The point about the melting pot, the authors note, is that it did not happen—at least not in New York or in other parts of America that much resemble New York. The principal ethnic groups of the city have maintained a distinct, if changing, identity from generation to generation. One group is not like another, and these differences, particularly where religious and cultural values are involved, are matters of choice as well as of heritage—deliberate new creations in the new country as much as perpetuations of traditional values from the old.
In the tradition of Gunnar Myrdal and Oscar Handlin, this book discusses soberly and with full candor the differing levels of achievement of the five groups—in education, business, and politics. It shows how cultural inhibitions and reinforcements have affected school performance, choice of career, recreation patterns, choice of neighborhood, political and commercial power in the city's history.