Regents Prep: U.S. History: Immigration & Migration:
Social Theories of Immigration
Introduction
Sociologists have identified a few major theories on how newly arrived immigrants integrate themselves into American society. Over time all new immigrants adopt some aspects of American culture and add something new.

"Melting Pot" Theory
 According to the Melting Pot Theory peoples from various cultures come to America and contribute aspects of their culture to create a new, unique American culture. The result is that contributions from many cultures are indistinguishable from one another and are effectively "melted" together.

Salad Bowl Theory
According to the Salad Bowl Theory there are times when newly arrived immigrants do not lose the unique aspects of their cultures like in the melting pot model, instead they retain them. The unique characteristics of each culture are still identifiable within the larger American society, much like the ingredients in a salad are still identifiable, yet contribute to the overall make up of the salad bowl. It is this theory that also accounts for the retention of the "something-American" hyphenation when identifying cultural identity. This theory is also referred to as pluralism.

Assimilation
Assimilation is the concept that eventually immigrants or their decedents adopt enough of the American culture that while they may retain aspects or traditions of their cultural heritage, they are identifiable as uniquely "American". Most if all of these cultural traditions (language, foods, etc..) have been replaced with "Americanized" traditions. 

Assimilation has proven difficult, even over multiple generations for African-Americans and other physically unique cultural groups.