Data Mining Exercises

IMMIGRATION AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY

The term cultural diversity describes the range of cultures that exist around the globe, as well as the richness of subcultures within our society. Our culture reflects the contributions of many different cultural groups, as they came and settled in the United States. We can see this in our language (cookie from the Dutch, pronto from the Spanish, klutz from the Yiddish); in our cultural traditions (Cinco de Mayo from the Mexicans, Mardi Gras from the French, St. Patrick’s Day from the Irish); and in our cuisine (taco, pad thai, chowder, danish). In this data exercise you will learn more about the history of immigration and consider how immigrants contribute to cultural change.

Part I

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey, 12.5 percent of the American population is foreign born; this represents an estimated 38.5 million people. Approximately 80% of this population has arrived since 1980.

To understand more about the history of immigration and to answer the following questions, you might want to check out the following Web sites:

Writing Assignment 1

Using your sociological imagination, try to answer the following questions:

Why do people come to the United States? What are some of the "pulls" that attract immigrants? What are some of the forces that have pushed immigrants out of their native countries? Historically, what factors have contributed to this nation’s relative success in making space for so many immigrants?

Part II

As noted in Chapter 2 of your text, unlike the earlier immigrants, today’s immigrants are drawn primarily from Central and South America as well as Europe and Asia. While coming from cultures that are often significantly different from our own, they have nevertheless infused the American cultural landscape with elements of their home cultures.


But how do Americans feel about immigration today? In 1996 and again in 2004, respondents were asked their views on immigration in the General Social Survey (GSS). Table 1 presents the results for this question.

Table 1: Americans’ Attitudes toward Immigration, 1996 and 2004

Do you think the number of immigrants to America nowadays should be…

Percentage in 1996

Percentage in 2004

increased a lot.

2.9%

3.8%

increased a little.

5.7

6.6

remain the same.

27.2

34.5

reduced a little.

29.7

28.2

reduced a lot.

34.5

26.9

Total (Number of Respondents)

100% (1,141)

100% (1,983)

The GSS included additional questions about people’s attitudes toward immigration. One asked respondents to indicate their position with regard to the view that "some people say it is better for a country if different racial and ethnic groups maintain distinct customs and traditions [while] others say that it is better if these groups adapt and blend in to the larger society." Table 2 provides the survey results.

Table 2: Assimilation or Multiculturalism? Americans’ Attitudes in 1996 and 2004

Percentage in 1996

Percentage in 2004

Multicultural (maintain distinct customs and traditions)

41.7%

47.4%

Assimilation (adapt and blend in)

58.3

52.6

Total (Number of Respondents)

100% (956)

100% (1,169)

As you can see, there was a change in people’s attitudes with regard to immigrants’ relationship to the wider culture. Another question asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement that "immigrants are generally good for America’s economy." Table 3 presents these results.

Table 3: Views on the Value of Immigrants to American Society, 1996 and 2004

Immigration is generally good…

Percentage in 1996

Percentage in 2004

Agree

33.9%

47.9%

Neither agree or disagree

33.0

28.8

Disagree

33.1

23.3

Total (Number of Respondents)

100% (1,250)

99.0% (1,185)

The results show an increase over time in the percentage of respondents who agreed with the statement that immigration is generally good for America’s economy.

Writing Assignment 2

As you look over these three tables, what can you say about the views of the majority of Americans in 1996 and 2004? What factors do you think have contributed to the changes in attitudes between those two points in time?

Part III

In this part of the exercise, you will learn more about immigration in your state and local community. Click here to go to the U.S. Census Bureau American Fact Finder main page and then follow these steps:

  • First, in the box labeled "Quick Start" type "QT-P14: Nativity, Citizenship, Year of Entry, and Region of Birth: 2000" into the box labeled "topic or table name." Type the name of your state into the box labeled "geography" and click the gray box labeled "GO."
  • Next, click on the report in the list that uses the dataset "2000 SF3 Sample Data."

Spend a bit of time exploring the information in Table QT-P14.

Now, return to the U.S. Census Bureau American Fact Finder main page and repeat your steps, only this time, you will be searching for information about the foreign-born population in your hometown.

  • First, in the box labeled "Quick Start" type "QT-P14: Nativity, Citizenship, Year of Entry, and Region of Birth: 2000" into the box labeled "topic or table name." Type the name of your hometown and state into the box labeled "geography" and click the gray box labeled "GO." If your hometown does not show up in the list presented, then try typing in a town nearby with a larger population.
  • Next, click on the report in the list that uses dataset "2000 SF3 Sample Data."

Writing Assignment 3

What percentage of the population living in your state and local community is foreign born? From what regions of the world did people come? In what ways have these new arrivals had an impact on the local culture? How does your community compare to your state or the United States as a whole with regard to both the percentage of foreign-born people and their impact on the culture?

Part IV

Writing Assignment 4/Essay

In this exercise you have learned a lot about both the history and current patterns of immigration to the United States. For this final exercise write a reflection essay in which you discuss how immigrants not only enrich our culture, but also present challenges. Use the knowledge you gained from the articles, the GSS, and the U.S. Census in your reflection.

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