Studying the Newcomers
MANY OF OUR UNDERSTANDINGS of immigrant political incorporation are still derived from studies of earlier waves of European immigrants, although there have also been some significant contributions from recent studies of particular racial and ethnic groups. In this chapter, I summarize the key insights from the scholarship on political participation among immigrants in the earlier part of the twentieth century. I also review contemporary studies of political participation among immigrants arriving after World War II. Many of these contemporary studies have shed considerable light on processes related to immigrant political participation. Still, they are often limited by the fact that their analyses are confined to particular racial or ethnic groups (Asian Americans or Latinos) or to particular geographic areas (states such as California or metropolitan areas such as New York and Los Angeles). This book therefore draws upon the findings and insights from early and contemporary studies of immigrant electoral participation. At the same time, it provides a more systematic test for some of the hypotheses offered and also introduces some new factors related to immigrant adaptation that have not previously been considered.
Many of the early works on immigrant adaptation situate the study of political participation within the larger processes of cultural assimilation and changes in socioeconomic status. One of the earliest treatments