For nearly a century, black immigrants from the West Indies have enjoyed greater economic success than African Americans. Several explanations have been proposed for this trend, but until now, none of these explanations have been subjected to systematic scrutiny. Recent efforts to adjudicate among them indicate that West Indian success can be attributed entirely to the “selectivity of migration”. This phrase refers to the tendency of people who migrate to be more talented and determined than the compatriots they leave behind. One implication of this discovery is that sympathetic observers should stop exhorting African Americans to behave more like West Indians. Such pleas are inappropriate because West Indian success is a consequence of choosing to move, not a consequence of Caribbean birth. A second implication is that persons of West Indian background remain vulnerable to racism. The new findings provide no evidence that positive selection protects West Indians from the negative stereotypes that Americans associate with black skin.
KeywordsWest Indian immigrants Caribbean immigrants African Americans Selectivity
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