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« American Tourism Losing Billions Because of Image? | WILLisms.com | Reform Thursday: Week Fifteen. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 44 -- The American Dream.


Some critics (on the right, and left) of President Bush's drive to change the Middle East argue that Arab, or Muslim, culture is incompatible with modernity. They argue that there is something inherent in the Arab worldview that makes liberty and free markets and democracy and pluralism in the Middle East an impossible fantasy.

It is easy to come to such a conclusion, given the recent track record of the Middle East:

In the last two decades, no region besides sub-Saharan Africa has seen income per person grow as slowly as in the Middle East. At the current rate, it will take the average Arab 140 years to double his or her income. Asians, Europeans, and North Americans are expected to double their incomes in the next 10 years. The total economic output—including oil—of all Arab countries is less than that of Spain, the Middle East’s unemployment rates are the highest in the developing world, and its literacy rates rank near the bottom.

Much of the most outspoken cynicism about Arabs comes from Europe, which faces an emerging democraphic crisis. Arabs in Europe, unlike in America, are failing to assimilate, and the European economy is leaving them behind. In America, by contrast, Arabs are flourishing:

Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300—4.6 percent higher than other American families—and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s....

Meanwhile, in Europe (not to mention the Middle East itself), Arabs are languishing:

Muslims living in Europe—of which Arabs constitute a significant proportion—are poorer, less educated, and in worse health than the rest of the population. In the Netherlands, the unemployment rate for ethnic Moroccans is 22 percent, roughly four times the rate for the country as a whole. In Britain, the Muslim population has the highest unemployment rate of all religious groups. The failure of Arabs in Europe is particularly worrisome given that 10 of the states or entities along Europe’s eastern and southern borders are home to nearly 250 million Muslims—most of them Arabs—with a birthrate more than double that of Europeans.

What is the point of all this? It underscores three ideas.

First, American exceptionalism. The United States free enterprise system is truly the greatest engine of opportunity on the face of the earth.

Second, it shows that it is not zany or hairbrained to assume that the Middle East can flourish with the right institutions.

Third, it should serve as a warning to Americans about idly watching large groups of immigrants carry on as they did back home, without buying into the American dream.

Arabs in the United States have access to ample opportunities to prosper and can rely on powerful institutions to protect their civil, political, and economic rights to do so. Indeed, the census data show that Arab ancestry mixed with markets and meritocracy creates a potent fuel for success....

Cultural determinists may want to revise their theories of Arab backwardness. Arab leaders should be ashamed when they see their emigrants prospering in the United States while their own people are miserable. And Europe should wake up to the possibility that it may have less of an “Arab problem” than a “European problem.” Then again, maybe the cultural determinists have an explanation for why Europeans are so predisposed against Arab success.


Foreign Policy magazine.


Marginal Revolution has more on Islam and prosperity.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29; Part 30, Part 31; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 May 2005 09:59 AM


When I think of the Iraqi people and their living conditions it makes me sad... Saddam and his family lived in marvelous conditions, yet the people of Iraq were tortured and lived in very poor conditions... I really hope that the Iraqi people are pleased that we are there! ...My husband and I know an Iraqi man who claims they are pleased and very grateful for the USA being there!...Prosperity for the Islamic people and that region will take time. Religion and faith of Islam is a very interesting concept when the politics of democracy and freedom are being introduced. For the most part the people of Iraq want it...But there are those radical few who are willing to blow themselves up to kill a few others in the name of Allah!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at May 12, 2005 08:59 PM


It's not that we force immigrants to assimilate, it's that we don't stop immigrants from assimilating.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at May 13, 2005 06:51 AM