In the history, the very personality, of New York City, few events loom larger than the wave of immigration at the turn of the last century. Today a similar influx of new immigrants is transforming the city again. Better than one in three New Yorkers is now an immigrant. From Ellis Island to JFK is the first in-depth study that compares these two huge social changes.
A key contribution of this book is Nancy Foner's reassessment of the myths that have grown up around the earlier Jewish and Italian immigration-and that deeply color how today's Asian, Latin American, and Caribbean arrivals are seen. Topic by topic, she reveals the often surprising realities of both immigrations. For example:
Education: Most Jews, despite the myth, were not exceptional students at first, while many immigrant children today do remarkably well.
Jobs: Immigrants of both eras came with more skills than is popularly supposed. Some today come off the plane with advanced degrees and capital to start new businesses.
Neighborhoods: Ethnic enclaves are still with us but they're no longer always slums-today's new immigrants are reviving many neighborhoods and some are moving to middle-class suburbs.
Gender: For married women a century ago, immigration often, surprisingly, meant less opportunity to work outside the home. Today, it's just the opposite.
Race: We see Jews and Italians as whites today, but to turn-of-the-century scholars they were members of different, alien races. Immigrants today appear more racially diverse-but some (particularly Asians) may be changing the boundaries of current racial categories.
Drawing on a wealth of historical and contemporary research and written in a lively and entertaining style, the book opens a new chapter in the study of immigration-and the story of the nation's gateway city.