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);

1. Theory (Various Sorts)

Date: 09.29.2011

Title: Immigration and Religion

Author: Wendy Cadge and Elaine Howard Eckland

Source: Annual Review of Sociology 2007; 72:1415-1437

Category and Keyword: religious identity, civic life, second generation, migration, diaspora


  • We argue that current research is more descriptive than analytic overall, and we highlight a series of research questions and comparisons to enrich theoretical thinking.


  • Recent estimates suggest that 23% of the American population is an immigrant or the child of an immigrant (Alba & Nee 2003…

  • The majority of this research has been case studies of individual religious groups and organizations. We selectively synthesize and review these studies to chart patterns in current thinking and to identify blind spots to be addressed in future research.

  • The main strengths of recent research are also its greatest weaknesses: a reliance on richly descriptive individual case studies and, although there are certainly notable exceptions, a lack of systematic analytic comparison and synthesis.

  • Similarly, only recently has religion been carefully considered as an independent variable that influences factors such as immigrant economic mobility or civic and political participation (Ebaugh & Pipes 2001,…

Plan of Action:

  • 1) First, we briefly review existing case studies focused largely on immigrants’ religious gathering places.

  • 2) we consider how religion contributes to identity formation for immigrants, with particular attention to ethnic and gender identities.

  • 3) we focus on research about religion and civic and political participation among immigrants.

  • 4) We consider the religious beliefs, practices, and organizations of second-generation immigrants.

  • 5) Outline several ways to enrich theoretical thinking in future research.

Historical Ideas and Theories:

  • Herberg (1955) argued that after the first generation, immigrants would abandon their native languages and ethnic traditions while retaining their religions, using religion as a way of melting into America’s triple melting pot of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.

  • 1990: began research on immigrants here after 1965

    • Ebaugh, O’Brien, and Chafetz are three of the few sociologists to think systematically about variation among different organizations.

    • Through an analysis of the National Catholic Bishops Conference of the United States, Mooney (2006) argues that immigration is changing the shape of the Catholic church and has be- come a strategic issue on which the “Catholic church has reasserted its prophetic voice

Identity Formation

  • one example: Ebaugh & Chafetz (1999) argue that, in the 13 religious organizations studied in Houston, women reproduce traditional ethnic culture but also have increased access to high-status positions in their congregations to the degree that men are not able or willing to fill them. Men tend to be interested in these positions in direct proportion to the amount of social status they lose in the process of migration (Ebaugh & Chafetz 1999, George 1998).

Religious Lives and Civic Participation (of immigrants)

  • E.G. Fifth, researchers are just beginning to ex- amine the possibilities of religion to act as a resource for political mobilization.

Religions and the 2nd Generation:

  • Most research in this area has focused on how tensions be- tween the immigrant first generation and the more Americanized second generation play out in congregational contexts.

  • E.G. Research on Indian Christians shows that members of the second generation some- times have different ideas about the content of their religion, with the first generation viewing Christianity according to ascribed religious and ethnic criteria and the second generation viewing Christianity according to the more achieved and individualistic criteria they perceive as evangelical (Kurien 2004).

Theories for the Future:

  • Contextual more than spatial: Rather than focusing on one city, for example, comparisons across different U.S. cities be- tween immigrants from the same country who share a religious tradition can show how the contexts of reception shape immigrants’ experiences, as in the research about Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants in San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Phoenix conducted by Menjivar (1999, 2000, 2003, 2006a,b).

  • Third, additional research that systematically considers immigrants’ contexts of exit and reception can show how such contexts shape the religious gatherings of immigrants in the United States, particularly with regard to their status as economic migrants or refugees, their movement from religious majority to minority status and vice versa, etc.

  • Some of these questions will be more easily answered as future waves of data from the New Immigrant Survey, the largest systematic survey of immigrants.

  • More broadly, scholars have only begun to consider how the religious organizations in which immigrants participate inter- act with broader social institutions and how religion influences individual immigrants’ interactions with such institutions.

  • Moreover, sociologists rarely consider how religion influences the experiences immigrants have in social spheres that are not thought of as specifically religious, such as workplaces, neighborhoods, local civic and political organizations, childcare centers, recreational facilities, and other aspects of daily life in the United States.


  • In the past 15 years, sociologists have moved from knowing very little about the religious lives of immigrants to knowing a great deal about their religious organizations.

Note on Transnational Migration:

  • Here, we highlight a few of their key points. Participation in transnational religious organizations allows migrants access to social capital in the new nation as well as the possibility of retaining social capital in their homelands. Migrants change the religious institutions of their destination countries (such as the changes brought to the U.S. Catholic church by Latin American migrants coming to the United States) and export different forms of faith to their nations of origin.

  • Religion links migrants through time, allowing them to remain a part of a chain of memory with coreligionists from the past, present, and future. New forms of transnational civil society are created as religion provides spaces to socialize the first and second generations into existing political structures, while at the same time acting as a counterpoint to extremist political voices.

1. Theory (Various Sorts)

Date: 09.29.2011

Title: Theories of International Migration: A Review and Appraisal

Author: Douglas Massey, Joaquin Arango, Graeme Hugo, Ali Kouaouci, Adela Pellegrino, & J. Edward Taylor

Source: Population and Development Review 1993; V19N3

Category and Keyword: migration, theory


  • The purpose of this article is to explicate and integrate the leading contemporary theories of international migration. We begin by examining models that describe the initiation of international movements and then consider theories that account for why transnational population flows persist across space and time.

NOTE: A regurgitation of earlier articles (i.e. Neoclassical theory, etc. – SEE THOSE!)

One theory I left out!

  • Global cities: The world economy is managed from a relatively small number of urban centers in which banking, finance, administration, professional services, and high-tech production tend to be concentrated (Castells, 1989; Sassen, 1991). In the United States , global cities include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami; in Europe, they include London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Milan; and in the Pacific, Tokyo, Osaka, and Sydney qualify. Within these global cities, a great deal of wealth and a highly educated workforce are concentrated, creating a strong demand for services from unskilled workers (busboys, gardeners, waiters, hotel workers, domestic servants). (me: Sassen 1990 in 2006 migration reader)

  • Cumulative Causation (by Myrdal in 1957 – then Massey in 1990): What makes movement more likely over time? Yes, growth of networks, migrant supporting institutions… One act of migration changes the social context within which subsequent decision are made, typically in ways that make further migration more likely. How? Six socio-economic factors: 1) Distribution of Income 2) Distribution of Land 3) Organization of Agriculture 4) Culture 5) The Regional Distribution of Human Capital 6) and the Social Meaning of Work.

    • 1) People want to increase their income relative to other groups

    • 2) International buy land in home country (to farm)

    • 3) Migrants use less intensive labor methods to farm (i.e. pesticides)

    • 4) People see migrants in their community and change perception about it

    • 5) Migration is a selective process: Skilled people first leave the area – (Brain Drain)

    • 6) Jobs taken by immigrants in receiving country eventually get to be so much in a certain occupation, that occupation gets labeled as an “immigrant job”


  • Neoclassical economic theory saw it as an individual decision (need to go to make more money) and the NEW economic theory models see it as a household level decision (decision making unit).

  • Including theory of relative deprivation (ME: i.e. MIGRANTS from Monterrey! see Hernandez-Leon)

1. Theory (Various Sorts)
(following not on list)

Date: 09.29.2011

Title: Immigration Theory for a New Century: Some Problems and Opportunities

Author: Alejandro Portes

Source: IMR 1997; V31 N4

Category and Keyword: migration, theory,


  • This essay examines some of the pitfalls in contemporary immigration theory and reviews some of the most promising developments in research in this field.

Note: See 7. Transnational Migration Article of similar idea 1999


  • Immigrants coming to Ellis Island – Assimilation was the word of the day; and the national story seemed so

Social Scientists Moved Our Understanding:

  • A) social scientists from different disciplines have grounded the study of todays immigration firmly on its fundamental realities: the sustained demand for an elastic supply of labor, the pressures and constraints of sending Third World economies, the dislocations wrought by struggles for the creation and control of national states in less developed regions, and the microstructures of support created by migrants themselves across political borders.

  • B) Now they also study: explore how social networks, community normative expectations, and house-hold strategies modify and, at times, subvert those structural determinants.

Four Errors:

1) A first misconception is that the accumulation of evidence leads to theoretical innovation.

2) The study of immigration has been, for the most part, data-driven. WEAKNESS: the tendency to put to test theoretical propositions by comparing them with individual self- reports. CORRECTION: The various stages of the process of acculturation and assimilation, described in Richard Alba and Victor Nee’s essay (1997) in this issue, may be at variance with how immigrants themselves view their situations.

3) Along the same lines, Ruben Rumbaut and I developed a typology of manual labor immigrants, professional immigrants, immigrant entrepreneurs, and political refugees as the framework for our description of contemporary U.S.- bound immigration (Portes and Rumbaut, 1996). Typologies such as these are valid intellectual exercises, but they are not theories. This is self-evident in administrative categories, such as those employed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

  • Example of overcoming this problem is ZOLBERG: Zolberg’s theory of the role of the state system in the origins and control of international migration flows provides a second example. His insight that enforced borders represent the crucial dividing line between the developed world or "core" and the increasingly subordinate economic periphery can be transformed into a series of propositions about between-country economic inequalities, the role of migration flows in ameliorating them, and that of political borders in reproducing the global hierarchy… AND

  • One of the significant merits of this theory is that it links anew the study of immigration with broader issues of political economy, thus avoiding an exclusive focus on the characteristics and adaptation process of individual migrants.

  • For Portes, this is the area that needs the greatest attention, as it has the most weaknesses.

4) Grand Theory: There does not seem to be much danger that someone might be attempting a grand theory of immigration any time soon but, just in case, I would like to argue that this kind of endeavor would be futile.

  • WHY? 1) The theory that colonial capitalist penetration played a significant role in the initiation of large-scale labor migration from less developed countries says nothing about who among the population of those countries was more likely to migrate, nor can it be tested at the level of individual decision making.

  • 2) Similarly, individual-level processes of acculturation and labor market incorporation cannot simply be aggregated into structural effects. A hundred thousand Mexican immigrants trying to learn English and find jobs in Houston, Texas, will have a very different impact there than the same number doing this in Boston, Massachusetts,..

Sample of Promising Theories:

  • Transnational communities

    • DEFINED: This character is defined by three features: the number of people involved, the nearly instantaneous character of communications across space, and the fact that the cumulative character of the process makes participation "normative" within certain immigrant groups.

  • Research on the New Second Generation

    • Patterns of adaptation from the first generation play an important role for success of later generations

    • Experiences from earlier Europeans cannot be applied here. Segmented theory (assimilation downward and upward) comes in (discrimination of non-whites); transnational connections;

    • Role of Gender (e.g. difference in a person’s perceptions and actual behavior)

    • States and State Systems (Zolberg)

    • Cross-National Comparisons

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