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Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality

Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality

David Card
Steven Raphael
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    Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality
    Book Description:

    The rapid rise in the proportion of foreign-born residents in the United States since the mid-1960s is one of the most important demographic events of the past fifty years. The increase in immigration, especially among the less-skilled and less-educated, has prompted fears that the newcomers may have depressed the wages and employment of the native-born, burdened state and local budgets, and slowed the U.S. economy as a whole. Would the poverty rate be lower in the absence of immigration? How does the undocumented status of an increasing segment of the foreign-born population impact wages in the United States? InImmigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality, noted labor economists David Card and Steven Raphael and an interdisciplinary team of scholars provide a comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits of the latest era of immigration to the United States

    Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequalityrigorously explores shifts in population trends, labor market competition, and socioeconomic segregation to investigate how the recent rise in immigration affects economic disadvantage in the United States. Giovanni Peri analyzes the changing skill composition of immigrants to the United States over the past two decades to assess their impact on the labor market outcomes of native-born workers. Despite concerns over labor market competition, he shows that the overall effect has been benign for most native groups. Moreover, immigration appears to have had negligible impacts on native poverty rates. Ethan Lewis examines whether differences in English proficiency explain this lack of competition between immigrant and native-born workers. He finds that parallel Spanish-speaking labor markets emerge in areas where Spanish speakers are sufficiently numerous, thereby limiting the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born residents. While the increase in the number of immigrants may not necessarily hurt the job prospects of native-born workers, low-skilled migration appears to suppress the wages of immigrants themselves. Michael Stoll shows that linguistic isolation and residential crowding in specific metropolitan areas has contributed to high poverty rates among immigrants. Have these economic disadvantages among low-skilled immigrants increased their dependence on the U.S. social safety net? Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes analyze the consequences of welfare reform, which limited eligibility for major cash assistance programs. Their analysis documents sizable declines in program participation for foreign-born families since the 1990s and suggests that the safety net has become less effective in lowering child poverty among immigrant households.

    As the debate over immigration reform reemerges on the national agenda,Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequalityprovides a timely and authoritative review of the immigrant experience in the United States. With its wealth of data and intriguing hypotheses, the volume is an essential addition to the field of immigration studies.

    A Volume in the National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-804-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. About the Authors
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)
    David Card and Steven Raphael

    The rapid rise in the proportion of foreign-born residents in the United States since the mid-1960s is one of the most important demographic events of the past fifty years. As a consequence of this immigrant surge the country has become more diverse linguistically, culturally, socioeconomically, and perhaps politically. The increasing relative size of the immigrant population raises many key questions for understanding trends in U.S. poverty rates and inequality. To begin, immigration has altered the demographic composition of the nation, increasing the proportion foreign-born, the proportion of the resident population with extremely low levels of education, as well as the...


    • Chapter 2 Immigration, Native Poverty, and the Labor Market
      (pp. 29-59)
      Giovanni Peri

      This chapter analyzes the effect of immigration on the proportion of American families falling below the poverty line, through the labor market effect that immigrants may have on native workers. Immigrants are a heterogeneous group of workers with different skills. Some compete with specific groups of native workers and complement other groups. Others compete and complement different groups of native workers. They may also increase or dilute the average level of schooling in the U.S. economy. Each of these effects has an impact on native wages that differs depending on the schooling, age, and location of natives. The first step...

    • Chapter 3 Immigrant-Native Substitutability and the Role of Language
      (pp. 60-97)
      Ethan Lewis

      Studies have found that the massive flow of immigrants into the United States in the past few decades has had little negative impact on the average wages of native-born workers (reviews include Borjas 1994; Friedberg and Hunt 1995; Ottaviano and Peri 2012). However, many of these same studies tend to find that the new arrivals substantially depressed the wages of previous immigrant arrivals (Card 2001; Ottaviano and Peri 2012).¹ That immigrants seem, by this evidence, not to fully compete in the native labor market may contribute to the relatively high rates of poverty among immigrants, and understanding why they do...

    • Chapter 4 Immigration, Segregation, and Poverty
      (pp. 98-134)
      Michael A. Stoll

      Immigration, especially from Latin America and Asia, has changed and continues to change the demographic landscape in the United States. This chapter is concerned with factors that influence immigrant segregation as well as whether and how immigration affects a host of concerns including racial segregation, immigrant poverty, and English-language proficiency. Although immigrants continue to settle in established gateway areas, such as Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago, many are dispersing to other geographic areas not previously characterized as immigrant destination centers (Park and Iceland 2011; Lichter et al. 2010; Singer 2004).

      The dominant view, consistent with spatial assimilation theory,...

    • Chapter 5 “New Destinations” and Immigrant Poverty
      (pp. 135-166)
      Mark Ellis, Richard Wright and Matthew Townley

      The 1990s and 2000s saw the spatial diversification of immigration to new destination states away from the Southwest, West, and Northeast to the Plains, the South, and East. Some states recorded a doubling and tripling of populations; some counties grew at even higher rates (for example, Li 2009; Massey 2008; Light 2006; Zúñiga and Hernández-León 2006). Dispersion to suburbs and rural areas was an allied dimension of these new immigrant geographies (Singer et al. 2008; Jones 2008).

      Martha Crowley and her colleagues (2006) report that immigrants, including Mexicans, who lived in these new destination areas in 2000 had lower rates...


    • Chapter 6 Intergenerational Mobility
      (pp. 169-205)
      Renee Reichl Luthra and Roger Waldinger

      Immigration has long been a major source of economic and demographic growth in the United States. It has also long been a source of inequality. The last great wave of migration, at the turn of the previous century, brought large numbers of relatively lower skilled immigrants to the United States, diversifying the labor market, increasing rates of poverty, and creating an ethnically defined stratification system that endured for several generations (Lieberson and Waters 1988). The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which eliminated nationality-based quotas, has once again opened the United States to a new wave of immigration from Asia, Africa,...

    • Chapter 7 Frames of Achievement and Opportunity Horizons
      (pp. 206-231)
      Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou

      In the status attainment model, family socioeconomic status (SES)—measured by parental education, occupation, income, and wealth—is the most significant variable in determining an individual’s mobility outcomes (Blau and Duncan 1967; Duncan, Featherman, and Duncan 1972). Prior research in immigration has relied on this model to explain intergenerational mobility, poverty, and inequality. The children of immigrants born to parents with low human and economic capital exhibit poorer educational and occupational outcomes than their second-generation counterparts whose parents are more highly educated and more highly selected (Feliciano 2005; Kasinitz et al. 2009; see also chapters 5, 6, and 8, this...

    • Chapter 8 Reassessing Human Capital and Intergenerational Mobility
      (pp. 232-254)
      Roberto G. Gonzales

      This chapter examines the adult experiences of undocumented immigrants who migrate as children and must navigate legal and economic limitations (for expanded versions of some of the arguments presented here, see Gonzales 2010a, 2011). Empirically, I draw from 150 life history interviews and four and a half years of fieldwork with 1.5-generation young adults of Mexican origin living in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. In doing so, I focus attention on the ways family poverty and the limitations of unauthorized residency status constrain choices and, in turn, shape expectations and aspirations. My analysis compares the experiences of two groups of...


    • Chapter 9 Immigration Enforcement as a Race-Making Institution
      (pp. 257-281)
      Douglas S. Massey

      With a population of 50.5 million in 2010, Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States, 16.3 percent of the population, versus the African American 12.6 percent. Mexicans alone numbered 31.8 million that year, some 10.3 percent of the U.S. population (Ennis, Ríos-Vargas, and Albert 2011). Although fertility will play a large role in population growth moving forward, through 2008 the main source of Latino increase was immigration (Pew Hispanic Center 2011). From 1970 to 2010, the percentage of Latino foreign born rose from 29 percent to 39 percent and national origins shifted (Acosta and de la Cruz...

    • Chapter 10 Employment Effects of State Legislation
      (pp. 282-314)
      Sarah Bohn and Magnus Lofstrom

      The United States is home to a large and growing number of unauthorized immigrants. The most recent estimates indicate that this population increased from about 3 million in the late 1980s to around 11 million in 2009 (Passel and Cohn 2010). The legal immigrant population has also grown substantially over this time, as described in chapter 1 and throughout this volume, but the unauthorized immigrant population has grown at an even higher rate. Not surprisingly, the size and growth of the unauthorized population has not gone unnoticed and is the source of much controversy surrounding immigration policy. Reflected in both...

    • Chapter 11 Immigrants, Welfare Reform, and the U.S. Safety Net
      (pp. 315-380)
      Marianne P. Bitler and Hilary W. Hoynes

      Beginning with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, many of the central safety net programs in the United States eliminated benefits for legal immigrants, who previously had been eligible on the same terms as citizens. These dramatic cutbacks affected eligibility for numerous government programs: cash welfare assistance for families with children, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); food stamps, now Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Medicaid; State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Subsequent federal legislation passed over the next decade reinstated immigrant eligibility for...

    • Chapter 12 Immigration and Redistributive Social Policy
      (pp. 381-420)
      Cybelle Fox, Irene Bloemraad and Christel Kesler

      The pervasiveness of contemporary immigration and the historic image of the United States as a nation of immigrants make it hard to remember that in 1965 almost 95 percent of the U.S. population was native born (Gibson and Lennon 1999). Immigration was a negligible issue, and few could imagine the diversity we see today. Indeed, in signing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed, “This bill . . . is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives.”¹ Johnson could not...


    • Chapter 13 Immigration: The European Experience
      (pp. 423-456)
      Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini

      For most European countries, large-scale immigration is a more recent phenomenon than for countries such as Australia, the United States, or Canada. For instance, although Germany and Spain today have foreign-born populations similar to that of the United States in relative terms (14.5 percent and 13 percent of their total populations, respectively), the share of foreign born in West Germany before 1960 and in Spain before the early 1990s was below 1 percent. By contrast, the foreign-born population in the United States was 12.5 percent in 2009, but 13.6 percent in 1900. Immigration to Europe is also heterogeneous: immigrant populations...

  10. Index
    (pp. 457-470)