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Immigration Policy and the Shaping of U.S. Culture

Becoming America

Roger White

The author examines the relationships between immigration policy, observed immigration patterns, and cultural differences between the United States and immigrants’ source countries. The entirety of U.S. immigration history (1607-present) is reviewed through a recounting of related legislative acts and by examining data on immigrant inflows and cross-societal cultural distances.
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Chapter 8: The influence of immigration policy on cross-societal cultural distances

Becoming America

Roger White

Extract

We consider whether, in 1968, when the Hart-Celler Act was implemented, American culture was more similar to the cultures of traditional immigrant source countries than to the cultures of non-traditional source countries. We also address whether American culture became less similar to the cultures of traditional source countries and more similar to the cultures of non-traditional source countries following changes in the primary immigrant source countries since 1968. The Hofstede, Project GLOBE, and Inglehart measures of cultural distance are used. We find that in the late-1960s American culture was significantly more similar to the culture of the typical traditional source country and less similar to that of the typical non-traditional source country. We also find evidence that more recent immigrant arrivals from non-traditional source countries led American culture to become less similar to the cultures of traditional source countries and more similar to that of the typical non-traditional source country.

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