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The Narcissism of Minor DifferencesHow Europe and America are Alike$
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Peter Baldwin

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391206

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195391206.001.0001

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(p.176) Eleven Assimilation
The Narcissism of Minor Differences

Peter Baldwin

Oxford University Press

Let Us Move, now, from the otherworldly to the extraterritorial. Until recently, the assimilation of foreigners would not have been considered part of a comparison between Europe and America. America was a land of immigration; Europe was not. That is no longer the case. Overall levels of the foreign-born remain higher in the United States than in all European countries other than Switzerland and Luxembourg (figure 185). The difference is diminishing, however, as increasing numbers of foreigners make Europe their home. But the politics of counting foreigners is curious in Europe. In nations with virulent and powerful anti-foreigner political parties (Denmark, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, France, and Switzerland) civil servants might wish to downplay the presence of those who could be regarded as an alien element. Bureaucracies in other countries might prefer to upscale the number of foreigners, perhaps to burnish their own multicultural qualifications. Consider the differences between two sets of OECD accounts of foreigners, from 2005 and 2007. The figures in these reports come respectively from 2003 and 2005, though numbers for a decade earlier, i.e., 1993 and 1995, are given as comparisons. As might be expected, in all European countries the number of foreigners increased between 2003 and 2005. But in some nations, the reported number of foreigners grew so startlingly over a two-year period that it must be due to a rejiggering of the figures rather than to any actual inflow. In many cases, too, the numbers for 1995 given in the later publication are higher than those given for 2003 in the earlier one. For example, the Austrian figures for the foreign part of the population in 1995 presented in 2007 are 11.2%, while those for 2003 presented in 2005 are only 9.4%. Similar discrepancies hold for Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and several other nations. The mystery only deepens if we look at what precisely the OECD claims to measure. In 2005, it was Europe’s “foreign population.” Of the nations we are looking at, only the numbers from the United States are for “foreign-born.” In 2007, however, also the European figures are for “foreign-born,” except those for Greece, Italy, and Spain, which are for “foreign.” “Foreign-born” is, of course, a narrower and more precise category than “foreign.” Excepting only lapses of record keeping, “foreign-born” can be determined by standard-issue statistics.

Keywords:   Immigration, Multiculturalism, OECD, Schengen, Turks, Yugoslavs

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