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Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture

Last update - Thursday, March 19, 2009, 19:10 By Charles Laffiteau

This week I want to try something different, taking the focus off US politics for a while and turning my sights towards a bigger picture, taking in America and Europe and the three ‘I’s – Immigration, Integration and Impregnation. Each of these different factors affects any given country’s demographic trends, which I believe have a wider and longer-lasting impact on a nation’s society than any other political, social or economic force.

During the past 50 years some economists and politicians in the developed world have taken note of demographic trends that they find worrisome. But unlike most of their fellow citizens, their biggest concern isn’t the effect that unfettered immigration from poor developing countries will have on their nations’ education and social welfare systems. Quite the opposite in fact – these systems will collapse unless something is done to reverse the decline in their national populations. And the two main reasons why populations begin to decline are low rates of inward migration and/or low fertility rates.
Simply put, when any given country’s birth rate drops against its mortality rate, then that nation’s total population will obviously begin to decline unless it is offset by significant levels of immigration. If those immigrants are able to successfully integrate, they and their children will remain in that country as productive members of society. But if they do not find acceptance, these immigrants and their children will either leave or become a social welfare burden.
One doesn’t have to look far to see examples of immigrants who either have or have not been successful integrating into the native communities of their new homelands; Europe’s Muslim communities are a glaring example of the latter.
But despite the infamous riots in the mainly Muslim banlieues of its largest cities, this doesn’t seem to be the case in France. Contrary to many news reports at the time of the riots in 2005 and 2007, there wasn’t any religious aspect to these disturbances – they were social riots triggered by the poor housing, racial discrimination and high unemployment in the grim housing estates surrounding France’s largest cities. The young rioters were not just Muslims either, but also included Christian teenagers from the Caribbean as well as many other non-Muslim teenage immigrants.
Polls show that in France, far fewer Muslims see any kind of conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in modern French society. Almost half of America’s Christians (48 per cent) and France’s Muslims (42 per cent) consider themselves to be citizens of their respective countries first and Muslim second, compared to only seven per cent in the UK, and 13 per cent in Germany.
Despite widespread reports of French nationalists’ and Americans’ distaste for Muslim immigrants, research indicates that Muslims in both the US and France are generally more assimilated and prosperous than Muslims in the rest of Europe. As a result, Muslim immigration to France and to America has continued to increase. In fact more people from Islamic countries became legal permanent US residents in 2005 than in any other year in the previous two decades.
But France and America also share another similarity – they have the highest fertility rates of all the world’s developed countries. I’ll discuss this more next time.

Charles Laffiteau is a lifelong US Republican from Dallas, Texas who is currently pursuing a PhD research programme in Environmental Studies at Dublin City University

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