Nations of Immigrants: Do Words Matter?

The Pluralist 5 (3):5-31 (2010)
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Perhaps it is unfair, but I often ask my undergraduate students a trick question. The question is "What country in the world, in the year 2000, had the highest proportion of foreigners living on its national territory?" It is probably no surprise that the largest number of them answer "the United States." When asked to explain, the least articulate students give the most revealing responses. They tend to report, accurately, that "everyone knows that the United States is a 'nation of immigrants.'"Students are then surprised to learn that the correct answer to the question is not the United States but the United Arab Emirates, where 85 percent of the resident population in 2000 was foreign-born and where most.



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