Immigrants and the American Dream

Remaking the Middle Class

William A. V. Clark

June 6, 2003
ISBN 9781572308800
Price: $45.00
254 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"

The United States has absorbed nearly 10 million immigrants in the past decade. This book examines who the new immigrants are, where they live, and who among them are gaining entry into the American middle class. Discussed are the complex factors that promote or hinder immigrant success, as well as the varying opportunities and constraints met by those living in particular regions. Extensive data are synthesized on key dimensions of immigrant achievement: income level, professional status, and rates of homeownership and political participation. Also provided is a balanced analysis of the effects of immigration on broader socioeconomic, geographic, and political trends. Examining the extent to which contemporary immigrants are realizing the American dream, this book explores crucial policy questions and challenges that face our diversifying society.

“This is a highly topical book....Well-written and accessible....This is a powerful book marshalling data and arguments effectively in an assessment of the social and economic consequences of one of the major social phenomena of recent decades....The book is a shining example of the way in which social science can address a contemporary issue and provide an understanding of what is happening in a subject too often dominated by hysterical press and politicians seeks headlines.”

Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design

“...the greatest strength of this book is the clarity and logic underlying its structure....The book's lucid organization makes its content comprehensible not only to immigration researchers and policymakers, but also to readers without explicit background knowledge of U.S. immigration....deserves a wide readership that should include not only researchers and policymakers directly involved in U.S. immigration but also those readers who recognize the importance of understanding the ever-changing composition of the U.S. population and the role it is playing in redefining the nation's middle class.”

The Professional Geographer

“...presents an important picture of the new socioeconomic landscape that has resulted from contemporary immigration....Each chapter is rich with descriptive statistics, graphs, and a limited set of maps....Clark supplements his data presentations with brief vignettes describing the life experiences of representative immigrant households....Clark's integration of thorough empirical analyses and vignettes are an excellent tool for both research and teaching on contemporary immigration and ethnic geography.”

Economic Geography

“In Immigrants and the American Dream, Clark eschews the well-trod intellectual paths that lead in one direction to a facile celebration of American exceptionalism and in the other to a bleak pessimism concerning the rigidities of American racism. His realist account of contemporary mobility opportunities challenges much existing scholarship about the new immigration. This book opens the way to an appreciation of the complexities of immigrant incorporation at the beginning of the 21st century.”

—Richard Alba, Department of Sociology, University at Albany, State University of New York

Immigrants and the American Dream presents compelling evidence that most immigrants are adapting slowly but successfully to this country. Clark's analyses of recent economic and social data are done with great care and thought, and he discusses fully the inconsistencies and complexities in his findings. The most persuasive, authoritative, and comprehensive book yet on this important topic.”

—James P. Allen, Department of Geography, California State University, Northridge

“Clark gives us a preview of the future of the American middle class (an eighth of which is already composed of immigrant households), as well as a report on how immigrants are doing in the economy and the polity. He makes deft use of a wide range of techniques and perspectives: the cohort approach of the demographer, the sense of place and spatial variation of the geographer, and the journalist's appreciation for an illustrative story. The book deals with a range of questions about immigrant 'incorporation'—the issues of assimilation that will shape American society—without getting bogged down in the normative arguments about who should assimilate to whom. Readers are cured of the temptation to generalize about the immigrant experience in modern America: different groups in different states are making the transition at very different speeds. Because post-1965 immigration so profoundly affects the whole landscape, this book will be a useful addition to courses in economics, sociology, and postwar U.S. history, not just immigration studies narrowly conceived.”

—John Haaga, Domestic Programs, Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC

“Clark offers a timely look at how the latest 'new Americans' realize the promise of an open society. He charts the pathways and personal attainments of contemporary immigrants joining the middle class, as well as the distinctive experiences of particular ethnic groups. By updating our understanding of today's fluid class structure, the book is a natural addition to courses on contemporary American society. For home builders, advertisers, and others who would target this emerging market segment, Clark's exhaustive analysis of census data furnishes useful insights into this expanding new generation of middle-class consumers.”

—Peter A. Morrison, Labor and Population Program, RAND

“Arguments over immigration often diverge into simple binary accounts of whether or not immigrants will 'make it.' Clark develops a cautiously optimistic median position, describing varying middle-class possibilities for U.S. newcomers. Carefully analyzing recent data on country of origin, location, occupation, homeownership, and other factors, Clark finds that a surprisingly large number of immigrants are attaining a middle-class life. Through this account, he joins a growing group of scholars who are rethinking immigrant assimilation processes in the United States. The writing is clear and the illustrations are elegant. This book is essential reading for immigration scholars and researchers interested in class formation.”

—Richard A. Wright, Department of Geography, Dartmouth College

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Immigration and the American Dream

Chapter 2. Immigrants in the United States: Numbers, Flows, and Policies

Chapter 3. Making It in America: The Foreign-Born Middle Class

Chapter 4. Entering the Professions

Chapter 5. Reaching for Homeownership

Chapter 6. Voicing Allegiance

Chapter 7. Joining a Divided Society?

Chapter 8. Reinventing the Middle Class: Paths to the Future

Appendix. Data and Data Sources


Scholars and students in geography, sociology, planning, and ethnic studies; also of interest to government policy makers and to business professionals interested in the changing face of the American middle class.

Will serve as a text in advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in population geography, immigration and migration, and ethnic studies.

Course Use

Will serve as a text in advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in population geography, immigration and migration, and ethnic studies.