New York has always been a city for strivers, where hard work and wit led to success. Contrary to Mayor-elect de Blasio’s whining about the gap between rich and poor and the high cost of housing and the humiliation of young black and Hispanic men by the police, the city is still doing just what it is supposed to do. The proof is the success of Asian immigrants.
There has been considerable hand-wringing during the past few years about “lack of diversity” in the eight public high schools that require written exams. Asians are 14% of the public school population, but 50% of the elite high school population (the same proportion applies to Hunter College’s free public high school). By and large the Asian entrants are the children of working-class immigrants who pay extra tuition to prepare them for the entrance exams.
The NAACP has filed a complaint against the school system demanding racial quotas. The same concern for those “left behind” motivated the open admissions program in the City University system in 1969, which nearly ruined the system until CUNY found a way to shunt the underperformers into the community college system. (See chart at bottom of page.)
Asian immigrants are changing the face of New York, and for the better. My own solidly middle-class neighborhood in Manhattan is slowly becoming Asian, as the successful children of the last generation of Asian immigrants reach the income levels to buy Manhattan apartments–not the plutocrats’ pads on Park Avenue to the west of my corner of the island, but still within walking distance of many of the city’s best-known private schools. A few years before, Russians began moving in to our neighborhood from Brooklyn. Their kids also are hugely overrepresented in the city’s elite high schools.
The inequality argument is idiotic, as the London Economist (no voice of conservatism) pointed out on November 9th:
Their city is indeed staggeringly unequal; but that is partly a consequence of its success. It attracts both high earners (who like working with other brainy folk) and penniless immigrants (who like the job opportunities and the fact that you can get around without a costly car). A financial centre with good public transport will always be unequal. Bashing the rich will not change that, and it may make things worse.
New York needs its plutocrats. The top 1% of its taxpayers fork out a whopping 43% of the income taxes; if they leave, public services will suffer. Mr de Blasio’s supporters scoff at the idea that wealthy Manhattanites will quit the dazzling metropolis for dull Connecticut. They note that his proposed tax increase is modest (from 3.9% to 4.4% on incomes above $500,000) and must be approved by lawmakers. True, but the top marginal rate (including federal, state and city taxes) is already a stiff 55% or so. And taxes are not the only issue.
If you want to provide public services to a lot of poor people, you need a lot of rich people to pay taxes. And if you provide such services, immigrants will pour in, and the most diligent and cleverest of them will fight for the available spots in the best schools. We’re seeing the fruits of New York’s success every day. There’s nothing wrong with New York that a million Asian immigrants wouldn’t fix really fast.