Recent Trends in Immigration

Kevin Lewis

November 15, 2009

Exploring the roots of dehumanization: The role of animal-human similarity in promoting immigrant humanization

Kimberly Costello & Gordon Hodson
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Little is known about the origins of dehumanization or the mechanisms through which dehumanization impacts outgroup prejudice. We address these issues by measuring and manipulating animal-human similarity perceptions in a human intergroup context. As predicted, beliefs that animals and humans are relatively similar were associated with greater immigrant humanization, which in turn predicted more favorable immigrant attitudes (Study 1). Those higher in Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) or lower in Universal Orientation particularly rejected animal-human similarity beliefs, partially explaining their increased tendency to dehumanize and reject immigrants. In Study 2, perceptions of animal-human similarity were experimentally induced through editorials highlighting similarities between humans and other animals or emphasizing the human-animal divide. Emphasizing animals as similar to humans (versus humans as similar to animals, or the human-animal divide) resulted in greater immigrant humanization (even among highly prejudiced people). This humanization process facilitated more re-categorization (i.e., inclusive intergroup representations between immigrants and Canadians) and increased immigrant empathy, both of which predicted less prejudicial attitudes toward immigrants. Implications for research, theory, and interventions for dehumanization and prejudice are considered.


New Evidence on Emigrant Selection

Jesús Fernández-Huertas Moraga
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

This paper examines the extent to which Mexican emigrants to the United States are negatively selected, that is, have lower skills than individuals who remain in Mexico. Previous studies have been limited by the lack of nationally representative longitudinal data. This one uses a newly available household survey, which identifies emigrants before they leave and allows a direct comparison to non-migrants. I find that, on average, US bound Mexican emigrants from 2000 to 2004 earn a lower wage and have less schooling years than individuals who remain in Mexico, evidence of negative selection. This supports the original hypothesis of Borjas (AER, 1987) and argues against recent findings, notably those of Chiquiar and Hanson (JPE, 2005). The discrepancy with the latter is primarily due to an under-count of unskilled migrants in US sources and secondarily to the omission of unobservables in their methodology.


Taking Immigration Federalism Seriously

Peter Schuck
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, July 2009

Largely because of the immense shadow cast by the plenary power doctrine, immigration policy is overwhelmingly the domain of federal law. This article casts doubt on some of the premises of this legal centralism, including the myth of greater state hostility to immigrants and calls on Congress to delegate greater authority to the states in several areas of immigration policy: employment-based admissions, enforcement, and employer sanctions. A concluding section analyzes the legal standards that states must meet in order to overcome federal preemption challenges to their immigration-related statutes.


Stress, Allostatic Load, and Health of Mexican Immigrants

Robert Kaestner, Jay Pearson, Danya Keene & Arline Geronimus
Social Science Quarterly, December 2009, Pages 1089-1111

Objective: To assess whether the cumulative impact of exposure to repeated or chronic stressors, as measured by allostatic load, contributes to the "unhealthy assimilation" effects often observed for immigrants with time in the United States.

Methods: We analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994, to estimate multivariate logistic regression models of the odds of having a high allostatic load score among Mexican immigrants, stratified by adult age group, according to length of residence in United States, controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and health input covariates.

Results: Estimates indicate that 45-60-year-old Mexican immigrants have lower allostatic load scores upon arrival than U.S.-born Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks, and that this health advantage is attenuated with duration of residence in the United States.

Conclusions: The findings of our analysis are consistent with the hypothesis that repeated or chronic physiological adaptation to stressors is one contributor to the "unhealthy assimilation" effect observed for Mexican immigrants.


Socioeconomic Status and Body Mass Index Among Hispanic Children of Immigrants and Children of Natives

Kelly Stamper Balistreri & Jennifer Van Hook
American Journal of Public Health, December 2009, Pages 2238-2246

Objectives: We examined how Hispanic parents' income and education, combined with their nativity status, influenced the body mass index (BMI) of their children, compared with non-Hispanic White children and their parents.

Methods: We used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 to estimate linear growth curve models of children's initial BMI in kindergarten and change in BMI through fifth grade. Socioeconomic status was measured by logged household income and parental educational attainment (less than high school, high school graduate, some college, college graduate or higher).

Results: Parental education was negatively associated with children's BMI (baseline and growth) for non-Hispanic White children. Among Hispanic children, the association of parental education with growth in BMI was negative but much weaker. The weak effect of parental education was not explained by the presence of immigrants in the Hispanic population. Income was strongly negatively associated with children's BMI in kindergarten among children of Hispanic and White natives, but positively associated among Hispanic immigrant families.

Conclusions: The positive income-BMI association among Hispanic immigrant children might reflect cultural differences that immigrant parents carry with them from their countries of origin.


Immigration Opinion in a Time of Economic Crisis: Material Interests versus Group Attitudes

Ted Brader, Nicholas Valentino & Ashley Jardina
University of Michigan Working Paper, August 2009

In this paper we revisit a long running question regarding the causal antecedents of immigration policy: Is it the immigration or the immigrants? Most work identifies a general dimension - ethnocentrism - as the dominant group-based driver of preference for restrictions on immigration and benefits to immigrants. Material interests, including membership in vulnerable groups and perceptions of national and personal economic threats make consistent, though smaller, contributions in previous models. We revisit these explanations with nationally representative survey data collected at a moment of severe economic upheaval, the days immediately prior to the 2008 presidential election. We expected material interests might play a larger role in predicting immigration opinion than in previous studies. Instead, we found ethnocentrism continues to dominate explanations of opinion across a wide variety of immigration policies and concerns. Finally, we discover that a much more narrow group comparison - relative affect for whites over Hispanics - plays the most powerful role in these models. We conclude that, at least among White Americans, Hispanics and no longer Asians or other groups are the category that comes to mind when the topic of discussion is immigration.


Generational Status and Mexican American Political Participation: The Benefits and Limitations of Assimilation

Wayne Santoro & Gary Segura
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

The authors investigate self-reported voter turnout and ethnic political activity across four-plus generations of Mexican Americans. Using a 1999 national survey, multivariate results indicate that the likelihood of Mexican American voting increases largely in a monotonic manner across generations while participation in ethnic political activity begins to decline after having one parent born in the United States. These results raise the question of whether disadvantaged ethnic populations necessarily benefit politically from assimilating given that gains in voting that accrue across generations are accompanied by declines in ethnic political activity among later generations.


Recent Trends in the Earnings of New Immigrants to the United States

George Borjas & Rachel Friedberg
NBER Working Paper, October 2009

This paper studies long-term trends in the labor market performance of immigrants in the United States, using the 1960-2000 PUMS and 1994-2009 CPS. While there was a continuous decline in the earnings of new immigrants 1960-1990, the trend reversed in the 1990s, with newcomers doing as well in 2000, relative to natives, as they had 20 years earlier. This improvement in immigrant performance is not explained by changes in origin-country composition, educational attainment or state of residence. Changes in labor market conditions, including changes in the wage structure which could differentially impact recent arrivals, can account for only a small portion of it. The upturn appears to have been caused in part by a shift in immigration policy toward high-skill workers matched with jobs, an increase in the earnings of immigrants from Mexico, and a decline in the earnings of native high school dropouts. However, most of the increase remains a puzzle. Results from the CPS suggest that, while average entry wages fell again after 2000, correcting for simple changes in the composition of new immigrants, the unexplained rise in entry wages has persisted.


Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth

Leanna Stiefel, Amy Ellen Schwartz & Dylan Conger
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming

In 2005, immigrants exceeded 12% of the U.S. population, with the highest concentrations in large metropolitan areas. While considerable research has focused on how immigrants affect local wages and housing prices, less research has asked how immigrants fare in U.S. urban public schools. Previous studies find that foreign-born students outperform native-born students in their elementary and middle school years, but urban policymakers and practitioners continue to raise concerns about educational outcomes of immigrants arriving in their high school years. We use data on a large cohort of New York City (NYC) public high school students to examine how the performance of students who immigrate during high school (teen immigrants) differs from that of students who immigrate during middle school (tween immigrants) or elementary school (child immigrants), relative to otherwise similar native-born students. Contrary to prior studies, our difference-in-difference estimates suggest that, ceteris paribus, teen immigrants do well compared to native-born migrants, and that the foreign-born advantage is relatively large among the teen (im)migrants. That said, our findings provide cause for concern about the performance of limited English proficient students, blacks and Hispanics and, importantly, teen migrants. In particular, switching school districts in the high school years - that is, student mobility across school districts - may be more detrimental than immigration per se. Results are robust to alternative specifications and cohorts, including a cohort of Miami students.


"Stains" on their self-discipline: Public health, hygiene, and the disciplining of undocumented immigrant parents in the nation's internal borderlands

Sarah Horton & Judith Barker
American Ethnologist, November 2009, Pages 784-798

Histories of the role of public health in nation building have revealed the centrality of hygiene to eugenic mechanisms of racial exclusion in the turn-of-the-20th-century United States, yet little scholarship has examined its role in the present day. Through ethnography in a Mexican migrant farmworking community in California's Central Valley, we explore the role of oral hygiene campaigns in racializing Mexican immigrant parents and shaping the substance of their citizenship. Public health officials perceive migrant farmworkers' children's oral disease as a "stain of backwardness," amplifying Mexican immigrants' status as "aliens." We suggest, however, that the recent concern with Mexican immigrant children's oral health blends classic eugenic concerns in public health with neoliberal concerns regarding different immigrant groups' capacity for self-governance.


Navigating an American Minefield: The Politics of Illegal Immigration

Daniel Tichenor
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, July 2009

Few issues have proven more contentious in American politics during recent decades than immigration. Although there is wide agreement that the existing immigration system is "broken," major policy reform poses enormous political perils for presidents and congressional leaders. The internal conflicts within the Republican and Democratic Parties are at least as great as those between rival partisans. The obstacles to reform are especially daunting when focused on illegal immigration and the status of unauthorized immigrants. This article explains why immigration policymaking is so politically divisive, and how illegal immigration in particular makes even basic problem definition difficult, focusing on the role of rival ideas and interests, elusive coalition-building, widespread cynicism over past implementation failures, an expanded scope of conflict, and flawed policy alternatives. It also illuminates how the Clinton and Bush administrations formulated strategic responses to pressures for immigration reform. The implications of recent immigration reform politics are striking: Whereas Clinton translated its lethargy and defensive opportunism on immigration policy into consequential electoral gains for the Democrats among Latinos and Asians, Bush's vigorous advocacy produced a rebellious and unmanageable party base and further eroded support for the Republican Party among new immigrant voters and kindred ethnics. Significantly, the Obama administration is almost certain to have far fewer degrees of freedom on immigration than its recent predecessors.


Public views of illegal migration policy and control strategies: A test of the core hypotheses

Kevin Buckler, Marc Swatt & Patti Salinas
Journal of Criminal Justice, July-August 2009, Pages 317-327

Illegal migration into the United States continues to be an important and contentious issue in the early stages of the twenty-first century. An important aspect of the contemporary migration debate is public opinion toward the various policy and control initiatives that have recently been discussed. This study used public opinion data from a 2006 study conducted by the Pew Research Center to test seven core hypotheses generated by prior academic research to explain variation in public support for cracking down on illegal migration into the United States (economic threat, culture threat, ethnic affect, core values, cultural affinity, contact, and group threat). The analysis found support for the economic threat, cultural threat, ethnic affect, core values, and cultural affinity hypotheses. The study found limited support for the contact hypothesis and no support for the group threat hypothesis. Semi-standardized coefficients were generated and suggested that the strongest predictors of support for enhanced controls on illegal migration were the cultural threat and cultural affinity measures. Implications of these findings are discussed.


Let Them Eat Grain: Agricultural Decline, Market Liberalization, and Emigration from Mexico

Whitney Easton
University of Connecticut Working Paper, August 2009

Determining the push and pull factors of migration has long been a theoretical puzzle for scholars in the social sciences. It is a multifaceted task to determine the factors that would make a person leave home and travel to a new land, often with no money or without the protection of a visa or the prospect of citizenship. This paper will examine recent scholarship which argues that structural adjustment programs (SAP's), along with the importation of staple crops through multilateral trade agreements such as NAFTA, have led to the neglect of the traditional agricultural sector and a decreased standard of living for the rural poor, thus intensifying the impetus for emigration. From its inception in 1994, politicians and economists have argued about the effect of NAFTA on immigration (both documented and undocumented) from Mexico to the United States. In the 14 years since the signing of NAFTA, immigration to the United States from Mexico, especially undocumented immigration, has steadily increased. Academics in many fields have offered various explanations as to why this increase has occurred, how long it will last, and what should be done about it. These arguments are compelling and varied, but one argument, which questions the effect that free trade with advanced industrial nations has had on the agricultural sector of developing nations and immigration, will be examined here in greater depth.


Ethnic-Controlled Economy or Segregation? Exploring Inequality in Latina/o Co-Ethnic Jobsites

Maria Cristina Morales
Sociological Forum, September 2009, Pages 589-610

Recent research has increasingly focused on how ethnicity operates within labor markets. Due to perceptions of intragroup homogeneity and assumptions that inequality only occurs between majority whites and people of color, most research has neglected intragroup economic inequality. This study examines how skin color, immigration/nativity status, and gender influence wage differentials in Latina/o co-ethnic jobsites (where workers are the same ethnicity). Using data from the Los Angeles Study of Urban Inequality (LASUI), it is found that there are skin color, immigration/nativity status, and sex wage gaps among Latina/os working in co-ethnic jobsites. Moreover, illustrating intersectionality, immigrant women and dark-skinned immigrants suffer from wage gaps in co-ethnic jobsites. Unexpectedly, some Latinas experience a wage advantage, in comparison with Latinos, which is associated with lighter skin. The author suggests that Latinas are subjected to multiple-jeopardy situations in which they experience an intersection of inequalities in jobsites saturated by co-ethnics but that lightness of skin color functions as a form of social capital. Thus, research on the benefits or costs associated with working with co-ethnics cannot be extended to the entire ethnic group. The conclusion is that for Central Americans and Mexicans, co-ethnic jobsites are generally forms of segregated employment with limited protection from discrimination.


Examining the Link Between Issue Attitudes and News Source: The Case of Latinos and Immigration Reform

Marisa Abrajano & Simran Singh
Political Behavior, March 2009, Pages 1-30

This paper explores whether an individual's news source can explain their attitudes on immigration. We focus on the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S., since they have the option of accessing their news in English, Spanish or in both languages. Our audience influence hypothesis predicts that Spanish-language news will cover immigration in a more positive and informative manner than will English-language news. Thus, Latinos who use Spanish-language news may have a higher likelihood of possessing pro-immigrant sentiments than Latinos who only use English-language news. Content analysis of Spanish and English-language television news segments reveals variations in the tone and substance of these news outlets. Analysis of Latino survey respondents indicates that immigration attitudes vary by news source. Generational status also influences Latinos' immigration attitudes, though its impact is not as great as one's news source.


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