Who Are the Most Successful Immigrants in the World?

(Photo: Damian Bariexca)

(Photo: Damian Bariexca)

This week’s episode was inspired by a conversation that Stephen Dubner had on an airplane. (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) He was on his way to South Africa when fellow passenger Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile, told him something remarkable: “If you look at ten or twenty or thirty of the richest countries around the world, among the richest people in those countries is someone from Lebanon.” Of course Taleb would say this, Dubner thought. He is Lebanese. But the idea stuck. And that’s what this week’s episode is about.

How successful is the Lebanese diaspora? And how did they get to be this way?

In the show, Dubner talks to his friend George Atallah, who works for the N.F.L. Players Association in Washington, D.C., and is Lebanese-American. He says his father, Georges Atallah, is pretty much a walking, talking Rolodex of Lebanese who’s-who. Not only does the senior Atallah know each and every person with even a hint of Lebanese ancestry, but he also tries to claim just about any successful person as kin.

GEORGE ATALLAH: I tell you, even athletes, he’ll look at [John Elway’s] name and he’ll say ‘John Elway is Lebanese.’ And I’ll say, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he goes, ‘Yes, Elway. The “Elloway” family. John Elway is Lebanese!’ We grew up with that all the time. He’s just the best when it comes to that stuff. You know, we take a lot of pride in our culture.

We tried, unsuccessfully, by the way, to verify John Elway’s heritage for the episode. We did, however, put Georges Atallah to the test. His knowledge of who in the world is Lebanese, or even part Lebanese (Carlos Slim, heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, Helen Thomas, Charles Elachi from JPL, Salma Hayek, Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, designer Elie Saab, Shakira, Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, even the guy who owns the bridge between Canada and Detroit) is, indeed, remarkable.

Also in the episode, Akram Khater, a historian at North Carolina State University, talks about why Lebanese immigrants have done so well around the world. Khater, director of the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies, points out how large the Lebanese diaspora is: while some 4.2 million people live in Lebanon today, there are an estimated 15-20 million people of Lebanese descent living outside of the country. Khater walks us through the reasons for this massive emigration (the crash of the silk market in the 19th century, a brutal civil war in the 20th). Interestingly, Nassim Taleb thinks it is this volatility that has helped make Lebanese emigres so successful:

NASSIM TALEB: The idea is that in a natural setting, anything natural, anything organic, anything biological, up to a point, reacts a lot better to stressors than without…A little bit of adversity results in a little bit more performance in anything.

Now, the story of immigrant success isn’t, of course, unique to the Lebanese. In the episode you’ll also learn which immigrant group has the highest rate of home ownership in the U.S., which immigrant group is the most educated, and which group can claim the most Nobel Prizes. Your next dinner party just got a bit more interesting. 

ADDENDUM: In the editing of this story, we omitted key parts of Akram Khater‘s interview — mischaracterizing his statements. Here is the unedited transcript of those passages:

KHATER: There are all sorts of stories that are told by immigrants themselves as well as about immigrants. For example, in the 1880s to 1920 the key story was religious persecution, that the Christians of Lebanon left because they were being persecuted by the Ottoman authorities who controlled the Middle East from the 1400s all the way to World War I. The reality is… Mount Lebanon…was historically… fairly quiet.

KHATER: I don’t know if I should say this, but you know, the truth of the matter is I took the women’s studies course because they told me there were a lot of girls in the class. When I first took it I really had no idea what women’s studies was all about. But I sat there and I remember the first lecture and from the first lecture I was hooked. It had this analytical power to it that explained this quite dramatically to me in many ways. And you know even as a kid in Lebanon, I remember having in the midst of the civil war a conversation with a group of friends of varying ages, all men, young boys to men, and asking a very simple question… why are girls treated different than boys. And the fact of the matter is nobody could explain it. You know, of course they’ll give youth usual tripe, but nobody could explain why, nobody could really give me a satisfactory answer. So I think in the back of my mind I always kind of wanted, had these kind of questions. I don’t want to make it sounds deep or anything, it was just, you know, curiosity, sort of seeing how society treats one gender different than the other and asking the question why and not being satisfied by biological answers or because that the way it is, or because that’s our culture. Those never seemed to me very satisfactory. So… the first lecture in my women’s studies course really was just so amazing. It was literally like when people talk about the stereotypical light bulb going off.

Audio Transcript

[MUSIC: Soulglue, “Steve McQueen” (from Arboretum)]

 

Stephen J. DUBNER: Once upon a time, I was on a plane with Nassim Taleb. He is a philosopher of sorts, and he writes fascinating books – most recently The Black Swan and Antifragile.

 

Nassim TALEB: Hello, I’m Nassim Taleb. I’m an author and I would say a statistical engineer.

 

DUBNER: Now, Taleb is originally from Lebanon, and he still goes back a few times a year. He lives just outside of New York City now. On this plane trip, he told me something I’d never heard before which was that if you look at ten or twenty or thirty of the richest countries around the world, that among the richest people in those countries is someone from Lebanon.

 

TALEB: When we met last we were going from London to South Africa on this beautiful trip with extremely hospitable people. It was great. And so we were going and then suddenly we started discussing the Lebanese diaspora....

 

DUBNER: And when he started talking about this, about how successful the Lebanese diaspora is, I had three quick reactions. 1: Interesting, if it’s true. 2. Is it true? And 3: If true, why?

 

[THEME]

 

[MUSIC: Fairuz, “Yes’ed Sabahak” (from Yes’ed Sabahak)]

 

ANNOUNCER: From WNYC: This is FREAKONOMICS RADIO. The podcast that explores the hidden side of everything. Here’s your host, Stephen Dubner.

 

DUBNER: So the author Nassim Taleb, who is Lebanese-American, tells us that the Lebanese diaspora has been incredibly successful, and he’s got some theories – some deep-seated historical theories – as to why that is. But before we get back to him, let’s take a closer look at the Lebanese community in the States, and elsewhere. We’ll start with a friend of mine, named George Atallah, Jr. Remember the Jr. George is 35 years old; he works for the N.F.L. Players’ Association. And, he too, is Lebanese-American.

 

DUBNER: Alright, so George if there was one person you could think of who could explain the mysteries of Lebanese prominence and prosperity around the world where would I go?

George ATALLAH JR: You’d have to talk to my dad. He is probably as encyclopedic a character as there is on the Lebanese community. You know my dad always used to tell me stories about, you know, and I will use his accent here, ‘the richest guy in Brazil is Lebanese. The most famous guy in Mexico is Lebanese.’

 

Georges ATALLAH SR: I mean, you have, you read his name Carlos Slim, Carlos is Lebanese.

 

Suzie LECHTENBERG: So I called George Atallah’s dad.

 

DUBNER: This is Suzie Lechtenberg. Hi Suzie.

 

LECHTENBERG: Hi.

 

DUBNER: She’s a producer on the show.

 

LECHTENBERG: He was in the midst of a lovely evening when I talked to him.

 

ATALLAH SR: I mean, I’m sitting by the balcony looking over Beirut and enjoying a nice glass of white wine.

 

LECHTENBERG: These days he splits his time between New York and Beirut. And basically he echoed much of what his son told you.

 

DUBNER: Okay, and we should just say that the Carlos Slim that he mentioned is not just the most famous guy in Mexico, but also the richest man in the world. So Suzie, tell me a bit more about the Atallah family.

 

LECHTENBERG: Right, so basically they emigrated to the United States after the civil war broke out in 1975.

 

ATALLAH SR: I left Lebanon in 1978...

 

ATALLAH JR: We made our home in Queens, New York.

 

ATALLAH SR: I was married with a three-month child.

 

DUBNER: Okay so that’s little George Atallah, Jr.

 

LECHTENBERG: Yep. And the family has this classic, boot-strap immigrant tale.

 

ATALLAH JR: My dad had a high school degree, my mom had a high school degree, neither of them went to college.

 

LECHTENBERG: The elder Atallah could only speak a few words of English when he arrived in the United States.

 

ATALLAH SR: My first language is French, my education is French.

 

LECHTENBERG: Even so, he became super successful. He got a job as a banker. And he started to build up his client base. And how did he do that? By opening a phone book and looking for Lebanese names.

 

ATALLAH JR: ...he looked through the white pages, found anybody’s name who sounded like it was Lebanese and called them up out of the blue.

 

DUBNER: So the idea is you have a Lebanese last name .... do you want to be my client at my bank?

 

LECHTENBERG: That’s right. And just by looking at their names, he could tell even more about them.

 

ATALLAH JR: So he recognized where the last names correlated with what parts of Lebanon they were from.

 

LECHTENBERG: Clearly, this guy knows a thing or two about Lebanese names.

 

DUBNER: Okay, so, when I talked to George Jr., he told me about his father’s intense pride in their heritage. And that whenever the name of any successful person comes up, George Sr. tries to claim that person as Lebanese. Is that actually true?

 

LECHTENBERG: That is definitely true. Are you ready?

 

DUBNER: Yeah, I’m ready.

 

LECHTENBERG: Okay, here goes:

 

[MUSIC: Greg Ruby, “Easy for You to Say” (from Look Both Ways)]

 

ATALLAH SR: You have so many, you have so many successful people. You have Casey Kasem, Jamie Farr. Have you heard of Jamie Farr?

 

[M*A*S*H* SOUND EFFECT]

 

DUBNER: Yeah, right, Corporal Klinger, right on M*A*S*H*, guy who is always trying to get a Section 8.

 

LECHTENBERG: Now I know Jamie Farr. You know who else is Lebanese?

 

DUBNER: Who else is Lebanese?

 

LECHTENBERG: Everyone else! Like Marlo Thomas.

 

ATALLAH SR: Yeah, Marlo, she’s the daughter of Danny.

 

LECHTENBERG: Also Helen Thomas, the former White House correspondent.

 

ATALLAH SR: Yeah, Helen, Helen, sure, Helen Thomas is Lebanese, no question.

 

DUBNER: Nice. Who else?

 

ATALLAH SR: George Mitchell is part Lebanese. Tony Shalhoub is Lebanese, yes.

 

[MONK SOUND EFFECT]

 

DUBNER: I love Tony Shalhoub. From Monk. Great actor. All right, Suzie, who else?

 

LECHTENBERG: Well…

 

ATALLAH SR: John Sununu, Spencer Abraham...The first governor of Oregon, was Atiyeh, Governor Atiyeh, very successful...The one who started Kinko’s is Lebanese...Salma Hayek, she’s Mexican-Lebanese...the heart surgeon DeBakey... Carlos Ghosn...Joe Haagar...Khalil Gibran... Elie Saab...You have one famous scientist also with NASA, but I don’t know his name. And who owns the bridge between Canada and Detroit? He’s a Lebanese guy, Moroun. Google!

 

DUBNER: So, George Atallah Jr. was right. His dad does try to claim just about everyone as Lebanese -- even if they might not be.

 

ATALLAH JR: I mean tell you even athletes he’ll look at his name and he’ll say John Elway is Lebanese. And I’ll say what are you talking about, and he goes yes, Elway the Elway family. And we grew up with that all the time. He’s just the best when it comes to that stuff. And you know we take a lot of pride in our culture.

 

DUBNER: Was anybody in your father’s view not Lebanese?

 

ATALLAH JR: Some people were. Yes.

 

DUBNER: Give me an example of someone who plainly couldn’t be…

 

ATALLAH JR: Well even my Irish principal, Mr. Healy, at one point was considered to be Lebanese. So, and he was clearly not.

[MUSIC: Spencer Garn, “Deco Nuevo”]

 

DUBNER: As for John Elway? The truth is, we don’t know. His name is listed on a website of prominent Lebanese-Americans -- but when we tried to ask him directly via the Denver Broncos, where he starred as quarterback and is now an executive, we didn’t get an answer. Whatever the case with John Elway: I do understand the Atallah family’s pride in all things Lebanese. But just think of the successful Italians and Irish and Swedes in this country. Couldn’t we make a big list from any of them? Did you know that Nigerians are one of the most educated immigrant groups in America? Did you know that Slovaks have the highest rate of homeownership? And look at the Jews. Jews make up less than .2% of the global population but more than 20% of all Nobel Prize winners are Jewish. So, is the Lebanese diaspora really that successful?

 

Akram KHATER: It’s very difficult to sort of say across the board that they were the most successful diaspora.

 

DUBNER: Akram Khater is a professor of Middle Eastern history at North Carolina State University. He moved here from Lebanon in 1978, during a long and brutal civil war. While Khater tells us that the Lebanese may not be the most successful diaspora, the data show that, at least in the U.S., they are doing pretty well.

 

KHATER: There’s no doubt that if you look at the statistics today, and this is from the census, the Lebanese community, on average, they actually do seem to have in terms of economic measures on average bigger houses, they’re more professional in terms of their employment, they have better income. So if one is to take that as a measure then they are fairly highly successful, yes.

 

DUBNER: In the U.S., median household income is about fifty thousand dollars. For Lebanese-Americans? Sixty-five thousand dollars. Pretty impressive. So, what else?

 

KHATER: What you find on average is that in terms of Ph.D’s there are usually as many as three Lebanese-Americans with Ph.Ds to every one sort of general population American who has a Ph.D. So they’re really a much higher rate. In terms of Master’s you see a much higher rate, about 2.4 to 1, and a bachelor’s degree it’s a little bit lower than that. So I think you will find the most Lebanese-Americans, and really actually, by the way, most Arab Americans tends to be more highly educated than the general population.

 

[MUSIC: J-Hype, “Isley”]

 

DUBNER: So if Lebanese-Americans are doing so well, the next logical question is:

why? Coming up on Freakonomics Radio: what makes the Lebanese do what the Lebanese are so good at doing?

 

TALEB: A little bit of adversity results in a little more performance in anything.

 

[UNDERWRITING]

 

ANNOUNCER: From WNYC: This is FREAKONOMICS RADIO. Here’s your host, Stephen Dubner.

 

[MUSIC: Jessica Lurie, “Pudding” (from Zipa Buka! Watch Out Noise)]

 

DUBNER: Everyone we talked to for this episode had an opinion as to why the Lebanese diaspora is so successful. Georges Atallah Sr. thinks that success simply courses through their veins.

 

ATALLAH SR: You know, it may be in their genes. Lebanese has in his blood, he’s hard-working, he likes to improve his life, and he has some network that he can count on. If he wants to go into business, I mean he can call a cousin in Brazil or a sister in Africa or whatever. So the network is very important. Plus, he blends in society, and adapts very well.

DUBNER: And here’s his son, also George, who works for the N.F.L. Players Association.

 

ATALLAH JR: We tend to trace it back to the folklore of our Phoenician merchant days. All of that’s part of our history. And I think we pride ourselves on our relationship with people. That’s really what I would attribute it to.

 

[MUSIC: Vunt Foom, “Grease” (from Sub Valve Release)]

 

DUBNER: Akram Khater, the historian at N.C. State, pinpoints two pivotal moments in Lebanese history. The country had two major waves of emigration. The first ran from about 1880 to 1920.

 

KHATER: The Christians of Lebanon left because they were  being persecuted by the Ottoman authorities.

 

DUBNER: But religious persecution was just one reason.

 

KHATER: The reality is the predominant reason they left is economic. And specifically what happened in that time period is that the Lebanese economy had become very dependent on silk production.

 

DUBNER: Khater says a crash in the silk market drove people into poverty and, subsequently, out of the country. The next exodus came during Lebanon’s civil war, which began in 1975. Forty-percent of the population left the country.

 

KHATER: And basically the violence led to severe economic difficulties and instabilities between 1975 and 1990. So what you find is that these university graduates were sitting there trying to figure out what to do and they could not find jobs, so they would leave.

DUBNER: So these highly educated middle-class Lebanese fled to places like Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the U.S., South Africa and Australia. Which is what leads us to one of the most interesting things about the Lebanese diaspora.

 

KHATER: If you look at the diaspora community, with these two waves that I spoke about, the 1880 to 1920, we think somewhere around 360,000 left from that time period. And if you sort of multiple by about three or four generations, I mean, you can’t really get an accurate number, but by three or four generations you’re looking at about, maybe 2 to 3 million globally. Then of course from 1975 forward you have another 1.7 million that left. So ostensibly there are at least as many Lebanese outside of Lebanon as there are within Lebanon.

 

[MUSIC: The Mackrosoft, “Bolero” (from The Dawning of the Aja Aquarius)]

 

DUBNER: There are roughly 4.2 million people living in Lebanon today. We’ve seen estimates that as many as 15-20 million people of Lebanese descent live outside of the country. And when they leave, Lebanese stick together. They network. They work hard. They place a lot of emphasis on education, which segues into highly skilled, and highly paid jobs.

 

KHATER: I think what you find is the two major areas are engineering and medicine. Those are sort of for myself speaking personally I’m part of the 1970, post 1975…I came here in 1978. And at the time I was attending high school, basically every good Lebanese boy, every good Arab boy really had to be a doctor or an engineer. Those were the two venues of success. Those were your entry points into middle and upper middle class. That’s how you would succeed.

 

DUBNER: Akram Khater did become an engineer. But he was also interested in the humanities. He studied history and, somewhat unusually, women’s studies. He is in fact the only double-major in engineering and women’s studies we’ve ever come across.

 

KHATER: I don’t know. I have to be quite honest, and I don’t know if I should say this, but you know, the truth of the matter is I took the women’s studies course because they told me there were a lot of girls in the class.

[MUSIC: Soulglue, “Reggaeesque” (from Arboretum)]

 

DUBNER: So the Lebanese success story really does seem to be about a certain kind of entrepreneurial spirit. But Nassim Taleb says it’s more than that. Taleb, you remember, is where we began this episode. He’s a Lebanese-American author, most recently of a book called Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder. In his view, Lebanon itself and the Lebanese have, in some ways, gained from disorder.

 

TALEB: The idea that in a natural setting, anything natural, anything organic, anything biological up to a point reacts a lot better to stressors than without. So in other words, now for example, I’m talking to you now on this line. If the line has some noise on it, a little bit of mess here and there, and there’s a little bit of noise, then the listeners will grasp the message a lot better and remember it longer. A little bit of adversity results in things, a little bit of strain, of stress, results in a little more performance on anything.

 

DUBNER: Explain in the case of the phone line why that is.

 

TALEB: You switch from what Daniel Kahneman calls system one to system two. One system where you’re passive and not making an effort to an effortful one. And that switch takes place via a stressor. You prune a tree it grows stronger, you see. It’s the same kind of response in a different domain. And when you and I were on a plane the conversation was definitely about this “antifragile” reaction by people who when they face adversity, exile, they tend to fare better when we go to… And then we got to South African and sure enough the Lebanese diaspora there is very small but monstrously successful.

 

DUBNER: Alright, let me ask you this then, we had the Ottoman Empire collapse and the Levant became Lebanon and Syria. And things changed politically there. Then a very bad civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s, a lot more emigration. And now, the situation in Lebanon is changing daily as we speak. It’s rather chaotic with Hezbollah...

 

TALEB: It’s not chaotic. It’s not chaotic. Let me tell you something because I go to Lebanon several time a year, I have a place there in my village, which incidentally, I have a chapter in Antifragile where what I do is a very comparative analysis. I went to Abu Dhabi and they were building these universities hoping to get the people, you know, to have their industrial revolution. And then I went to my home village that had been destroyed during the war and is now richer than ever. I see a bunch of villas and then realize the value of stressors. So, Lebanon has... you’re in the news business, you know...the news are not about…

 

DUBNER: The anomalies.

 

TALEB: The anomalies, it’s about the lurid. So if you take the homicide rate in Lebanon including the few problems that we’ve had it’s still considerably lower than the United States and vastly lower than Brazil. So it’s much more stable than we think. Now, the other thing about being “antifragile,” Lebanon has gone through war. I think it has some immunity to war because every time you think the whole thing is going to collapse like in Syria, nothing happens. And effectively in The Black Swan I was warning pseudo-stability, Syria, the more you stabilize, the more a place seems non-chaotic like today Saudi Arabia, tomorrow is going to have problems. Or look at Egypt, it looked very stable. Lebanon on the other had is continuous fear of chaos and yet is very stable. If you forget the news and look on the ground you see a remarkable stability. Even prosperity in spite of everything.

 

[MUSIC: Soulglue, “Broken” (from Arboretum)]

 

DUBNER: So in Taleb’s view, the Lebanese people have developed an inner stability -- an inner drive to succeed, even -- because of a “continued fear of chaos.” As interesting as you may find his thesis, you may also be tempted to argue with it. There are plenty of countries where chaos and war didn’t leave behind a population that was ready to take on the world. Quite the opposite, in fact. But the success of Lebanese immigrants around the world is, indeed, something to admire. We should also note, however, that when we talk about the success of one or another group of immigrants, we should focus on one key component of that equation: these were people who emigrated. Here, again, is North Carolina State historian Akram Khater:

 

KHATER: The first thing I would say is that anybody who immigrates is already a self-selecting population. In other words, when you makes the decision, and this kind of goes on a larger notion. Our understanding of immigration is of these sort of desperate souls that are sort of clinging to lifeboats and arriving here and just that’s it. It’s a very nice narrative, but it’s a false narrative. In fact, most people whether we’re talking about the Great Migration of the nineteenth century or the current migration, Hispanics and what have you, they don’t come here beyond the fact that most of them, the great majority of them come here to make money with the full intention of going back, by the way. And if you look at the rate of return in the nineteenth century, the Great Migration period, whether you’re talking about Germans with 80 percent return rate, or Northern Italians with about 60 percent, or Southern Italians with 30 percent, or even the Lebanese with about 37 percent. These people came here, they uprooted themselves from their culture, from their family, the familiar world that they exist in, many of them, especially in the turn of the twentieth century many of them with not even a word of English. And you know it’s a little bit better. But still people are arriving in this whole new alien place in which they had to adjust in all sorts of ways. They’re coming here specifically to make money. So it takes a particularly kind of individual to do that. It takes somebody who is already self-selecting. So you’re looking at a population that has, you know, has the tools, the sort of entrepreneurial, adventurous, pioneering spirit, personality, mentality. And so that already prepares them to undertake this incredibly risky process, investment if you will. I must hasten to add, by the way, that not everybody succeeded.

 

[MUSIC: Soulglue, “Steve McQueen” (from Arboretum)]

 

DUBNER: It’s a great point that Khater makes. When you look at a big group of people, or a big pile of data, our attention is often captured by the bright, shiny success stories. And we forget about everyone that failed. This is sometimes called survivorship bias. Let’s say I were to ask you to name a “high-tech company that started in a garage,” what company comes to mind? Depending on your age, you might say Apple or, Hewlett-Packard. But what about the thousands and thousands of other people who started tech companies in their garages -- and who failed? They are pretty much forgotten. So the fact that you are alive to listen to this program means that someone, somewhere in your family tree, survived. Maybe they beat some long odds; maybe the escaped a war or an economic depression -- or a saber-tooth tiger out for lunch. In any case: congratulations. And, if you also happen to be Lebanese? Hey, double congratulations.

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  1. pete says:

    I dont think its just lebanese are the only diaspora that is very successfull. I am a south asian, most of the friends that I have are either engineers, Accountants(CPA), PHDs, Pharmacists or works for some of the really good companies like Amazon, Microsoft,Oracle, E&Y etc. I went to one of the best school back home and most of the students from my school are here in US and are very successfull. I think most of the students or Immigrants who end up in US are cream of crops.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 65 Thumb down 67
    • Jad says:

      Lebanese are smart and beautiful and we know it. Yalla, that’s why we rock.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 121 Thumb down 37
    • jules says:

      successful

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 7
    • Fadi says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 38
    • Nick says:

      The difference that makes the Lebanese immigrant story so remarkable is that Lebanon is only the size of Los Angeles and has had such an influence on the world.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 79 Thumb down 6
    • Pete, don’t be envious please. We don’t look nor want to be the best. It just happens.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3
    • Matthew Francis says:

      Pete, the fact is we are auccessful everywhere, not just the US. Check out Brazil, Canada, North Africa and even Australia.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
    • Basil says:

      South Asia has what 2 if not 3 billion people, there are less that 4 million Lebanese living in Lebanon Peter, this is why this point that Lebanese diaspora is so very successful is so very compelling and worth recognizing and analyzing….

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. SAH says:

    I have to say “Thank you” to everyone who contributed to this episode, Lebanese and Non-Lebanese, immigrant and non-immigrant. I was truly moved by all the speakers and this leaves me with no choice but to hold on to my Lebanese identity, no matter where in the world I am. The success stories highlighted in this episode not only inspired me but also put me under so much pressure to become a Lebanese hero, not necessarily for fame or money, but for true honor. A big shout-out to my all brothers and sisters.

    - SAH

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  3. Angelique says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. JGW says:

    You mentioned a on this podcast: something like 2% of the population is Jewish, but 20% of Nobel Laureates are Jewish. This of course, was presented as a positive thing, presumably demonstrating that Jews achieve highly at high rates.

    But, when one hears similar statistics cited about income gaps for minorities or incarceration rates for black males (cited, of course, as negative things), one infers from the context that the statistics demonstrate societal or systemic bias against the disadvantaged groups.

    Why the difference in inferrence?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 54 Thumb down 3
    • M. Strom says:

      I think there is a big difference in how and why a diaspora was formed and how the people were treated once they got to the new country. If we compare blacks and Jews, as the two groups you mention, we see that Jews came to the US mainly in the late 19th/early 20th Century, and the ones who came were for the most part sent by their families as the one who was likely to succeed. jgarbuz below has a good analysis of the development of a merchant class diaspora that was successful in trade.

      Blacks, on the other hand, were captured and brought to the New World as slaves. In slavery, their religion was not respected, their families were torn apart, their traditional skill were either unnecessary or forbidden, and they were denied education in the skills needed to get by in the Western world. All this over a period of about 200 years – enough generations to create a culture. So I don’t think Jews are naturally more intelligent than blacks, but I think that the generations of diaspora for the Jews have led to a culture that increases academic and business success, while the generations of slavery have created a culture of low family values and educational success that will take at least as long to break as it took to build.

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      • Anil Akbar says:

        Although i agree with your opinion, I can’t help but notice the fact that media and entertainment companies are hellbent upon celebrating the “rebellious or Thug” culture which they propose as the “Cool” lifestyle… which basically can translate into a potentially disastrous situation for the black communities living in the states and elsewhere. Since a culture formed by years of slavery is one thing but a celebration of that culture by the media and other races is potentially disastrous for the community in the long run. One should however note that this is a relatively new phenomena.

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      • Reggie Noble says:

        @Anil Akbar

        America has ALWAYS celebrated the gangster lifestyle going back to the days of “The Untouchables” “The Godfather” “The Sopranos”, etc. . . Even part of Frank Sinatra’s appeal was that he was friends with gangsters and came from that.

        America has consistently celebrated the violence of the urban poor, be they Italians, Jews, Irish, etc. . .

        There is no difference.

        That’s why Al Capone, John Gotti, and John Dillanger are cultural icons in America. Matter of fact, before Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan showed up to Chicago in the 1980s, Chicago was mostly known as “Al Capone’s Town”.

        The “disasterous situation” for the Black community is the Prison Industrial Complex which has taken millions of Black men out of their homes, thus leaving children without a father. “The War on Drugs”, which has created warzones out of America’s inner cities, much the same way that prohibition did in poor European ethnic communities in the 1920s.

        And hundreds of years of wealth having been stolen from the Black community through slavery and the colonization of Africa

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  5. James says:

    Seems to me this is largely an artifact of selection. Take every person who had one great-grandparent who emigrated from Lebanon a century ago, define them as “Lebanese”, and that’s a considerable number of people. Now pick out the successful ones from that group, and you have your supposed successful Lebanese. Except that you could probably repeat the same selection process with any immigrant group.

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  6. jgarbuz says:

    Starting thousands of years ago, the major “diasporas” were either adventurers, traders, explorers or people forced to leave their homelands due to occupation or repression. Some of the earliest diasporas in the western world were Phoenicians, Greeks, and Jews. Most Lebanese are either or Phoenician stock or descendents of western crusaders, and some combination thereof.
    Since most diasporas did not get to own land, so they mostly became traders or merchants or “entrepreneurs” as we now call them. Some merchants who became wealthier were able to educate their children so that they became doctors or other professionals. In the case of Jews, literacy was always important and study of the Law was central, so that universal literacy among Jews was instrumental in their survival and sometimes spectacular successes. But there is no secret to the success of many immigrant groups. They know how they have to work hard. They know they will not easily get better jobs, so they often go into some kind of small business when they get the chance. They often initially do business with their own kind, out of necessity.
    Now those immigrant groups that come directly from farms, and have no strong tradition of literacy and education, naturally go to farm work or construction. Primary examples are the Mexican migrants.
    So the degree of quick success of any immigrant group depends on its (1) literacy rate; (2) its entrepreneural experiences from the “old country” and their ability to get some help from their kinsmen in the new country; (3) their expectations that only hard, tireless work and total focus on their businesses is the only way to keep from sinking deep into poverty from which they know from their old country, there is little hope of escape once mired in the muck.

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  7. Fritz Eco says:

    I know a lot of Lebanese and they remind me of the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. They will try to find a way to connect anything good to Lebanese and find a way to make anything Lebanese seem good. I am sure this pride is good. But can’t the same be said of any group if you just work hard enough on trying to connect to good?

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  8. Luke says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Sjn says:

      despite everything that happens in lebanon , its the most amazing country
      ive been travelling all over and trust me nothing is like lebanon!
      ppl will stay no matter what

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      • Tom says:

        I am Lebanese and let me tell you. Lebanese are the most delusional group of people especially the older generation who lived in time of prosperity in Lebanon. Immigrants are successful in general because of a selection bias. The successful ones travel to improve their lives. To compare Lebanese immigrants income to non immigrants is not only inaccurate but surprisingly naive of an economics reporter. You need to compare it to another group of immigrants where there was mass migration. If Lebanese were so successful, Lebanon would have been better. Delusion can sometimes be contagious

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    • NPPPPPPPP says:

      Lebanon has beauty that cannot be seen unless you have already been. The heat is lustfull, the barting is history and future, and every where you turn, the golden-sun rocks would marvel at your feet, making a picture of a small mountain with every side

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