William A.V. Clark. The California Caldron: Immigration and the Fortunes of Local Communities. New York and London. The Guilford Press $ cloth.

This volume is about the "fourth wave" of post 1965 immigrants to California, the entry port of much of new immigration to the US. Clark is concerned about the strains and tensions between American liberal immigration policy and the inability of the country to absorb those immigrants, especially the poor, who lack literacy. The problem he deals with is two-fold. He argues that the US as a receiving society needs well-educated immigrants to fit into the post industrial order. However, the character of immigration has changed. Earlier immigration featured uneven bursts of migrants who could be assimilated during subsequent periods of low immigration. Moreover, compared to past waves, new immigrants come from many backgrounds with their own agendas, live in separate enclaves, and do not share attitudes, religion or languages. He finds immigrants are divided into those who are well suited to the new industrial order, and others, notably from Latin American nations, who are poorly educated. This has resulted in cleavages of immigrants into separate enclaves of poor, and not so poor, whose increasing segregation creates a "cauldron", or "boiling pot". He argues that the "human capital" of many immigrants is "declining" compared with the native population and other immigrants. Clark questions whether immigration will produce a stable social blend or a mix of antagonistic competing groups. He fears an increasingly balkanization of neighborhoods and communities and eventually a bifurcated California society.

Using various socioeconomic indicators and information on residence depicted through vivid maps and tables, the volume graphically portrays the high concentration of immigrants and disproportionate share of their costs in Southern California. The case study of Californian immigrants is telling because California was the recipient of l/3 of all new immigrants to the US in 1990. In several chapters, Clark documents the uneven attainment of the "American Dream". He notes that acculturation starts with language acquisition and continues through intermarriage, residential assimilation and economic gains. He documents patterns of skills, earnings, home ownership, fertility and public assistance for recent immigrants as a whole and for Mexican and Central American, Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrants as separate groups. Children were in particular distress, due to the burden of poverty and welfare dependency of their families. In contrast, he finds that new Asian immigrants are more likely to intermarry, and their educational levels are close to those that already reside in California. His case studies do find differentiation among Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants, yet he finds a greater likelihood of success than among Latino immigrants. The latter continue to provide low cost unskilled labor that supports California’s economic growth. The typical immigrant between 1985 and 1990 was Hispanic, with 60% chance of earning under US $10,000, $2,000 less than the average migrant to the US, due to low levels of skills and language acquisition. New immigrants arrive with less education than the native born whites or other immigrant groups, and their children do not greatly improve upon the heritage. Starting at the bottom, their future prospects are dim. There are further cleavages between the Bay Area and Southern California immigrants.

Clark is concerned that the fabric of California society will not stretch to accommodate these changes on its own. Yet he argues that affirmative action programs are not suitable tools to redress these new problems. Considerable help from the state and society is needed to address the bifurcated immigrant society, increasingly divided between the largely poor and somewhat less poor. He proposes a two pronged solution: to introduce a point system to decrease the pace of immigration but increase its human capital, and considerable more state investment in the educational system to elevate the education of new citizens.

This is an excellent study that is dramatic and well written, and that makes a strong contribution to recent migration literature. The issues in Canada are somewhat different, since we are not faced with chain migration from nearby Mexico and Latin America. Nevertheless, many of the issues he raises are relevant. In particular, in a period of educational cutbacks, we need the government to expand rather than contract the educational system to avoid cleavages in opportunities of immigrants, and between new migrants and old.

Janet W Salaff, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology and Centre for Urban and Community Studies
University of Toronto

December 1999
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