Blacks from immigrant families outperform native-born blacks in school, notes Clarence Page, a black columnist, somewhat belatedly. Why? Page says it doesn’t take a Harvard study to figure out the answer:
Immigrant kids work harder.
They work harder, in part, because their parents work harder – and their parents work harder because of their relentless optimism: Where others see a dead-end job, immigrants of all colors see an entry-level opportunity.
Where others may see inequities, immigrants tend to see a ladder to be climbed. With a hyper-optimism, they move ahead, upward and outward, undeterred by discrimination, short-term poverty, substandard housing, lack of financial capital or any other barriers that fate throws in the way of their hopes and dreams.
And they pass this spirit of enterprise on to their children. A University of Chicago study in 1995, for example, found children from a variety of minority groups whose mothers are immigrants outperform students from their same ethnic group whose mothers were born in the United States. “Family optimism” about the future played a crucially important role in determining school success, according to sociology Prof. Marta Tienda.
In the 20th century, optimistic blacks moved from the rural south to the industrial north, Page writes. But that spirit has been lost and needs to be revived.