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EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION (INCLUDING SYRIAN), TO THE UNITED STATES
By class and sex, in fiscal years 1899-1909, inclusive. [Compiled by the United States Immigration Commission from reports of the Commissioner-General of Immigration]
Considered solely from the economic viewpoint, immigration brings a noteworthy contribution to the productivity of the country, while lessening materially the expenses of developing producers. Speaking generally, children until they are fourteen years of age, or above, are merely a burden upon the community, because of material expenses with no net return. A similar statement applies to many people who have reached old age. The line can not be so distinctly drawn here, many people being still productive at advanced years. There is no very marked difference between the old and the new immigration in this particular, the great mass of immigrants of both classes being found in the groups between the years of fourteen and forty-four-years that clearly are in the best productive period. In these cases the saving of a thousand or more dollars in the keeping and the training of children from babyhood up to the productive period is clearly an enormous one.
The following brief table of European immigration for the ten years, 1899-1909, by age classes, shows that this saving must run up to many millions of dollars, the percentage of immigrants coming at the most productive years being in both cases something more than 80 per cent.
EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION (INCLUDING SYRIAN) TO THE UNITED STATES
in fiscal years 1899 to 1909, by class and age groups.
Old 2,273,782 290,164 1,828,382 155,236
Total 8,213,034 1,013,974 6,786,506 412,554
The striking feature with regard to the age of immigrants, and indeed one of the most striking and significant features of European immigration to the United States in any regard, is the fact that so many of the immigrants are of the producing and so few are of the dependent age. And yet it may fairly be questioned whether the advantage of training in the American environment is not enough fully to offset its enormous aggregate expense.
OCCUPATIONS OF IMMIGRANTS
Immigrants are far more readily assimilated and are also likely to be better satisfied if they can engage in occupations that are congenial to themselves as well as profitable. Unfortunately, the old and the new
immigration differ decidedly in respect to the occupations followed by the immigrants in this country, as compared with their occupation in the country of their birth.
The best practical classification of the different occupations under general heads is shown in the table below:
OCCUPATION OF EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS (INCLUDING SYRIANS) TO THE UNITED STATES
Hebrews excepted, by occupation and class, 1899-1909 [Compiled by the United States Immigration Commission from reports of the Commissioner-General of Immigration]
It is just, probably, to consider farm laborers and common laborers as unskilled. Doubtless also those marked as having no occupation should, generally speaking, be classed in the same group. Leaving out the Hebrews, as practically none of them are farm laborers, we find that about 60 per cent. of the new immigration consists of farm laborers and common laborers. These classes furnish less than 25 per cent. of the old immigration. Even with the Hebrews in
cluded we find the percentage of unskilled, or common, and farm laborers much larger among the new immigrants. Among those classed as skilled laborers the percentage is more than twice as great in the old immigration as in the new, not including the Hebrews; also, among servants practically the same thing is true, the percentage being much higher among the races who are counted primarily among the earlier immigrants. The percentage of farmers as distinguished from farm laborers is larger among races found in the old immigration, tho owing to the greatly increased total immigration the absolute number is somewhat larger among the new; but in both cases the number is very small, so small as not to be an appreciable factor in determining our civilization.
A careful study of the figures, however, shows from this fact alone that the new immigration is much more difficult to assimilate than the old, because of these characteristics of occupation. A percentage of the total immigration, therefore, that might readily have been assimilated, provided the immigrants were of the older type, might prove much more difficult of assimilation with immigrants of the new type.
Thanks to the excellent public schools of the United States, and to the compulsory educational laws of many of our States, the question of illiteracy is not one of great importance in the second generation. It is, however, a factor of prime importance in connection with the assimilation politically and socially of the immigrants themselves, many of whom come here
in the days of their early manhood, soon become voters, and remain a permanent factor, especially in our large cities, in determining the results of our elections. In most States there is no literacy test for the suffrage. An immigrant who is illiterate is likely to be much slower in securing accurate information regarding the political institutions and political questions on which he may be called to vote, than one who can readily secure such information from books and papers. So large a number of periodicals are published in various foreign tongues that it is by no means essential that the immigrant read English. If, however, he can read no language but must depend upon chance conversation and public discussion for his political ideas, he is certainly greatly handicapped as compared with his literate brother.
At the time they are admitted into the United States as immigrants, the percentage of illiteracy among the races composing the new immigration is much greater than that among the old, the difference being that between 35.8 per cent. and 2.7 per cent., as shown in the following tables.
The larger table on page 35, containing a list of the races or peoples and the degree of illiteracy among the immigrants admitted in the years 1899-1909, shows in a very striking manner the differences among the various immigrant races in this respect.
Looking at the question in the large, too great emphasis ought not to be laid upon the question of illiteracy, since, as has already been said, this disadvantage in most cases disappears in the second generation. If, however, the question of discrimination between races or nationalities is to be considered at all, beyond doubt illiteracy is one factor that should