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There is a well known literature on how well (very) the children and grandchildren assimilate into the American economy and culture. What is less well-known are how other aspects of America end up rubbing off on the progeny of immigrants? In this study on the heritability of health characteristics, the authors find that even factors like health experience less intergenerational persistence the longer that immigrants stay in the United States. While I find this to be a strong piece of evidence that immigrants do assimilate, the authors of course find this regrettable – they are picking up Americans’ tendency to be obese and suffer from asthma. But hey, if imitation is the most sincere form of flattery … In any case, if immigrants are so adaptable that they adapt to the very worst in America, why would folks be led to believe that they are not also going to be influenced by the very best too?

And heck, what do you know? This new paper shows that immigrants assimilate so well into the United States after coming here that descendants of immigrants, when asked, no longer report their native heritage. Now that I think about it, that is certainly the case with me. My grandparents and great-grandparents could barely speak a lick of English and came off the boat from Italy. I have never in my life, at least in my adult life, considered myself Italian-American or ever chosen to identify that way in any circumstance. The really interesting aspect of this paper is that if/when we make corrections for the underreporting of non-native status among second and third generation immigrants to the U.S., measures of true assimilation will be much larger -in other words, the reported effects of assimilation in earlier papers are understated.

In other news, the Massachusetts health insurance experiment seems to have reduced the poverty rate in Massachusetts by one-third!

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