Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where are the Pakistani Kings? (part I)

Pictured Above: 2005 riot in Birmingham, UK
between Pakistani and Afro-Caribbean gangs.

Growing up first in West Rogers Park and then the North Shore, I am well acquainted with Chicago's sizable Desi Community (Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis). From my experience Desis are generally hard working, law abiding and oriented towards education and achievement. So, I was quite surprised to read in British newspapers about the proliferation of South Asian gangs and drug traffickers in England, as well as some pretty serious race riots between South Asian and Afro-Caribbean youth. Many of the Indian and Pakistani Muslims that I became acquainted with in Chicago were religious, but not once did I encounter a hint of the radical Islam that plagues England. This prompted me to ask myself "Where are the Pakistani Kings, where are the Gujarati Gangsters in America? Why in Chicago are there so many Pakistani doctors and pharmacists and so few drug dealers? Why does welfare dependency plague many Pakistanis in England, whereas their rate of welfare use in the United States is significantly lower than that of native born whites?"

During a discussion with a British friend of mine, he informed me that the majority of England's Latin American immigrants were highly educated professionals. And he was quite surprised to learn about the Latin Kings and the many other Hispanic gangs that plague some Chicago neighborhoods. It then dawned on me - the issue is not where an immigrant is from, it's which segment of the population they represent. The reason why crime and welfare use is far higher in England's South Asian population is because a large number of the Desis that immigrate to England are uneducated and deeply traditional, whereas many of the Desis that immigrate to the United are highly educated and modern. Also, the comparatively lower rate of South Asian immigration to the United States coupled with their relative lack of geographic concentration creates a socio-economic environment that is conducive to healthy assimilation. In contrast the high demographic and geographic concentration of Muslim South Asians in England allows for a cultural isolation that hinders assimilation and breeds social pathology, such as gangs and radical Islam.

These lessons are highly applicable to issues of immigration and ethnicity in the United States. Unfortunately, most people draw the wrong conclusions from troubling statistics regarding Latinos, such as: a high school drop out rate that hovers at 46%, an incarceration rate that is 2.45 times greater that that of whites and a poverty rate that is 2.48 times higher. On one hand a disgusting racist fringe incorrectly attribute these statistics to innate pathology in Hispanic people and their culture, on the other hand, most progressives incorrectly emphasize racism and discrimination as the primary causes of social pathology. Both are wrong. The cause is neither race nor racism, it's the generally low education and skill level among Latin American immigrants, as demonstrated by the fact that 60.2% of Mexican immigrants to the United States lacked a high school diploma. The socio-economic performance for high school dropouts of all races is abysmal in a post-industrial United States. But, much to their credit, the crime rate among 1st generation Mexican immigrants is actually lower than that of native born Americans. However the level of arrest, incarceration and welfare use surges in the second generation.

Based on their erroneous interpretation of the said statistics, both the racist fringe of the right and most progressives offer flawed solutions. Racists seek to bar non-whites in general and Latinos in particular from immigrating to the United States. Conversely, progressives believe that a regimen of government programs, including affirmative action is the key to raising socio-economic outcomes among Hispanics. The simple answer eludes both extremes: if we want higher socio-economic outcomes, without investing billions of dollars, our criteria for selecting immigrants should be based far more on their education and skill level. A college graduate is a college graduate and a dropout is a dropout, whether they were born in Madison, Michoacan or Madras. And policy makers should take heed: the education and skill level of the 1st generation influences the performance of generation to come.


  1. Rightly put sir! We should have an immigration program that seeks to cherry pick the most talented people the world over and have policies that make people want to come with their skills because this is the best country to put those skills to use.

  2. Agreed. We could have a very long and interesting debate about why we do not have policies that strive for those aims.

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