You Can’t Have Denmark Without Danes What a small, happy country can teach a huge and fractious one. And what it can’t.

Megan McArdle:

Danish social cohesion works great for Danes. It’s not so great, though, at doing another thing modern advanced economies need: Absorbing outsiders.

In the U.S., the unemployment rate of foreign-born workers is almost a percentage point lower than that of native-born citizens. In Denmark, it’s almost 6 percentage points higher, more than double the native-born rate. And many first-generation immigrants also seem to be having difficulty integrating themselves into the Danish economy.

There are many possible explanations for this, including discrimination. But the most prevalent is that Denmark’s system, so functional for Danes, throws up a lot of barriers to assimilation.

“In a Danish shop you expect a shop assistant to be highly trained,” said Agerup, the think-tank liberal. “In the U.S. you expect a lower level of knowledge.” To give one small example, every restaurant server I encountered in Denmark spoke English.

Some of the low-skilled jobs that immigrants often do in the U.S. either have been eliminated in Denmark, or made more productive and better compensated by requiring a higher level of skill. Or they’re being done by workers from poorer EU countries who don’t qualify for Danish benefits. And the Danish re-employment system has so far proved poor at adapting to deal with the country’s now-sizable immigrant population.