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Ethnic America: A History
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Ethnic America: A History

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  427 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
A distinguished economist traces the history of nine American ethnic groups--the Irish, the Germans, the Jews, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Blacks, the Puerto Ricans, and the Mexicans--in order to explain their varied experiences in adapting to American society.
Kindle Edition, 353 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1975)
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Guixin Jiang
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read this after I studied overseas in the United States for 2 years. Before my coming to the USA, I barely have the idea of how the concept "ethnic" could virtually impact how people behave, how they communicate, and how they like each other. After all, I live in a society (China) where I have compatriots, namely the same ethnic, for over a billion people! We speak the same language, share the same culture and civilization, have the same expectation of others' behavior and therefore, nev ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Each immigrant group has changed in America, and American society has changed in many ways. The most dramatic example is that today there are people sitting in Congress and on the Supreme Court whose ancestors were brought here as slaves. Among the world's leading scientific, political, and economic figures today are Americans whose immigrant ancestors were once dismissed as 'the beaten men of beaten races.' Nothing has so vindicated the untapped potential of ordinary people as the American expe ...more
Rob Altemare
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read. How can a guy take such deep and specific technical data and weave it into a fascinating story? Thomas Sowell is one of the most brilliant men in America. Even back in 1986 (or thereabouts) when this story was written, he's already honed his unique ability to make hard data completely fascinating. Amazing!
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ethnic America is a unique portrait of the great American ethic mosaic. Thomas Sowell relates the history of immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and how this history was unique for each group. Within the larger geographic groups he identifies specific ethnic groups that include Irish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Blacks, and others. He analyzes each group providing background context and the results of their success or lack of success in integrating and becoming ...more
Jim B
Sowell's tracing the history of assimilation of nine American ethnic groups (Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Blacks--slave and later free, Puero Rican, and Mexican) helps the reader understand the cycle of large groups from a nationality arriving and adapting in America. Every American should read this book in order to discuss immigration or to ponder the race issue in America.
Haowei Chen
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Giulia Paris
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, it is amazing how just every ethnic cluster mentioned in he book suffered when they first came here. I feel like the boook might have been a bit biased like against the irish, but otherwise it is very engaging and with many interesting statistics.
Sylvester Kuo
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, history
Ethnic America is an examination of how well the 7 major groups of American immigrants are doing relatively. It was a nice read, particularly the chapters on the Japanese, Puerto Ricans and the Easter European Jews.
Jeff G
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, written in 1981, is nonetheless relevant for today. In this heavily-notated work, Thomas Sowell recounts the history and progress of a number of immigrant groups that come to America. I take a number of key points from th iswork.

Later generations tend to improve (in abilities, work, economic success and acculturation) compared to earlier generations. As Sowell states, "...the most striking pattern among American ethnic groups is their general rise in economic conditions with the pass
Don Weidinger
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
location matters even by neighborhood, oppressive laws against Irish started in Ireland, Irish Hells Kitchen, German indentured servants bought/sold, 1902 first jewish HS grad NYC, Chinese with less than 10% divorce, Irish famine 1840’s, Feb42 FDR western US only not Hawaii Japanese Americans imprisoned in rural prison camps 300k with support of courts and aclu until late 44 overturned in courts, Jewish and Japanese excelled in US after much discrimination Chinese too and none via political acti ...more
It always seems like an accomplishment when I finish a non-fiction book, but this one was well worth the seven weeks it took to read it. Ethnic America has some very interesting insights. Sowell analyzes several ethnic groups (Chinese, Japanese, Irish, Italian, African, Mexican, Puerto Rican, German, Jews--each group gets its own chapter) that have immigrated to the United States at various times. He discusses their background in their homeland and reasons for emigrating, how they fared and what ...more
Cynthia Schmidt
I read this book because my husband said it was one of the best books he'd ever read about the multiple cultures in America. He read it when it was first published in the 1980s. I found the statistics in it to be very dated, naturally, but what really bothered me was the mindset was very dated. Sowell went into detail about the various ethnic groups immigrating from various parts of Europe but then lumped the entire continent of Africa together. I would not recommend this book.
Dec 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The United States government classifies its citizens and noncitizen residents as American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White; and also as Hispanic or Latino, or not. This is a Borgesian taxonomy that has nothing to do with the historic experience of various ethnic groups in the United States, their cultures, skills and lifestyles; its sheer bizarreness is reminiscent of the Soviet Union's assignment of "nationality" to ...more
Alex Zakharov
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great short history of immigration into America – Sowell covers all the major immigration groups including Irish, Germans, Blacks, Jews, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans. What I found interesting is how Sowell treats immigration almost as an evolutionary study of adaptability of various cultures to the host country. Each culture with its own unique history and set of values has its own way of integrating (or not integrating) and adapting to the new homeland. And yes, cu ...more
Bojan Tunguz
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell is well known for his insightful and thought provoking articles and books. He was never the one to shy away from a difficult subject, and that is certainly the case with as polarizing topic as race and ethnicity. In American political discourse, race and ethnicity are given either too much attention or not enough, and the motivations for the attention given are oftentimes misguided. Between the polar extremes of nativists and cultural relativists, there is a considerable room for e ...more
Mark Geise
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I always enjoy Thomas Sowell, so I was expecting to enjoy this book. However, I wasn't expecting it to be this amazing. I honestly think this is the best nonfiction book that I've ever read. Sowell does an amazing time weaving together lots of hard data into a coherent, fascinating story. He does this better than just about any writer out there.

Ethnic America is organized by ethnic group. Sowell takes on each ethnic group and discusses their history previous to coming to America and their transi
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Adios, America written by Ann Coulter right before Ethnic America and it was very interesting. I wont say much more but would highly recomend people do the same and read both books and take their own conclusions afterwards.
Imigration used to be okay but now, for the love of god, build that fucking wall already!
Mengmeng Chen
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very methodological book. Can be a rather quick read but I liked the similarities that can be drawn from the comparisons. Every race come to the US have a difficult time, and the difference in culture helps shape their economic and social change. Jewish, Italian, Chinese sections are the most memorable.
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
In Spanish for the benefit of Spaniards

Este libro es de los primeros grandes éxitos de este filósofo, historiador y economista americano. Con una facilidad que causa admiración el autor describe las sociedades que dieron origen a las múltiples migraciones a Estados Unidos. Explica sus rasgos más acusados, los compara, se adentra en las situaciones sociales y culturales que les hacen particulares: los cubanos, los asiáticos japoneses o chinos, los europeos, etc. Hace falta tener un conocimiento i
Maggie Allbee
I never read books more than once, but I have read this twice, and I will probably read it again. It is a fascinating book, perfect for someone who wants to learn about the major groups of immigrants to America. There's a chapter on the Germans, Irish, Jews, Italians, et al. Most books about immigration to America tell the story chronologically. Not this one. Each chapter is fully devoted to that ethnic group's story. This enables the reader to get a full, well-developed picture of what makes th ...more
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sowell does a good job of describing the immigration patterns into America and tying the immigrants' attitudes and ethics with the countries they came from, the reasons they came, and how their relative numbers influenced their lives here and how they were accepted (or not) by other groups already in America. From a genealogic point of view alone it was fascinating but I also learned a great deal about why certain ethic groups had more or less trouble become Americans (if that was even what they ...more
Dec 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I borrowed this book from the library when I was 16 and my parents were taking us on a family cruise.

I am so glad I read it when I did. It's a very frank sociological text of America's current (yet fading) 3rd rail, ethnicity. I had no idea the author was Black or a leading conservative pundit. I didn't even know anyone of the particular ethnicities that were referred to with frequency (I met my first Italian-American in college).

This weird, wonderful tapestry of our country was intriguingly cry
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scott Lind
This is another 5 star book from Thomas Sowell.
Sowell writes about ethnic groups in America. He dedicates a chapter to the Irish, Germans, Jews Italians Chinese, Japanese, Blacks, Puerto-ricans, and Mexicans. He illuminates how differences in behavior are best explained by the cultures and values of these ethnic groups. The immediate environment which included hardships and discrimination seems to have little influence on the behavior of these groups.

Sowell's writing does not sugarcoat the issu
Lisa (Harmonybites)
The book is a favorite of mine for its exploration of different ethnic groups and their story in America, their struggles and contributions: the Irish, the Germans, the Jews, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Blacks, the Puerto Ricans and the Mexicans. Anglo-Americans are not covered as not being "ethnic"--and neither are Native Americans for similar reasons--since they aren't immigrants but indigenous. It's funny though--one of the bits of information I remember best from this book i ...more
David R.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
A detailed sociological analysis of a variety of European, African, Asian, and American immigrant peoples to the United States. Sowell groups largely by nationality (e.g. Italians, Japanese, Mexicans) but makes notable exceptions for Jews, and for Africans and West Indians, which I found odd as he is himself of African descent. While the capsule summaries are insightful from a historical perspective, Sowell gets dangerously close to classifying by stereotype, perhaps unintentionally reinforcing ...more
Kathryn Muratore
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The history alone was so fascinating. The ethnic groups that are part of my heritage I appreciated in the way many are interested in their own ancestry. But I was also grabbed by the histories of other ethnicities.
Sowell's thesis is quite compelling - that each ethnic group brings strengths and weaknesses from its own culture, and these play an important role in their success in America. He uses several metrics, and draws parallels between each group's experience
Michael Tarpinian
Had not read it in almost 30 years. I think I was at Crown when I picked it up. Still one of my favorite economists.

The truth that American's are often made, not born is empowering and inspiring.

Northern Italians, who came here before southerners, saw themselves as a wholly different race and did not associate with them and wanted the US government to count them separately.

Sephardic (Spanish) Jews were first, then German Jews, then eastern European Jews came to the US. They did not get along
Oct 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most, if not most, level-headed books in cultural studies I have ever read. Documentation is profuse and his analysis is almost disturbingly objective. This is an admirable overview of nine major American ethnic groups. However, cultural studies is by its nature a slippery subject, one that favours the general over the individual, and so it makes me wary, even when expounded as intelligently as in this book. Cultural studies often becomes cultural determinism, thus leaving little room ...more
Thomas Achord
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, culture, race
Ethnic groups from all over the world flee to America where, despite its own evils and inequalities, they flourish better than their previous countries of origin. Accordingly, America has become home to entire cultures of larger and more prosperous ethnicities than other places in the world.

This book is an exercise in rational and careful examination, which reveals a reality more nuanced and wonderful than the broader strokes of popular news and academic sources. It could be retitled "A True Cel
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sowell meticulously traces the immigration of various ethnic groups into America, and the culture, patterns, attitudes, etc. that came with them, and how they changed over time. When attempting to determine why various outcomes occur, culture matters. "We do not live in the past, the past lives in us" pretty much sums up the book. The book is a bit dry at times and lacks the flare of Sowell's later books, but it's also less polemic. It was written in 1981 so is a bit dated. An update would be fa ...more
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more
More about Thomas Sowell...
“The United States as a whole is larger than the Roman Empire at its greatest expansion.” 1 likes
“The initial wealth of a group and its time of arrival are obviously important, as many wealthy “old families ” show, but the Jews arrived late and penniless in the nineteenth century and are now more affluent than any other ethnic group.” 1 likes
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