Discussion: The Looming Retirement
Richard Alba (2009) and Dowell Myers (2007), for example, think the looming retirement of postwar baby boomers (the unusually large cohorts of Americans born during the two decades after World War II) will create enormous new job and housing possibilities for blacks and immigrants, opportunities owing to the much smaller cohorts of whites coming behind the baby boomers not being large enough to replace them. As a result, Alba and Myers argue, any vestiges of ethnoracial discrimination directed against nonwhites will fade away.
But other analysts remain more pessimistic as to whether much change— or any change—is taking place in ethnoracial divides, particularly in the black-white divide. They point especially to persistent glaring disparities between blacks and whites in educational attainment, income, wealth, and residential segregation (Bobo 1997, 1999; Carter 2005; Charles 2001; Conley 1999; Hacker 1992/1995; Massey and Denton 1993; Oliver and Shapiro 1995). These social scientists underscore the enduring and conse- quential effects of a color line that, they conclude, continues to separate whites and blacks in the United States. Others take the argument further, suggesting that the black-white chasm is deep and wide enough to apply also to the new nonwhite immigrant groups, especially Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and other Latino groups (Itzigsohn 2009; Massey 2007). Still others note that the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries have
Immigration and the Color Line in America 9
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coincided with widening and deepening economic inequalities that threaten the undoing of any progress resulting from cultural and demographic change (Katz and Stern 2006).The Present Focus and Approach Apart from propounding conjectures like those just described, social scientists have only begun to analyze the role the new immigration has played in shap- ing contemporary ethnoracial issues. Unanswered questions abound. On which side of the color line do the new immigrant groups fall? In the case of Mexican immigrants, is their experience more like that of immigrant ethnic groups or more like that of racial minority groups (Bean and Stevens 2003; Skerry 1993; Telles and Ortiz 2008)? Stated differently, do the incorporation experiences of the mainly Asian and Latino new immigrants more closely parallel those of earlier-arriving immigrant groups, such as Italians—who were rather completely incorporated by the end of the 1960s (Alba 1990, 2009)—or of
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