Research into the mental health of immigrants has been a significant subspecialty of psychiatry for almost 100 years. Odegaard could be considered one of the founding fathers of this subspecialty. In his famous 1932 paper “Emigration and Insanity,” he notes that Norwegian immigrants to the United States have higher rates of “insanity.” He argues that this can be explained by the selective migration of “weak” people from Norway, as evidenced by histories of poor social adaption prior to migration. This hypothesis reflected popular beliefs at the time that European immigrants (especially those from Southern and Eastern Europe) to the United States were predisposed to “insanity” and other forms of “weakness” such as alcoholism. Unfortunately, these popular beliefs were somewhat perpetuated by significant figures within mainstream psychology and psychiatry, backed up by dubious empirical and theoretical scholarship. As cogently argued by Stephen Jay Gould, this was used to justify...
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