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Cubans, meanwhile, are in favor over other Latinos among the new racialists, since they appear to do better in America than groups like Mexicans. But as City University of New York's Philip Kasinitz, an expert on ethnic assimilation, notes, "If Mexicans threw out the top 10% of their population into America, you'd be singing a different tune about Mexicans." And among Cubans, there's a subset that hasn't done well: the "Marielitos," who immigrated in 1980 when Fidel Castro emptied the island's prisons and told the inmates they were free to head to America. They were much darker in complexion than the first wave of Cubans, and they have not done anywhere near as well as their light-complected compatriots. What does this suggest? First, that if you were doing well in the country you're leaving, you'll do well in the country you're going to, and vice versa. Second, that lighter-skinned people tend to fare better than darker-skinned people when they immigrate to the U.S., even if they're from the same country.
What about Jews? Scholars like Stephen Steinberg in The Ethnic Myth have pointed out that the success of immigrant Jews was largely due to the fact that they arrived in the U.S. with "industrial experience and concrete occupational skills" well suited to the booming urban economies of the new world. Not, as Chua and Rubenfeld posit, because "Jews maintained for millennia the idea that they were God's chosen people."
Perhaps somewhat uniquely, Chua and Rubenfeld single out Mormons for model-minority status as well. They attribute Mormon business success, for instance, to the group's principles of child rearing. "Mormon teenagers," they write, "are less likely to have sexual intercourse, consume alcohol, smoke pot, or watch X-rated films than teenagers of any other faith." The authors overlook one small point about Mormons, however: they have their own state. Eighty percent of the Utah legislature is Mormon; its entire congressional delegation is Mormon. Utah has had only three non-Mormon governors in its history. This translates to tremendous political and financial clout for the religion, which is an indispensable part of Mormon business success.
Lastly, what shall we make of Indians--who, aside from Chinese, are perhaps the new racialists' favorite model minority? Indians in America are, as Chua and Rubenfeld note, "by any number of measures, the most successful Census-tracked ethnic group in the country."
Well, if Indians are so great, what explains India? The country is a sorry mess, with the largest population of poor, sick and illiterate people in the world, its economy diving, its politics abysmally corrupt. For decades, those who could afford to get out did. The $1,000 that it takes to purchase a one-way ticket to the U.S. is about a year's salary for the average Indian. If India shared a border with the U.S. and it were possible for its poorest residents to cross over on foot, we would fast cease to be the model minority, and talk-show hosts would rail against us just as they do against Mexicans.