Within inequality characteristics and adaptation of immigrants in the United States

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Until recently, in works of literature, the assimilation of immigrants had been viewed as an individualistic rather than a community-based process. However, Hatton and Leigh (2011) showed that immigrants integrate to their host country as communities, not as individuals; hence, group characteristics play as much of a role as individual characteristics in terms of adaptation. This paper introduces another dimension to the immigrant adaptation proxies that reflect community-based characteristics. The fundamental assertion of this paper is that inequality can be used as a proxy of adaptation within immigrant groups. Immigrant groups that exhibit income and education distributions similar to those of the natives can be regarded as well-adapted groups, while those who exhibit vastly different distributions should be considered to be groups with limited adaptation. Using the American Community Survey (ACS) 2010 cohort, this paper presents the initial findings of the within-group inequality of immigrants. Then, a cross-sectional regression analysis is employed to analyze the determinants of inequality across these immigrant groups. The results suggest that immigrant community-based characteristics, such as average income, education, and number of years that the immigrants have spent in the US, can indeed explain most of the variation in inequality.