We're British

Assimilation, please

In 1990 the Tory politician Norman Tebbit proposed the “cricket test” as a way of discerning the loyalty of British immigrants and their progeny. Loyal Brits, he suggested, would root for the home team.

Alan Manning and Sanchari Roy, two economists from the London School of Economics, recently came up with another, rather novel way of determining how closely immigrants identify with British society: They listened to what immigrants said when asked.

Using data from the Labor Force Survey, a quarterly sample survey of households in Great Britain, Manning and Roy found that groups often considered resistant to integration were in fact more likely to identify as British than were other immigrants. In response to the question, “What do you consider your national identity to be?,” foreign-born Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were more likely to claim a British identity than their counterparts from Canada, Western Europe, and Japan. The immigrants most eager to refuse the British label were Irish Catholics.

Religion had a small effect overall, but the results again defied stereotypes. “Muslims are more likely than any other religious group,” Manning and Roy write, “to think of themselves as British.” With religion, as with nation of origin, all differences in the responses disappear by the third generation.

The authors suggest that immigrants who experience a greater culture clash, such as those from poor nondemocratic countries, have the most incentive to become British. “The data on national identity,” they write, “do not support alarmism about the effects of immigration in general or Muslims in particular on national identity.”

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