The U.S. is – and long has been – a pluralistic society that contains large immigrant communities.

Yet migration is an actively debated but poorly understood topic, and much of the conventional thinking and political rhetoric about migration are based on myths, rather than facts.

For these reasons, migration policies and strategies for easing acculturation – which refers to the psychological process of assimilating to a new culture – usually end up being ineffective.

I often work with immigrant populations in my job as a family therapist and as an acculturation scholar.

Here are a few of the most common misconceptions I come across in my work.

1. Immigrants don’t want to learn English

The U.S. is home to more international migrants than any other country, and more than the next four countries – Germany, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United Kingdom – combined, according to 2020 data from the U.N. Population Division. While the U.S. population represents about 5% of the total world population, close to 20% of all global migrants reside there.

An overwhelming number of these immigrants are learning English, despite public perception to the contrary.

Immigrants and their children learn English today at the same rate as Italians, Germans and Eastern Europeans who emigrated in the early 19th century.

According to U.S. Census data, immigrant adults report having better English skills the longer they’ve lived in the U.S. And from 2009 to 2019, the percentage who could speak English “very well” increased from 57% to 62% among first-generation immigrants.

2. Immigrants are uneducated

Contrary to popular belief that immigrants moving to the U.S. have minimal education, many of them are well educated.

Over the past five years, 48% of arriving immigrants have been classified as highly skilled – that is, they have a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree. By comparison, only 33% of those born in the U.S. hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.


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