recent immigrants to America to dispel the notion that somehow this group of people represents a low-economy, low-functioning class in the country. Immigrants from all over the world prosper in the American economy, and have contributed to the richness of American culture not only by becoming invested in US industry and business but also by sharing their unique cultural viewpoints and heritage.