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Effects on assimilation

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Handout

Do immigrants assimilate faster where there is a policy of "Melting Pot" than where there is a policy of "Mosaic?"

The question about whether the policies of two host countries, melting pot or mosaic, have any effect on rates of assimilation, uses Canada and the USA for comparison.

Usually assimilation of migrants takes a similar pattern through generations, although the rate or speed of change may vary.

The incoming or migrating generation struggles to survive in the new environment (especially if there is a difference in language), and retains many of the values and behaviour patterns of their society of origin.

The second generation, being socialised at school as much as at home, tends to rebel against the home culture, and often over identifies with the host culture.

This may continue into the third generation, or may be the beginning of a new set of values, which tends to romanticise the culture of origin and adapt values and behaviour which reflect that romanticisation more than the real culture of the original society.

That variation in rate appears to be more a function of the nature of the host culture, brought by the migrants, than the policies of the host culture.

This is the conclusion of Stanford Lyman who studied the issue.

Be aware that "melting pot" does not mean all immigrants unilaterally convert to some monolithic mainstream American society.

When you mix the colours yellow and red, you get neither yellow nor red, but orange.

A melting pot policy expected that mainstream American society itself would also change as a result of the melting of so many different cultures.

Also, a "mosaic" policy did not mean the total keeping of everything cultural from societies of origin.

It meant also immigrants needed to learn how to live and operate in the mainstream culture, and that meant learning one of the mainstream languages, and also to live according to the laws and customs of the host country when those varied from the laws and customs of the societies of origin.

What has this got to do with variations in family life?

We cannot say that families are the same or different in the USA and Canada, because in both places there is no monolithic or orthodox family.

There is a range of family composition and dynamics in both the USA and Canada.

The nuclear family as an ideal, with women working at home and men working outside the home, is promoted by religious conservatives (of various theologies) in both places.

Variations, including same sex partners, single parents, common law marriage, and others, appear in both places.

Variations tend to be in rates or degrees (and are minor) rather than qualitative variations.

Families of new immigrants tend to be similar to what they were in their societies of origin, with variations from that in later generations, or after some time has passed in first generations.

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