The Latin Americanization of the US Labor Force
Unlike the nations of Europe that have only recently begun to accept the fact that they are nations of immigrants, the United States has been defined by immigration throughout its history. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, immigrants from the nations of Europe contributed to the great diversity in national and cultural origins that define the nation. At the turn of the century, most Americans lived in small towns and on farms (Portes and Rumbaut 2006), but a dynamic economy and growing urban centers provided new immigrants ample opportunity for employment in construction and manufacturing and a chance to move up the economic ladder. After two or three generations, the children of these immigrants became fully assimilated middle-class Americans. The common assumption that informed classic theoretical models of incorporation and assimilation was that over time the cacophony of languages and cultures that defined immigrant America would give way to English and a common American cultural identity. Although such a blending of different ethnic groups has indeed occurred, at least for Americans of European origin, the continual infusion of new cultures and languages means that the United States today is as diverse as it ever was. What is different today, though, is the fact that the new immigrants are no longer from Europe. For the last few decades, the vast majority of immigrants have come from Asia and Latin America (He 2002), a fact that has significant implications for the racial and ethnic composition of the future labor force.