THE assimilation of hundreds of thousands of aliens every year undoubtedly produces social and political effects worthy of close study, which are overlooked by some and exaggerated by others.
The subject of the illiteracy of immigrants brings us naturally to the question of illiteracy at home, and statistics show many remarkable things in this connection. The illiteracy of the United States as a whole is something over eleven per cent., while the percentage of illiteracy among immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France or Germany is 4 per cent, or less.
Another fact demonstrated by statistics is that in the states which receive a great proportion of aliens every year, the percentage of illiteracy is low, while in the states where the percentage of foreigners is lowest, as in Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, the percentage of illiteracy for the state is very high.
The question of illiteracy in our own country is largely a question of presence or absence of schools, and statistics show that the immigrants go to the states which have the best common school system and are thus best fitted to reduce their illiteracy. The fact that illiteracy in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts has decreased in spite of the thousands of aliens received every year, speaks well not only for the public school system of these states, but also for the adaptability of the immigrant and his desire for education.
Thus it will be seen from the tables given below that, although illiteracy is high among the foreign born in cities as compared with native whites, the native white children of foreign born parents compare favorably with children of the native white. In regard to percentage of illiteracy and school attendance, Table I. shows that the illiteracy of the foreign born is reduced in one generation, as shown by the native children of foreign parents, from 12.9 per cent, to 1.6 per cent. It also shows that the native children of foreign parents have a much lower percentage of illiteracy than the native whites of native parentage.
Table II. shows that a greater percentage of native white children of foreign parentage attend school between the ages of five and fourteen, than of native whites of native parentage. Table III. shows that