Deflecting Immigration

Deflecting Immigration: Networks, Markets, and Regulation in Los Angeles

Ivan Light
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Deflecting Immigration
    Book Description:

    As international travel became cheaper and national economies grew more connected over the past thirty years, millions of people from the Third World emigrated to richer countries. A tenth of the population of Mexico relocated to the United States between 1980 and 2000. Globalization theorists claimed that reception cities could do nothing about this trend, since nations make immigration policy, not cities. In Deflecting Immigration, sociologist Ivan Light shows how Los Angeles reduced the sustained, high-volume influx of poor Latinos who settled there by deflecting a portion of the migration to other cities in the United States. In this manner, Los Angeles tamed globalization’s local impact, and helped to nationalize what had been a regional immigration issue. Los Angeles deflected immigration elsewhere in two ways. First, the protracted network-driven settlement of Mexicans naturally drove up rents in Mexican neighborhoods while reducing immigrants’ wages, rendering Los Angeles a less attractive place to settle. Second, as migration outstripped the city’s capacity to absorb newcomers, Los Angeles gradually became poverty-intolerant. By enforcing existing industrial, occupational, and housing ordinances, Los Angeles shut down some unwanted sweatshops and reduced slums. Their loss reduced the metropolitan region’s accessibility to poor immigrants without reducing its attractiveness to wealthier immigrants. Additionally, ordinances mandating that homes be built on minimum-sized plots of land with attached garages made home ownership in L.A.’s suburbs unaffordable for poor immigrants and prevented low-cost rental housing from being built. Local rules concerning home occupancy and yard maintenance also prevented poor immigrants from crowding together to share housing costs. Unable to find affordable housing or low-wage jobs, approximately one million Latinos were deflected from Los Angeles between 1980 and 2000. The realities of a new global economy are still unfolding, with uncertain consequences for the future of advanced societies, but mass migration from the Third World is unlikely to stop in the next generation. Deflecting Immigration offers a shrewd analysis of how America’s largest immigrant destination independently managed the challenges posed by millions of poor immigrants and, in the process, helped focus attention on immigration as an issue of national importance.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-359-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Author
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Ivan Light
  6. Chapter 1 Globalization and Migration Networks
    (pp. 1-22)

    Until recently, globalization theorists claimed that Third World immigration to the world’s large cities was simply a product of the changing income structure in the countries receiving those immigrants, especially in the largest cities.¹ This change in income distribution had produced a large and growing effective demand for cheap labor to which the Third World immigrants responded.² At the top of the income distribution, so the globalization argument proceeded, newly rich dual earner households need cleaners, gardeners, roofers, and childcare providers.³ Immigrants from poor countries took these low-wage jobs and unemployed native workers declined them.⁴ The immigrant workers received no...

  7. Chapter 2 Regional Dispersion of Mexicans
    (pp. 23-47)

    Migration networks connect immigrants abroad with friends, neighbors, and relatives at home. When favorable information about a destination reaches them, the friends, neighbors and relatives acquire both the desire and the ability to migrate. The desire comes when migrants abroad point out the advantages that migration has afforded them. The ability comes when migrants explain how they coped in a strange land, and offer to assist them to do the same. The new migrants then settle where friends, former neighbors, or relations have already most advantageously settled. Their choices of destination create nodes of settlement abroad linked to specific points...

  8. Chapter 3 Is Migration Still Demand-Driven?
    (pp. 48-59)

    In the broadest sense, globalization refers to all processes that incorporate the peoples of the world into a single society.¹ These processes are economic, cultural, and political. However, in the narrower economic sense used here, globalization means movement toward a globally integrated market for labor and capital, especially capital, but increasingly labor as well. Globally integrated markets for labor imply increasing international migration. Global restructuring is economic globalization in process. Very popular in policy circles, global restructuring theory accounts for a multiplicity of linked changes around the world in terms of the resurgent power of financial capital in a world...

  9. Chapter 4 Hard Times in the Barrios
    (pp. 60-80)

    Los angeles had undergone thirty-five years of well-documented globalization by 2000. Global restructuring created the Pacific Rim trading area, of which Los Angeles became the second-ranking city behind Tokyo. During this transition, manufacturing industry left southern California for the Pacific Rim, leaving behind high technology, aerospace, defense, and immigrant-staffed sweatshops.¹ The real wages of native-born manufacturing workers stagnated and declined in the protracted egress of jobs.² New jobs in service industries employed many of those displaced from manufacturing, but usually at lower wages.³ On the other hand, growing information services and management occupations increased the proportion of high-wage earners in...

  10. Chapter 5 How the Garment Industry Expanded
    (pp. 81-95)

    Globalization had many economic effects on Latinos in Los Angeles between 1970 and 2000. Expansion of employment buffers in the face of network-driven migration from Mexico and Central America was one of these. Although associated with declining economic welfare of Latinos, buffer growth permitted Los Angeles to support more immigrants than would have been possible without it. The two buffers were the ethnic ownership economy and the informal sector, the latter technically a subsector of the ethnic economy. Based on that recitation, one might fairly conclude that the expanding ethnic economies provided the requisite buffer. This chapter shows why that...

  11. Chapter 6 Why the Garment Industry Contracted
    (pp. 96-112)

    In 1924 Los Angeles was only the fourth largest garment-manufacturing center in the United States.¹ New York City was still the nation’s capital in the industry, and remained so until the 1980s, when Los Angeles finally passed it.² Of course, the inter-city balance had begun to tip before 1980. After 1970, extensive immigration from Asia and Latin America began. In its wake, the number of garment factories in Los Angeles County nearly tripled and the number of employees doubled (table 6.1). Immigration’s new provenance gave Los Angeles superior access to foreign-born workers from Asia, Mexico, and Central America. As a...

  12. Chapter 7 Asian Place Entrepreneurs
    (pp. 113-128)

    All immigrants are not the same. In the late twentieth century era of globalization, the United States attracted two divergent streams of immigration. One was a demand-driven stream of highly skilled Asians, Europeans, Middle Easterners, and Latin Americans. These immigrants started business firms or took well-paid jobs in growth sectors of the service economy. They received high pay, and brought abundant money and higher educational credentials with them. The second stream—discussed in chapter 8—consisted of working-class Mexicans and Central Americans.¹ Although this stream began in response to increased demand for low-paid and unskilled labor, the low-wage migration switched...

  13. Chapter 8 Deflecting Latinos from Suburbs
    (pp. 129-149)

    Unlike asian immigrants, working-class Latinos did not have homeland banks, coethnic entrepreneurs, and Mexico-based international real estate developers to prearrange the housing they would need in Los Angeles.¹ Instead, Latinos crashed into the housing status quo with no resources except their willingness to overpay and overcrowd. When the status quo resisted, housing access was curtailed in both the city and the suburbs of Los Angeles, and some Latinos were deflected from the metropolitan region.

    Institutional resistance of the housing supply to immigrant influx is easier to understand in Europe than in the United States. In European welfare states, when immigrants...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. Chapter 9 Racism or Poverty Intolerance?
    (pp. 150-156)

    Explaining the deflection of Latino immigration from Los Angeles, and (by inference) from other traditional destinations, on the basis of intolerance to poverty, these chapters have ignored racism and ethno-racial prejudice. Yet these two factors might plausibly explain why California, Los Angeles, and various suburban municipalities enforced housing, industrial, and occupational laws that discouraged Latino influx and settlement. Los Angeles cities might have strengthened enforcement of existing housing, industrial, and occupational laws on the basis of underlying, if unspoken, racism or cultural antipathy to Mexican and Central American immigrants. After all, Latino authors do complain of racism and anit-Latino bias...

  16. Chapter 10 Sequential Absorption and Deflection
    (pp. 157-171)

    When protracted over decades, the routine operation of migration networks drives immigrants’ wages in high traffic destinations down and their housing costs up. For this reason, the economic welfare of Mexican immigrants gradually declined in Los Angeles relative to low-traffic destinations. The bad news filtered back to Mexico, where potential immigrants rethought their settlement choices. The migration network adjusted, changing the rank order of traffic volume deposited at the various stations in the United States. During the 1990s, the adjusted migration network sent more migrants to previously lower-ranked destinations, and fewer to Los Angeles. Over a decade, that simple alteration...

  17. Appendix
    (pp. 172-174)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 175-204)
  19. References
    (pp. 205-232)
  20. Index
    (pp. 233-250)