Is It Sometimes Justifiable for a Man to Beat His Wife?

Americans have sharply different views of gender equality compared to residents of some immigrant-sending countries

By Jason Richwine on September 12, 2016

Part of Donald Trump's "extreme vetting" proposal may include a test for whether potential immigrants conform to American views on the rights of women. How important is such a test?

While no one will be surprised that traditional societies are less likely to favor gender equality than First World countries such as the United States, the sheer size of the differences can be striking. The three figures below use questions from the World Values Survey to illustrate the disparities. All of the comparison nations are developing countries that have sent at least 100,000 immigrants to the United States as of 2014.

There are obviously very large gaps in public opinion here, with the tolerance of wife-beating in foreign nations being especially troubling. Even assuming a generous amount of assimilation, it's not hard to imagine that immigrants from traditional societies could cause social friction when they carry their traditional cultures with them to the United States.

Of course, immigrants are rarely a cross-section of a sending nation's population. Indian immigrants to the United States, for example, are a famously educated and cosmopolitan group pulled mainly from India's upper classes. Indian-Americans clearly do not hold the same social views as typical residents of India. Nevertheless, there is no rule that says immigrants will always self-select based on their belief in American values. This is particularly a concern for refugees, since they are understandably more interested in just finding a safe place to live than they are in searching for a country that fits their values.

As the immigrant share of the U.S. population continues to increase, ethnic enclaves will limit the power of assimilation to smooth over the cultural differences. That's why wishful thinking is not enough. If Americans want to avoid taking in immigrants with social views far out of the First World mainstream, then immigration law should reflect that preference.