Subfield Exam: Immigration and Stratification Theory

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Subfield Exam: Immigration and Stratification

1. Theory (Various Sorts)

Date: 09.29.2011

Title: International Migration

Author: Brown, SK and Frank Bean

Source: Chapter 12 in Handbook of Population ed. by Poston & Micklin

Category and Keyword: International Migration, Movements of People, Migration


  • Examine International Migration


  • Table 12.1

    • 75 million foreign born in world and in 2000 = 175 million (UN)

  • Table 12.2

    • Shows North America has more migrants from 1995 to 2000 than any continent


  • While it is always difficult to ascertain whether policy or social and economic forces are more important in affecting immigration flows and patterns, it is crucial to recognize the fundamental importance of both kinds of influence.

  • Neoclassical Economists:

    • Neoclassical economists envision migration as stemming from macro level imbalances between countries (or areas) in the supply of and demand for labor and the resultant wage differences these disequilibria generate (Harris and Todaro 1970).

    • Migration is thus conceptualized to represent an investment strategy for individuals to maximize their returns to labor power. Migrants thus calculate their expected wages over their ‘‘time horizon,’’ or expected lengths of stay at their destinations (Borjas 1990).

    • By moving to countries with better schools and more developed labor markets, migrants tend both to enhance their investment in human capital and to increase the likely return to that investment. Thus, human capital theory explains why countries like the United States attract so many well-educated migrants and cause a ‘‘brain drain’’ from other countries (Massey et al., 1998).

  • New Economic Theories:

    • Some theorists (for example, Stark 1991; Taylor, Martin, and Fix 1997) have amended microeconomic theories by emphasizing the intersection of labor market factors and family/household variables in affecting migration decisions and by incorporating the notion of minimizing risk along with maximizing earnings. This perspective also predicts that social rank, relative income, and potential for social mobility will influence migration.

    • For example, Taylor and associates (1997, 1994) have emphasized that not only lower average wages but also greater social and economic inequality in Mexico stimulate migration to the United States.

    • Some Mexican households are ‘‘transnational’’ in the sense that they send members to the United States on a relatively permanent basis to earn supplemental income, while other members remain in the home community where the remittances are invested (Roberts, Bean, and Lozano-Ascencio 1999).

  • Labor Market Segmentation Theory:

    • Explains the two different types of migrants that come to the U.S.

    • In contrast to economic approaches, labor market segmentation theories emphasize how social stratification variables affect migration. Dual labor market theory envisions firms and their employees as stratified into primary and secondary sectors. The primary sector meets ‘‘basic demand’’ in the economy and consists of larger, better established firms that provide more capital-intensive, better-paying jobs. The secondary sector, by contrast, meets fluctuating or seasonal demand and relies primarily on lower-paid, labor-intensive jobs (Averitt 1968; Massey et al. 1998; Piore 1979; Tolbert, Horan, and Beck 1980).

  • World Systems Theory:

    • World systems analysts emphasize the influence on migration of the character of relationships among countries and among regions and cities within countries. World systems theory is heavily influenced by the dependency critique of capitalism, according to which capital accumulation depends on reserves of labor and materials, thus promoting development in some countries and underdevelopment in others.

    • Core countries build capital by exploiting the labor power and materials of less developed, or peripheral, countries (Furtado 1964; Wallerstein 1983).

    • The evolution of the global economy has not only stimulated international migration, it has also generated linkages between individual sending and receiving nations. The colonial and neocolonial history of capitalist expansion around the globe has resulted in ties between countries now in the semiperiphery, where industrialization is in its early stages, and core countries and their global cities in the more developed nations.

  • Network Theory:

    • Network theory seeks to explain, at the microlevel, how connections among actors influence migration decisions, often by linking individual immigrants with their family members and with jobs, both before and after arrival.

    • While labor markets in sending and receiving countries create push and pull factors stimulating migration, migration may continue after these push and pull factors have diminished. When large numbers of people have moved from one particular location to another, a process of ‘‘cumulative causation’’ is established whereby multiple ties to communities of origin facilitate on- going and at times increasing migration (Massey et al. 1993; Massey 1994).

    • Instead, they usually possess information about a particular job at a particular wage, and this information signals an opportunity in the destination labor market (Sassen 1995).

  • Political Economy theories:

    • While economic labor market and network factors drive migration, the immigration policies of receiving countries also play important roles in affecting flows. According to Hollifield’s (1992) theory of ‘‘hegemonic stability,’’ the world economic system rests on the political and military might of the dominant states.

    • As these examples show, receiving countries often attempt to control immigration by encouraging temporary work patterns rather than permanent settlement.

Measuring Migration:

  • The United States stopped trying to count emigrants in 1957 and relies instead on estimates, often put at roughly 30% of the level of immigration to the United States (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service 2002a). Many times, governments estimate net migration over a given period as the difference between population change and natural increase.

  • Using the same denominator for migration both in and out of an area allows demographers to calculate a crude net migration rate:

    • Total in-migrants - total out-migrants in a time period X 1000 ÷ Average total midyear population in that time period

  • Four sources of measurements: 1) Administrative registers of populations or foreigners. 2) Administrative records such as visas, work or residence permits, or deportations. 3) Entrances and departures at borders. 4) Censuses and household surveys.

Kinds of Flows to the U.S

  • The major migration flows to the United States in the post–World War II period have been (1) legal immigrants, (2) refugees and asylees, (3) unauthorized migrants, and (4) persons admitted for short periods of time on so-called nonimmigrant visas.

Table 12.3: Selected Major Legislation

  • 1921 / Immigration Act // First Quotas put on migrants to US based on white population coming in US in 1910.

  • 1924 / Immigration Act // Recalibrated to the year 1890

  • 1943 / Act // temporary agricultural laborers from South and Central America; served as the legal basis for the Bra- cero program, which lasted until 1964

  • 1948 / Displaced Persons Act // admitted refugees fleeing from war

  • 1965 / INA // ended quotas and become employer based (preference) and skills and family based

  • 1966 / Cuban Refugee Act // Admitted Cubans

  • 1980 / Asylees // regularized policies on how they can become LPRs

  • 1985 / IRCA // some amnesty (SAW) and employer sanctions

  • 1990 / Immigration Act // 3 preference based categories (work / family / diversity)

Table 12.4 All immigrants

  • in 2000: 850,000.

  • Preference based (all three): 393,000

  • Not subject to Preference: 457,000

Bracero Program:

  • The Bracero program, which started in 1942 at the beginning of World War II, provided a means whereby temporary contract laborers from Mexico could enter and work in the country legally (Calavita 1992).

Work Force Proportions:

  • Change in Civilian workforce fairly consistent 1950 to 2000 (ranges by decade 1.2 (2000 end) to 2.6 (1980 end)

  • Number of immigrants as %age of labor force growth: 20 (1980 end) to 53 (2000 end);

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