Saturday, May 07, 2005

Arab-American productivity - FT ($)
Culture is not the culprit in Arab poverty
By Moises Naim
Published: May 4 2005 03:00 Last updated: May 4 2005 03:00

People of Arab descent living in the US are better educated and wealthier than the average American of non-Arab descent. That is one surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the US Census Bureau in 2000. The census also found that Arab Americans are better educated and wealthier than Americans in general.

Whereas 24 per cent of all Americans hold college degrees, 41 per cent of Arab-Americans are college graduates. The median annual income of an Arab-American family living in the US is $52,300 - 4.6 per cent higher than the figure for all other American families. More than half of such families own their home. Forty-two per cent of people of Arab descent in the US work as managers or professionals, while the overall average is 34 per cent.
Thanks to Marginal Revolution for the pointer. See their take.

My take is that if you are born in an environment where merit is not rewarded, then you'll be more likely to move to an environment where it is -- if you have innate or acquired abilities. While some of these Arab families may not be first generation, it's true that the apple doesn't usually fall far from the tree in one generation. I presume then that Arab-Americans are a self select group of recent arrivals. In that case, comparisons to average Americans doesn't really say much. We don't presume, for instance, that it makes sense to compare blacks whose families have been in the U.S. less than a generation or two to average American families. We understand Colin Powell (or Walter Williams) is not such an exceptional member of the former group, but Condi Rice (or Bill Clinton) are exceptional in the latter group.

Note that compared to recent immigrants in general, Arabs admitted to the U.S. are much more likely to be admitted because of their education -- as opposed, say, to political asylum. And Arabs that have come to the U.S. primarily for non-economic reasons were also self selected - those with the means to escape from regimes that went totalitarian or countries with political violence. Those with means they come from the upper strata of society.

For whatever reason, Arab countries have not fostered economies where the rewards to productivity (increasing the size of the pie) are high -- and the rewards to rent seeking (getting a bigger slice of the pie) are low. Contrary to the headline, culture remains one of many potential culprits for why Arab countries are not developing as quickly as others.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Acad Ronin said...

Agreed. Fortunately for n-th generation Americans, the data suggests that by the third generation (regardless of origin) all the immigrant qualities have disappeared.

4:34 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home