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Strangers at the Gates

Strangers at the Gates: New Immigrants in Urban America

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 355
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  • Book Info
    Strangers at the Gates
    Book Description:

    Immigration is remaking the United States. In New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago, the multiethnic society of tomorrow is already in place. Yet today's urban centers appear unlikely to provide newcomers with the same opportunities their predecessors found at the turn of the last century. Using the latest sources of information, this hard-hitting volume of original essays looks at the nexus between urban realities and immigrant destinies in these American cities.Strangers at the Gatestells the real story of immigrants' prospects for success today and delineates the conditions that will hinder or aid the newest Americans in their quest to get ahead. This book stresses the crucial importance of understanding that immigration today is fundamentally urban and the equally important fact that immigrants are now flocking to places where low-skilled workers--regardless of ethnic background--are in particular trouble. These two themes are at the heart of this book, which also covers a range of provocative topics, often with surprising findings. Among the essayists, Nelson Lim enters the controversy over whether and how immigrants affect the employment prospects for African Americans; Mark Ellis investigates whether low immigrant wages depress other workers' salaries; William A.V. Clark contends that immigrants seem to be experiencing downward mobility; and Min Zhou asserts that trends among second-generation immigrants are decidedly more optimistic. These well-integrated and well-organized essays sit squarely at the intersection of sociology and economics, and along the way they point out both the strengths and the weaknesses of these two disciplines in understanding immigration. Providing a theoretically and empirically comprehensive overview of the economic fate of immigrants in major American cities, this book will make a major contribution to debates over immigration and the American future.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92771-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-29)
    Roger Waldinger

    As America enters the twenty-first century, it is clear that the twentieth was the century of immigration. True, the doors closed in the mid-1920s—and for many, especially during the dark days of World War II, they remained fatally shut until it was too late. But even during the heyday of immigration restriction, the back door remained open, which means the Mexican presence also then grew. A temporary migrant farm labor program in 1943—known as the Bracero program—augured the shape of things to come: immigration began growing in the late 1940s, and the path since then has been...

    (pp. 30-79)
    Roger Waldinger and Jennifer Lee

    Immigration is again transforming the United States. A renewed immigrant tide stretches back four decades, with newcomers arriving in unprecedented numbers and evidence of a changed America perceptible wherever one goes. Venturing deep into the heartland, one hears foreign accents; looking a little deeper, one encounters the networks that link immigrants and the fledgling institutions that sustain them.

    The appearance of immigrants all over the map is not quite an illusion, but it is largely a product of growing immigrant numbers. Small groups filter toward many corners of the country, where observers may note the increased population of newcomers. For...

  7. Chapter 3 UP FROM POVERTY? “Race,” Immigration, and the Fate of Low-Skilled Workers
    (pp. 80-116)
    Roger Waldinger

    Immigration has transformed America’s largest urban places in ways that even the casual observer of cities cannot help but notice. Yet we have made little progress in pursuing the intellectual implications of the new metropolitan demography, mainly because our understanding of today’s urban reality remains deeply embedded in older frameworks, never adequate to begin with and now badly outdated.

    The “urban problem” of the past half century was framed by a preoccupation with race and the difficulties African Americans encountered in their attempts to get ahead. Although the literature offered a plethora of explanations for these problems, the most influential...

  8. Chapter 4 A TALE OF FIVE CITIES? Trends in Immigrant and Native-Born Wages
    (pp. 117-158)
    Mark Ellis

    Americans entertain any number of anxieties about contemporary immigration to the United States. Among the more rational reasons for concern, evidence of the widening economic gap between the nativeand foreign-born should rank high on the list. Whether the indicator involves wages, poverty (see chapter 5), or access to full-time, well-paying jobs (see chapter 3), the signs all point in the same direction: immigrants to the United States are falling farther behind the native-born on a range of basic measures of economic well-being.¹

    Most of the interest, naturally enough, has focused on wages.² The typical approach involves a comparison of national...

  9. Chapter 5 THE GEOGRAPHY OF IMMIGRANT POVERTY: Selective Evidence of an Immigrant Underclass
    (pp. 159-185)
    William A. V. Clark

    While some immigrant households are experiencing severe hunger as the federally mandated cuts in food stamps go into effect, others celebrate their successful entry into the labor market.¹ At one extreme, California Food Policy Advocates reported that 50 percent of the households in which at least one member lost food stamps in Los Angeles County were experiencing hunger and that the hunger rate in Los Angeles County was four times higher than that in the United States as a whole.² At the other extreme, a substantial number of immigrant households in the high-technology centers of Silicon Valley have incomes much...

  10. Chapter 6 ON THE BACK OF BLACKS? Immigrants and the Fortunes of African Americans
    (pp. 186-227)
    Nelson Lim

    “On the back of blacks?” asked Toni Morrison in a recent essay, contemplating the role of “race talk” in the assimilation of newcomers into a racially stratified society such as ours.¹ The same question naturally arises in the context of today’s immigration debate, having served as a fulcrum of controversy among scholars and advocates of varying stripes for more than two decades. The reasons for disquiet are not difficult to discern. Immigrants are getting a toehold in the American economy and many are “making it” at a time when progress for too many African Americans seems stalled.² While the boom...

  11. Chapter 7 THE IMMIGRANT NICHE: Pervasive, Persistent, Diverse
    (pp. 228-271)
    Roger Waldinger and Claudia Der-Martirosian

    At the top of the immigration research agenda stands the question of how newcomers change after they have arrived. The conventional wisdom, both academic and popular, says that immigrantsshouldchange by entering the American mainstream. The concept of assimilation stands as a shorthand for this point of view.

    In its canonical form the theory of assimilation begins with the assumption that immigrants arrive as “ethnics,” an identity reinforced by their tendency to recreate their own social worlds. Cultural change occurs as Americanization transforms the tastes, everyday habits, and preferences of the second generation. But Americanization can proceed even as...

  12. Chapter 8 PROGRESS, DECLINE, STAGNATION? The New Second Generation Comes of Age
    (pp. 272-307)
    Min Zhou

    The question of immigrants’ progress lies at the heart of the contemporary immigration debate. For more than 10 years now, the scholarly discussion has framed the question in its own arcane terms, trying to determine whether immigrants are of “declining quality,” a phrase that implies that the skills of the most recent arrivals are lower than those of their predecessors. Although the controversy shows no clear resolution, it is certain that a large portion of today’s immigrants come to the United States with levels of education sufficient to get started but too low to get ahead without great difficulty.


  13. Chapter 9 CONCLUSION: Immigration and the Remaking of Urban America
    (pp. 308-330)
    Roger Waldinger

    This book has sought to tell the story of the new immigrant America and its urban capitals. That newcomers are urban bound is neither a surprise nor an accident. Although the immigrant geography of the United States at the turn of the twenty-first century barely resembles the pattern observed a century ago, the basic tendency to converge on a limited number of places remains much the same. Nor has the basic motivation for clustering changed. Networks, as we have emphasized throughout this book, lubricate the process of migration: the connections between veterans and newcomers attract the most recent arrivals to...

    (pp. 331-332)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 333-339)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 340-340)