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Book reviews -- The Illusion of Difference: Realities of Ethnicity in Canada and the United States by Jeffrey G. Reitz and Raymond Breton
Yinger, J MiltonSocial ForcesChapel Hill: Mar 1995.Vol.73, Iss. 3;  pg. 1182, 2 pgs
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Locations: United States,  US,  Canada
Author(s): Yinger, J Milton
Document types: Book Review-Favorable
Publication title: Social Forces. Chapel Hill: Mar 1995. Vol. 73, Iss. 3;  pg. 1182, 2 pgs
Source type: Periodical
ISSN/ISBN: 00377732
ProQuest document ID: 1795700
Text Word Count 485
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Full Text (485   words)
Copyright University of North Carolina Press Mar 1995

The Illusion of Difference: Realities of Ethnicity in Canada and the United States.

By Jeffrey G. Reitz and Raymond Breton. C.D. Howe Institute, Observation 37, 1994. 154 pp. Paper, $12.95.

Reviewer: J. MILTON YINGER, Oberlin College

Are two democratic industrial societies with large and diverse immigrant populations likely to have similar patterns of ethnic relations? Or do different histories and cultural influences have the major impact, creating important differences?

Professors Reitz and Breton are primarily concerned with minority groups of immigrants and their descendants. Drawing on General Social Surveys, surveys by Decima Research Ltd., Gallup polls, census reports, and other data sources, they examine attitudes, government policies, levels of discrimination, levels of cultural retention, the extent of economic incorporation of minorities, and the trends on these and other topics.

The authors start out by asking: "Is multiculuralism in Canada a reality, or is it largely a myth? The idea that Canada is a "cultural mosaic" and, as such, fundamentally different from the American "melting pot" is one of he beliefs about Canada most widely held among Canadians." This belief, when carefully examined, has a large mythic element--as does the belief in an American melting pot--but it is sustained, the authors observe, as a way of reaffirming Canadian independence from is southern neighbor, ten times as populous.

In fact, judging by opinion polls, the U.S. population is somewhat more favorable to cultural retention than the Canadian population. The two societies have rather similar rates of decline in the more obvious expressions of prejudice, similar slow reductions in discrimination, and - more recently similar increases in opposition to the high levels of immigration. he Canadian rate, on a per capita basis, is one-and-a half times that of the U.S.)

Reitz and Breton develop a number of subtle interaction effects among cultural, demographic, political, and attitudinal factors, although the discussions are rather informal, reflecting, I believe, their belief that the answer to both of the questions with which I started this review is "yes."

Although there are some references to African Americans and French Canadians--two minority groups with sharply differing relationships to their countries - the ways in which these vastly important ethnic groups affect the whole system of ethnic relations in their respective lands is not explored, with one exception: French Canadians are less supportive of cultural diversity (within Quebec) than are other Canadians. This reflects the urgent desire, in the authors' view, to protect the language and culture o the three-quarters of the Quebecois who are French Canadian. The experience and responses of the 30 million Americans of African ancestry are also of great importance for the whole structure of ethnic relations in the U.S. Levels of prejudice and discrimination are examined in Illusions of Difference, but it would equally be of value to discuss their effects on American politics, on the treatment and responses of other minorities, and on the ideology of the melting pot.

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