Subfield Exam: Immigration and Stratification Theory

Transnational Migration (7)

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Transnational Migration (7)

Date: 09.25.2011

Title: Immigrant Incorporation and Sociocultural Transnationalism

Author: Jose Itzigsohn and Silvia Saucedo

Source: IMR 2002 V36 N3

Category and Keyword: Transnational Migration, US Immigration, Paradigm


  • To analyze sociocultural transnational linkages among Colombians, Dominicans and Salvadorans (in US)


  • This study contributes to our expanding knowledge of immigrant transnational- ism by exploring and analyzing three previously neglected issues: the scope and degree of participation of immigrants in transnational practices, the determinants of transnational participation, and the relationship between immigrant incorporation and transnationalism

  • Our focus is on sociocultural transnationalism, that is, transnational practices that recreate a sense of community based on cultural understandings of belonging and mutual obligations.


  • Old Paradigm:

    • The previous paradigm for the analysis of immigration held that once migrants entered a new country they broke the ties with their country of origin and engaged in the processes of incorporation/acculturation/assimilation (Gordon, 1964;Alba and Nee, 1997; Portes and Rumbaut, 1996).

  • New Paradigm:

    • Scholars working within the new paradigm have argued that incorporation-oriented studies fail to capture an important part of immigrants’ social lives that takes place across national boundaries. Being a transnational immigrant implies living and being part of two societies linked through the transnational social practices of the immigrants.


  • The data to address these analytic questions come from a survey conducted in the framework of the Comparative Immigrant Enterprise Project (CIEP), a collaborative study that involved a survey of immigrant households among three immigrant communities - Dominicans, Salvadorans, and Colombians - in four cities of the United States - New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D C and Providence, Rhode Island. (headquarters @ Princeton)


  • We had three goals in this article: 1) to measure the extent of participation in transnational activities; 2) to analyze its determinants; and 3) to explore the relationship between incorporation and transnationalism.

    • The picture that emerges from this study is that the percentage of participation for any particular activity is low.

    • When we look, however, at civic engagement in transnational practices over all the different forms of transnational participation, the percentages are rather high.

    • Furthermore, the analysis shows that there is more than one set of circumstances that can give rise to transnational sociocultural practices. Our three explanations - linear transnationalism, resource-based transnationalism, and reactive transnationalism - receive support.

    • Salvador:

      • Salvadorans have the more vulnerable legal position and experience more discrimination, hence the prevalence of reactive transnationalism in this community.

    • Dominicans:

      • Dominicans are characterized by a dense pattern of residential concentration and ethnic organization, hence the strength of linear transnationalism in this community.

    • Colombians:

      • Colombians are much less organized and more individually oriented than Dominicans. Their incorporation depends on individual class resources, hence the strength of resource dependent transnationalism.

Transnational Migration (7)

Date: 09.25.2011

Title: International Perspectives on Transnational Migration: An Introduction

Author: Peggy Levitt, Josh DeWind and Steven Vertovec

Source: IMR 2003 V37 N3

Category and Keyword: Transnational Migration, US Immigration, Paradigm, New


  • 1) Reflecting the organization and ensuing discussion at the two meetings, the first group of articles in this volume is concerned with general analytical challenges posed by transnational migration research.

    • Steven Vertovec suggests ways in which scholarship about transnational migration might benefit by borrowing concepts from research on other types of transnational social formations such as social movements and business networks.

  • 2) The second group of articles in the volume presents the broader implications of empirical research on particular aspects of transnational migration. To clarify some of the conceptual muddiness that has characterized earlier scholarship, we asked each contributor to focus on a particular aspect of transnational social life - economic, political, sociocultural, and religious.

  • 3) Portes: Alejandro Portes supplements theoretical arguments contained within the earlier papers by summarizing results of some of the research upon which they are based. He outlines the ideas he feels reflect a general consensus in the field and places them within the context of a survey he and several colleagues conducted to measure the extent of transnational economic, political, and sociocultural activities among various immigrant groups. His contribution ends with recommendations for future research.


1) transnational migrants are embedded in multi-layered social fields and that, to truly understand migrants’ activities and experiences, their lives must be studied within the context of these multiple strata.

2) states continue to exert a strong influence on transnational migration.

3) whether or not transnational migration has a “liberating” effect on migrants is a question that needs investigation.

4) aspects of migrants’ lives that were largely ignored by much of the early transnational migration scholarship ought to be taken into account. Religion, for example, is salient in many migrants’ day-to-day lives

5) enduring transnational ties are not new but were also a factor in earlier flows, such as the wave of transatlantic migrations at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

A) (I DON’T SEE THIS: It offers stable employment to the relatively small portion of the immigrant labor pool who are highly-educated and skilled and more short-term employment to unskilled migrants with little English.

6) not all migrants are engaged in transnational practices and that those who are, do so with considerable variation in the sectors, levels, strength, and formality of their involvement.

7) host- country incorporation and transnational practices can occur simultaneously.

8) all of our contributors question the applicability of the terminologies that have been traditionally used in the emigration-immigration- assimilation paradigm.

9) the subjective as well as objective dimensions of transnational practices matter.
Second Set of Articles:

  • In the first article in the more empirically-based set of articles in this volume, Luis Guarnizo draws our attention to the intersection between migrants’ economic activities, their sociocultural impacts, the state, and glob- al economic processes that shape and are shaped by transnational practices.

    • Migrants’ remittances, entrepreneurial activities, and support for local projects generate demands for goods and services that produce backward and forward economic linkages, involving small-scale businesses, corporate activities, and the state.

    • These dynamics reorganize the relationship between local and global economic life, inextricably connecting the activities of individual migrants with those of global capital.

    • When the creditworthiness of highly- indebted countries is updated on the basis of expected future remittances, Guarnizo argues, transnational migration’s significant impact on global capital is clear. Within the context of global capitalist expansion and migration, not only does labor follow capital but capital also often follows labor.

  • Eva 0stergaard-Nielsen wants to bring to light the “how” and “then what” of transnational political engagements. She conceives transnational politics as a multilevel process enacted through the interaction between sending and receiving country political authorities, global human rights norms and regimes, and networks of other nonstate actors with which migrants’ transnational political networks are often intertwined.

  • Robert C. Smith also calls for an expanded notion of transnational politics. He argues that to understand relations between sending states and their diasporas, we must analyze migrants’ evolving relations to the global system, their domestic politics, and their ability to exercise autonomous or semi- autonomous political action with respect to their homelands.

  • Peggy Levitt introduces what has been, until now, an understudied sphere of transnational activism - religion. Her article summarizes what is known to date about religious life across borders, focusing in particular on religious institutions, the relationship between religious and political landscapes, and the interaction between transnational religion and politics.

Transnational Migration (7)

Date: 09.25.2011

Title: “You Know, Abraham Was Really the First Immigrant:” Religion and Transnational Migration

Author: Peggy Levitt

Source: IMR 2003 V37 N3

Category and Keyword: Transnational Migration, US Immigration, Paradigm, New


  • 1) First, I provide a brief overview of related bodies of work on global, diasporic and immigrant religion and differentiate them from studies of migrants’ transnational religious practices.

  • 2) I selectively summarize what we have learned about the role of religion in transnational migration from prior research.

  • 3) I propose an approach to future research on these questions.


  • The study of transnational migration and religion, therefore, provides an empirical window onto one way in which religious globalization actually gets done (849).

  • One way that migrants stay connected to their sending communities is through transnational religious practices. (851)

  • The transnational religious practices of individuals are often reinforced by the organizational contexts within which they take place.

  • So while research on religion and transnational migration focuses on individuals and the local, regional and national organizations in which they participate, it must nest these processes within the multilayered social fields in which they take place. (852)

  • Finally, global culture and institutions clearly shape migrants’ transnational religious practices.

Variations in Religion:

  • Ebaugh and Chafetz (2002) propose using network analysis to under- stand religious connections across boundaries. (e.g. RCC in Monterrey & Houston)

  • Yang (2001) also uses a network approach to analyze transnational Chinese Christian communities. He finds three-layered trans-pacific networks formed by contacts between individuals, single churches and parachurch international organizations.

  • LEVITT: From the mid 1800s to the present, the Catholic church has sent out religious orders, mounted missionary campaigns, operated schools, built pilgrimage shrines, and organized international encounters that produced a vast, interconnected network of transnational activities (Casanova, 1994). (855)

  • CASTELLS on Protestants: They function like what Manuel Castells (2000) has called a network society - decentralized, flexible yet connected networks providing customized services and goods. Just as decentralized, adaptive modes of production are better suited to compete within the global economy, so flexible production and dissemination of religious goods may be better suited to serve contemporary religious consumers. (858)

Religion as Transnational Civic Engagement

  • Religious institutions differ from other immigrant institutions in that they see themselves as embodying universal and timeless truths. … As global interconnectedness expands, to what extent do religious traditions articulate globally-oriented theologies?

  • PENTECOSTALS: not apolitical: The Salvadoran Pentecostal churches in Washington that Menjivar (1999) studied kept in close touch with their sister congregations in El Salvador. They supported community development projects in their home com- munities, sponsored speaking exchanges between sending and receiving- country pastors, shared a monthly newspaper, held conventions that brought congregations together, and participated in international Evangelical church councils. Evangelization rather than community development motivated these efforts. Members’ primary goal was to strengthen and extend the community of God and any political or civic achievements were of secondary importance.

Transnational Migration (7)

Date: 09.25.2011

Title: Conclusion: Theoretical Convergences and Empirical Evidence in the Study of Immigrant Transnationalism

Author: Alejandro Portes

Source: IMR 2003 V37 N3

Category and Keyword: Transnational Migration, US Immigration, Paradigm, New


  • I intend to supplement the abundant theoretical arguments contained in this issue with a summary presentation of actual results.


  • Surveys of the Comparative Immigrant Entrepreneurship Project (CIEP)

Conclusions: (I)

  • First, the existence of this field creates an alternative path of socioeconomic and political adaptation to the host society not envisioned by traditional models of assimilation.

  • Second, cross-border initiatives, even when enacted occasionally, are of great importance to the development of home nations. As Guarnizo emphasizes in his contribution to this issue, remittances and migrant investments are no longer a marginal phenomenon, but have become one of the pillars of the financial stability and prospects for development of sending countries.

  • Third, the ramifications of the phenomenon and the forms that it can take in different countries are not yet fully understood. As the article by Levitt in this issue shows, the field of transnationalism is not composed exclusively of economic and political transactions. Religion plays a decisive role in many cases, and the extent of its presence and impact in host and sending nations stands in need of additional investigation (Levitt, 2003).

Conclusions: (II)

There is a need for additional comparative and quantitative studies of transnationalism based on surveys or aggregate official statistics for three reasons.

  • 1) The first is to place the phenomenon in perspective by ascertaining its true dimensions. (e.g. money transfers – immigrants). (ME: much greater are institutional transfers, e.g. grants by missionaries, like OSBs.)

  • 2) Second, comparative quantitative studies are necessary to test hypotheses about determinants, forms and consequences of transnationalism. The theoretical concepts discussed by Vertovec (2003) as relevant to the study of the phenomenon, such as embeddedness, social networks and social capital, have been illustrated in a number of case studies.

  • Third, longitudinal data are required to examine the crucial issue of generational transmissibility. Is transnationalism mostly or exclusively a first generation phenomenon, or can children of immigrants be expected to participate in large numbers?

Transnational Migration (7)

Date: 09.25.2011

Title: Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration

Author: Richard Alba and Victor Nee

Source: BOOK, 2003

Category and Keyword: Assimilation, Transnationalism,

This book appears to be about how America will continue to move forward to assimilate its immigrants. Racism will diminish, as exemplified in the examples of Texaco and Coca Cola, who have (in the 1990s) agreed to pay fines for discrimination and in the case of Coca Cola to have on oversight by the government to monitor employment (55).

150 As for Transnationalism, he would fall on the side of Waldinger: “We suspect that a similar degradation will happen across generations in most immigrant families in the United States, even when (151) immigrant generation is able to maintain ties in multiple places. Few families will be truly at home in more than one place.
“Political transnationalism may also come under threat from the host state. There is a risk in extrapolating into the future from very recent developments, such as the spreading possibilities for plural citizenship.”
151 use the example of Germany: (152) As described earlier, the German language was unusually tenacious across the generations, supported by bilingual public education in many states. Germany also did not lose sight of its sons and daughters abroad, in the U.S. and other nations, the so-called Auslandsdeutsche. In 1913, on the eve of WWI, a new citizenship law there made German parentage the key determinant, thus allowing the Auslandsdeutsche and their descendants to retain German Citizenship.
Note: after Germans in America agitated for an embargo against the allies, “Theodore Roosevelt responded with a thundering denunciation of “hyphenated Americans”; some states banned the teaching of German, ….” “The hold of German Kultur had been decisively broken.” (They had become 100% Americanized.
Transnational Migration (7)

Date: 09.25.2011

Title: Towards a Transnational Perspective on Migration: Race, Class, Ethnicity, and Nationalism Reconsidered

Author: Edited by Nina Glick Schiller, Linda Basch, & Cristina Blanc-Szanton

Source: BOOK, 1992

Category and Keyword: Immigration, Transnational Migration (at this time Transmigrants)

The book gives theory first (i.e. by Glick Schiller) and then ethnographic cases about what they see as transnationalism taking place.

EG page 125 essay by Aihwa Ong, “Limits to Cultural Accumulation: Chinese Capitalists on the American Pacific Rim.”
Writes about the Hong Kong elite occupying 15% of an exclusive community in Northern California. RE: Beneficiaries of the Financial Enterprise that is Hong Kong.
135 White upper class does not fully accept them, however.

136 They retreat into their own networks.

141 “A frustrated investor told me, “They [the Anglos] want your Pacific Rim money, but they don’t want you.” Nevertheless, the continuing influx of affluent Chinese immigrants has begun a process that will change the way Asian-Americans negotiate their relations with the wider society.”
Transnational Migration (7)

Date: 09.25.2011

Title: The Economic Sociology of Immigration: Essays on Networks, Ethnicity, and Entrepreneurship

Author: Edited by Alejandro Portes

Source: BOOK, 1995

Category and Keyword: Immigration, Transnational Migration (at this time Transmigrants)

This book has several essays that look at immigration from an economic perspective, including Saskia Sassen in Immigration and Local Labor Markets (i.e. segmented assimilation – downward versus upward). Bryan Roberts has an article too.

What struck me the most in this book, was their quoting of a German economist from the early 20th century, that the ECONOMIST magazine has made into a weekly column. It is apt.
vii The forward is written by Robert Merton, a follower of Talcott Parsons.
Such a move might resemble the Schumpeterian program for Sozialökonomik that comprises “economic theory,” “economic sociology,” “economic history,” and “statistics.” Whey, then, allow a misplaced contest among diverse but complementary theoretical perspectives to reintroduce a latter-day version of Whitehead’s fallacy of misplaced concreteness? A discipline pluralism, constrained by the norm of “socially organized skepticism” that has long been institutionalized in science, seems indicated.

Several of the chapters in this volume that center on ethnic entrepreneurial patterns bring Schumpeter back to mind. Precisely because he had gone to some pains to exclude ethnic variation in his analysis of class formation by confining himself to an “ethnisch homogenen Milieu” …there is reason to suppose that Schumpeter, as the prime mover of a theory of entrepreneurial innovation as the spur to economic development, would have resonated to these studies of ethnic entrepreneurial patterns embedded in institutional structures. Along with their theoretical contributions to economic sociology, the studies greatly advance a sociological understanding of our multicultural and multi-ethnic society.

Chapter 1 by Alejandro Portes goes over all the main elements of the economic theories and applies them to immigration. The chapter is titled, “Economic Sociology and the Sociology of Immigration: A Conceptual Overview.”
For example, he offers five sets of concepts from the field of economy to relate to the interrelationship of the two fields (he will do this for immigration as well).

What are they?

3 Socially Orientated Economic Action

For example, he states, “economic action is socially orientated in the sense that even the unrestricted pursuit of gain is constrained by reciprocity expectations built up in the course of social interaction.

6 Embedded Transactions

Portes writes, “In later work, Granovetter distinguished between “relational” embeddedness, referring to economic actors’ personal relations with one another, and “structural” embeddedness, referring to the broader network of social relations to which these actors belong.”

8 Social Networks

(…most important types of structures in which economic transactions are embedded)

Networks are important in economic life because they are sources for the acquisition of scarce means, such as capital and information, and because they simultaneously impose effective constraints on the unrestricted pursuit of personal gain.
12 Social Capital

Social capital refers to the capacity of individuals to command scarce resources by virtue of their membership in networks or broader social structures.

17 Cumulative and Unintended Effects

{Becker} sought to demonstrate how past events and decisions progressively lock individuals into a given career path, increasing the costs and decreasing the probability of shifting to others. In economic sociology, cumulative causation is frequently used as an explanation; unlike the notion of path-dependence in economics, however, the emphasis here is on the social contexts that make such spiraling possible.

NOW, four concepts from the field of the sociology of immigration
19 Core-Periphery Influence and Structural Imbalancing

Countries with large labor supplies and small amounts of capital produce low equilibrium wages. The opposite is the case for countries where labor is scarce and capital abundant. The result is migration of the factors until wages decline sufficiently in capital-rich countries and rise sufficiently in labor-rich nations to produce a new international equilibrium.

23 Modes of Incorporation

24 Immigrants are viewed not simply as individuals who come clutching a bundle of personal skills, but rather as members of groups and participants in broader social structures that affect in multiple ways their economic mobility. The concept of modes of incorporation refers to the process of insertion of immigrants into these various social contexts. Contextual effects interact with human capital brought from abroad, determining the extent to which it can be productively used and increased.

25 Middleman Groups and Ethnic Enclaves

27 The forms adopted by immigrant enterprise are not homogenous, and several distinct types have been described and classified by researchers in this field. Bonacich employed the term “middleman minorities” to refer to those groups that specialize in commercial and financial services among a numerically larger but impoverished population. Middlemen are distinct in nationality, culture, and sometimes race from the dominant and subordinate groups to whom they relate. They occupy economic spaces abandoned or disdained in mainstream businesses and simultaneously provide a buffer between these businesses and the poor population they serve.

29 The Informal Economy

The informal economy is defined as the sum total of income-earning activities that are unregulated by legal codes in an environment where similar activities are regulated. Informal activities are distinguished from criminal ones in that they encompass goods and services that are legal, but whose production and marketing is unregulated. Drugs and prostitution are criminal activities in the US, while production of garments in clandestine sweatshops and unlicensed street vending are informal.

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