Immigration and Labor: The Economic Aspects of European Immigration to the United States

By Isaac A. Hourwich | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
THE STANDARD OF LIVING.

A. Introductory

IN so far as immigration is an economic movement, it is obvious that the immigrant's standard of living in his home country must have been below the American standard. This is as true of the old as of the new immigration. Those immigrants only are an exception to this rule who seek to escape from political or religious oppression. Its victims are not confined to the poorer classes, but include people of means and of standing in the community, whose standard of living is often superior to that of the native American mechanic. Since 1890, however, of all the races which have come to this country, the Jews, the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Russians, the Finns, and the Armenians, have furnished the only immigrants of this class. As to all others, it was just the higher standard of living of the American wage-earner that induced them, like most races that preceded them, to emigrate to the United States. If the lower standard of living to which the immigrant has been accustomed at home tends to reduce the American standard of living, then these effects of immigration must have manifested themselves in the days of the Irish and German immigration as much as to-day. At most there may be only a difference of degree. That the standard of living of the recent immigrant employed as an unskilled laborer is lower than that of the native American mechanic or of the older immigrant engaged in skilled work, is no new

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