Mixing Oil and Water

The Common Problems of Assimilating Immigrants in Israel and the United States 

Parts of the United States are currently undergoing a radical cultural transformation. Demographers have documented that as a result of large-scale immigration, California—the country's most populous state—will be composed of a majority of minorities by the first decade of the next century. Moreover, unlike the waves of immigration that transformed the major urban areas of the East Coast and Midwest in the early part of this century, the immigrants flooding into California do not share a common European heritage with the more established population.

Such dramatic demographic and cultural changes will undoubtedly produce profound social changes, even under the best circumstances. If current patterns persist, in which large numbers of Latin American and Southeast Asian immigrants continue to lag well behind the Anglo population in education and economically, the changes are likely to cause severe stress on the social fabric of California and other parts of the country undergoing similar transformations.

As is the nature of social science, demographers, sociologists, and immigration reform advocates are searching for some historical precedent to which they can compare the social changes now occurring in California. Israel may offer us a valid comparison. The similarities between what is currently happening in California...

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