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The Real “Great Replacement” – Econlib



The Real “Great Replacement” – Econlib

Some on the right worry that immigration will result in America’s white population being largely replaced by non-whites. This hypothesis is also called ‘the great replacement’. A major replacement is taking place, but these worryers have turned things upside down. (As an aside, this article will not explore the pros and cons of a changing ethnic mix. Instead, I will argue that the dreaded change does not happen.)

To understand why the Great Replacement Theory is wrong, it’s helpful to start with a bit of American history. A century ago, people tended to think of the white race in a narrow way. The original settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries were mostly white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) from Northern Europe. This was followed by a new wave of settlers from places like Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe. Although we today think of these more recent immigrants as white, they were initially seen as members of a very different ethnic group – what we would call “minorities.” Over time, they became more successful and assimilated into the majority of the WASP population. Here’s one screenshot of some books discussing how these groups became ‘white’ in a cultural sense. (Again, I’m using race here as a social construct, not a biological category.)

Today, the vast majority of immigrants come from Latin America and East Asia. They gradually assimilate with the majority white population, often through intermarriage. A hundred years from now, the descendants of Asians and Hispanics will be seen as white as Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and Irish-Americans are today.

My daughter is a good example. People who meet her for the first time almost universally think of her as “white.” And yet my daughter’s mother is from China. So in a sense, my East Asian wife is being “replaced” by a white daughter. That is the real “Great Replacement”.

It is true that there are slightly fewer intermarriages between whites and blacks, but that fact does not change the basic picture. As of 1990, blacks have made up between 12% and 13% of the U.S. population, about the same as in 1870. The Great Replacement theory is mainly about the effects of Asian and Hispanic immigration, which is where assimilation is happening at a rapid pace.

You will occasionally see predictions that whites will become a minority at some point in the future. Don’t believe them. I’ve seen these kinds of predictions off and on throughout my life, and yet white people are as culturally dominant as ever. What changes over time is our concept of what it means to be white. This category will be continually redefined so that whites remain in the majority. I imagine some on the left will view this process with suspicion, but I believe that assimilation is a very positive development. The largest ethnic conflicts often occur in countries that do not experience assimilation.