Migration and Development

Alícia Adserà • Anne C. Case • Rafaela Dancygier • Patricia Fernández-Kelly • Tod G. Hamilton • Jackelyn Hwang • Douglas S. Massey • Alejandro Portes • Karen Pren • Magaly Sanchez-R • Marta Tienda


By studying the role of linguistic proximity, widely spoken languages, linguistic enclaves and language-based immigration policy requirements, Alícia Adserà and her co-author Mariola Pytliková (University of Ostrava, Czech Republic) examine the importance of language in international migration from multiple angles. To this aim, they collected a unique data set on immigration flows and stocks in 30 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) destinations from all world countries over the period 1980–2010 and constructed a set of linguistic proximity measures. Migration rates increase with linguistic proximity and with English at destination. Softer linguistic requirements for naturalization and larger linguistic communities at destination encourage more migrants to move. Linguistic proximity matters less when local linguistic networks are larger. Their findings are published in their paper, “The Role of Language in Shaping International Migration” published in The Economic Journal.


Alícia Adserà’s article, “Language and Culture as Drivers of Migration, Linguistic and Cultural Barriers affect International Migration Flows,” published by The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) World of Labor, examines the increase in migration flows to developed countries in recent decades, as well as the increased number of countries from which migrants arrive. Thus, it is increasingly important to consider what culture and language role differences play in migration decisions. Recent work shows that culture and language may explain migration patterns to developed countries even better than traditional economic variables, such as income per capita and unemployment rates in destination and origin countries. Differences in culture and language may create barriers that prevent the full realization of the potential economic gains from international mobility. Differences in language and customs between countries imply costs that potential migrants likely consider in deciding whether to migrate and where to go. Fluency in the language of the destination country—and ease of learning it—can facilitate the transfer of migrants’ skills to the new labor market, contributing to the global interchange of skills and stimulating economic growth. Policies promoting instruction in foreign languages can foster the international mobility of workers, with potentially large individual and social returns through increased worker productivity and quicker socio-economic integration of new arrivals.


In “Social Protection and Labor Market: Outcomes of Youth in South Africa” published in Economic Development and Cultural Change, Anne Case and co-authors Cally Ardington (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Till Bärnighausen (Harvard University), and Alicia Menendez (University of Chicago) examine an Apartheid-driven spatial mismatch between workers and jobs leads to high job search costs for people living in rural areas of South Africa—costs that many young people cannot pay. Close examination of whether the arrival of a social grant—specifically a generous state-funded old-age pension given to men and women above prime age—enhances the ability of young men in rural areas to seek better work opportunities elsewhere. Based on eight waves of socioeconomic data on household living arrangements and household members’ characteristics and employment status, collected between 2001 and 2011 at a demographic surveillance site in KwaZulu-Natal, the authors find that young men are significantly more likely to become labor migrants when someone in their household becomes age-eligible for the old-age pension. But this effect applies only to those who have completed high school (matric), who are on average 8 percentage points more likely to migrate for work when their households become pension eligible, compared with other potential labor migrants. The authors also find that, upon pension loss, it is the youngest migrants who are the most likely to return to their sending households, perhaps because they are the least likely to be self-sufficient at the time the pension is lost. The evidence is consistent with binding credit constraints limiting young men from poorer households from seeking more lucrative work elsewhere.


In, “Why Are Immigrants Underrepresented in Politics? Evidence from Sweden,” published in American Political Science Review, Rafaela Dancygier, Karl-Oskar Lindgren (Uppsala University), Sven Oskarsson (Uppsala University), and Kåre Vernby (Stockholm University) examine how the deep challenges of widespread and persistent political underrepresentation of immigrant-origin minorities pose deep challenges to democratic practice and norms. What accounts for this underrepresentation? Two types of competing explanations are prevalent in the literature: accounts that base minority underrepresentation on individual-level resources and accounts that emphasize political opportunity structures. However, due to the lack of data suitable for testing these explanations, existing research has not been able to adjudicate between these theories. Using registry-based microdata covering the entire Swedish adult population between 1991 and 2010 the study is the first to empirically evaluate these alternative explanations. They examine election outcomes to municipal councils over the course of six elections and find that variation in individual-level resources cannot explain immigrants’ underrepresentation. Further, when comparing immigrants and natives who face comparable political opportunity structures a large representation gap remains. Instead, they argue that discrimination by party gatekeepers plays a more significant role in perpetuating the underrepresentation of immigrants than do individual resources or structural variables. This paper won the 2015 SAGE Best Paper Prize given by American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Comparative Politics.


In their chapter, “Globalization, Labor Markets, and Class Cleavages,” in The Politics of Advanced Capitalism, Beramendi, Pablo, Silja Häusermann, Hebert Kitschelt and Hanspeter Kriesi (Editors), Rafaela Dancygier and Stefanie Walter’s (University of Zürich, Institute for Political Science) focus on the impact of globalization on voter preferences. To do so, they consider the labor market consequences of trade, foreign direct investment, and immigration, which have had immediate effects on voters in advanced capitalist democracies. The globalization of production and the international flow of labor generate gains and losses in ways that cut both along and across traditional class cleavages, especially when such globalization has uneven sectoral effects. To identify who benefits and who loses from globalization, scholars have investigated effects on the basis of skills, industries, and occupation. More recent research has developed increasingly complex models that take into account differences in the productivity of firms, in the skill and cultural profiles of domestic and migrant labor, and in economic conditions across and within countries. The first part of this chapter provides an overview of this literature. In the second part they re-examine the role of class. Though the scholarship they review paints an increasingly complex picture of globalization’s distributional consequences and its ensuing effects on preferences, they contend that class still remains significant in ordering preferences: Low-skill workers have often been identified as the group most likely to voice its discontent about economic liberalization and cultural opening. This finding is in line with skill-based economic models that predict that low-skill workers in high-skill economies should suffer most from globalization. As they illustrate, however, it can also be consistent with accounts that focus on the sectoral and occupational threats posed by the global flow of goods and labor. By examining exposure to trade, FDI, and immigration together, they show that low-skill workers in advanced industrialized democracies cannot easily escape the labor market pressures that globalization generates. Those low-skill workers who are relatively sheltered from the threats associated with outsourcing and trade are most vulnerable to competition arising from immigration, and vice versa. Further, the labor market pressures experienced by low-skilled workers occur alongside and are inseparable from exposure to cultural diversity. More than their high-skill counterparts, low-skilled workers experience economic and cultural threats jointly.


Patricia Fernández-Kelly published a book with Alejandro Portes entitled “The Grassroots and the State: Transnational Immigrant Organizations in Five Continents.” The volume compiles findings from a comparative study of transnational immigrant organizations operating in developing and developed countries. This is the first comprehensive investigation of the connections, dynamics, and evolution of immigrant organizations in key parts of the world.


In the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Tod Hamilton, Tia Palermo (Stony Brook University) and Tiffany Green’s (Virginia Commonwealth University) paper, “Health Assimilation among Hispanic Immigrants in the United States: The Impact of Ignoring Arrival-cohort Effects,” the authors reviewed the large literature that documents that Hispanic immigrants have a health advantage over their U.S.-born counterparts upon arrival in the United States. Few studies, however, have disentangled the effects of immigrants’ arrival cohort from their tenure of U.S. residence, an omission that could produce imprecise estimates of the degree of health decline experienced by Hispanic immigrants as their U.S. tenure increases. Using data from the 1996-to-2014 waves of the March Current Population Survey, they show that the health (i.e., self-rated health) of Hispanic immigrants varies by both arrival cohort and U.S. tenure for immigrants hailing from most of the primary sending countries/regions of Hispanic immigrants. They also found evidence that acculturation plays an important role in determining the health trajectories of Hispanic immigrants. With respect to self-rated health, however, their findings demonstrate that omitting arrival-cohort measures from health assimilation models may result in overestimates of the degree of downward health assimilation experienced by Hispanic immigrants.


In a paper published in an issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science focusing on residential inequality in American neighborhoods and communities, Jackelyn Hwang examines how the rise of immigration and its associated racial and ethnic changes relate to gentrification. In the decades following the 1965 Hart-Celler Act, gentrification has occurred more in cities with high levels of immigration and in neighborhoods with higher levels of immigrants. These relationships, however, vary by the ways in which a city is racially segregated and by the extent to which its immigrant population has been incorporated. Using crime data, surveys, and new gentrification measures, this article compares Chicago, a highly segregated city and predominantly Hispanic immigrant destination, with Seattle, a predominantly white city with high levels of Asian immigration. The findings show that immigration and its correlates have distinct and evolving relationships with neighborhood changes that are embedded in the racial and immigrant histories of each city, and that gentrification perpetuates racial and ethnic inequality in both cities.


In a paper forthcoming in Demography, Jackelyn Hwang examines the role of immigration in the rise of gentrification in the late twentieth century. Analysis of U.S. Census and American Community Survey data over 24 years and field surveys of gentrification in low-income neighborhoods across 23 U.S. cities reveal that most gentrifying neighborhoods were “global” in the 1970s or became so over time. An early presence of Asians was positively associated with gentrification; and an early presence of Hispanics was positively associated with gentrification in neighborhoods with substantial shares of blacks and negatively associated with gentrification in cities with high Hispanic growth, where ethnic enclaves were more likely to form. Low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods and neighborhoods that became Asian and Hispanic destinations remained ungentrified despite the growth of gentrification during the late twentieth century. The findings suggest that the rise of immigration after 1965 brought pioneers to many low-income central-city neighborhoods, spurring gentrification in some neighborhoods and forming ethnic enclaves in others.


In the past two years, Douglas Massey’s research has focused on patterns and trends, causes and consequences of residential segregation in the U.S. and Mexico-U.S. migration and the counterproductive consequences of border enforcement.


Douglas Massey, Jorge Durand (Universidad de Guadalajara), and OPR’s Karen Pren’s chapter, “Militarization of the Mexico-U.S. Border and its Effect on the Circularity of Migrants,” is published in Diego Acosta Arcarazo and Anja Wiesbrock (Editors) Global Migration: Myths and Realities. This chapter shows that measures such as the militarization of the border are not only ineffective in limiting the number of irregular migrants, they also lead to increasing death rates among unauthorized border crossers, rising costs of crossing the border, and longer stays for migrants working in the U.S. in order to pay off the crossing costs.


Douglas Massey, Jorge Durand (Universidad de Guadalajara), and Karen Pren’s paper, “Border Enforcement and Return Migration by Documented and Undocumented Mexicans,” in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies uses data from the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) to compute probabilities of departure and return for first and later trips to the United States in both documented and undocumented status. They then estimate statistical models to analyze the determinants of departure and return according to legal status. Prior to 1986, Mexico-U.S. migration was characterized by great circularity, but since then circularity has declined markedly for undocumented migrants but increased dramatically for documented migrants. Whereas return migration by undocumented migrants dropped in response to the massive increase in border enforcement, that of documented migrants did not. At present, the Mexico-U.S. migration system has reached a new equilibrium in which undocumented migrants are caged in as long-term settlers in the U.S. while documented migrants increasingly range freely and circulate back and forth across the border within rising frequency.


Douglas Massey’s next major book project will be an analysis of the roots of America’s dysfunctional immigration and border policies and how they led to the demographic transformation of U.S. society, a well-entrenched unauthorized population lacking civil rights, a massive white backlash, and the current political stalemate. He has also begun work on a book analyzing how the religious belief and practice affect patterns and processes of immigrant integration in the United States.


Douglas Massey’s chapter, “Uninformed Policies and Reactionary Politics: A Cautionary Tale from the United States,” published in Christian Dustmann, (Editor) Migration: Economic Change, Social Challenge uses findings from earlier published work to illustrate how public policies enacted without any real understanding of underlying social and economic policies can be counter-productive. Specifically, immigration reforms enacted by the U.S. Congress in the mid-1960s were enacted with the aim of eliminating racism from federal immigration law, but paid no attention to the underlying reality of a well-established, largely circular flow of legal migrants between Mexico and the United States. Lacking access to legal visas, migrants continued to enter without authorization, but this increase in illegal migration set off a chain reaction of increasingly conservative sentiment and restrictionist policies that increased, rather than decreased, the number of undocumented migrants in the United States, producing a marginalized population in peril of forming a very disadvantaged underclass. The chapter warns policymakers in other countries to avoid intervening in complex social and economic systems without properly understanding their operation.


Douglas Massey’s “Threat Evasion as Motivation for Migration,” published in the American Sociological Association’s International Migration Fall 2015 Newsletter, World on the Move states that the motivations for human migration are diverse, but can generally be classified under five basic rubrics: material improvement, risk management, symbolic gratification, social connection, and threat evasion. Most theoretical work in recent decades has focused on motivations connected with material improvement, risk management, and social connection. Less attention has been paid to symbolic gratification and threat evasion. The desire of people to improve their material circumstances has long been recognized as a key motivation for migration. Migration motivated by a desire for material gain is most commonly theorized by neoclassical economics, which views the migratory decision as a cost-benefit analysis whereby rational, utility-maximizing actors balance the gains to be had by working at various geographic locations against the costs of migrating to these places. Individuals maximize utility by moving to the location where the difference between earnings at origin and destination is greatest, net of the costs of migration.


In “A Missing Element in Migration Theories,” published in Migration Letters, Douglas Massey states that from the mid-1950s through the mid-1980s, migration between Mexico and the United States constituted a stable system whose contours were shaped by social and economic conditions well-theorized by prevailing models of migration. It evolved as a mostly circular movement of male workers going to a handful of U.S. states in response to changing conditions of labour supply and demand north and south of the border, relative wages prevailing in each nation, market failures and structural economic changes in Mexico, and the expansion of migrant networks following processes specified by neoclassical economics, segmented labour market theory, the new economics of labour migration, social capital theory, world systems theory, and theoretical models of state behaviour. After 1986, however, the migration system was radically transformed, with the net rate of migration increasing sharply as movement shifted from a circular flow of male workers going to a limited set of destinations to a nationwide population of settled families. This transformation stemmed from a dynamic process that occurred in the public arena to bring about an unprecedented militarization of the Mexico-U.S. border, and not because of shifts in social, economic, or political factors specified in prevailing theories. In this paper Massey draws on earlier work to describe that dynamic process and demonstrate its consequences, underscoring the need for greater theoretical attention to the self-interested actions of politicians, pundits, and bureaucrats who benefit from the social construction and political manufacture of immigration crises when none really exist.


In their book, The State and The Grassroots: Immigrant Transnational Organizations in Four Continents, Alejandro Portes and Patricia Fernández-Kelly present empirical results, review the theoretical controversies in the field of immigration and development, the role of the concept of “transnationalism” in opening a path for the resolution of such controversies, and its parallel relationship to the process of incorporation into social and political life in receiving countries.

The study of migration and development has focused traditionally on the forces driving persons from their home regions, the demographic and social consequences of their departure, and the subsequent effects of their remittances on local and national economies. The unit of analysis has normally been the individual migrant – identified by classical economics as the central decision maker in the process or the family, privileged by sociology and the “new economics” of migration – as the actual determinant of migration decisions. When aggregated, the decisions of individual actors and family units are said to have major effects on the social and economic prospects of sending regions and nations. Similarly, the extensive debate over the incorporation of immigrants into the receiving societies has featured a range of arguments – from those that disparage the possibilities of successful integration among all or certain groups of foreigners – to alternatives that see such integration as almost inevitable.

Left out of the picture have been the organizational efforts of the migrants themselves and their possible bearing on sending areas, as well as on the incorporation in host societies. The individualistic focus has persisted both in critical accounts of the role of migration that regarded the departure of migrants as another symptom of underdevelopment and in optimistic ones that focused on the role of migrants remittances as an almost miraculous solution to local poverty and national underdevelopment. The possibility that purposefully – created organizations by expatriates could play a significant role was almost entirely neglected in the development literature. Similarly, conflicting accounts of sociopolitical incorporation into host societies focused overwhelmingly on the characteristics of individual migrants, neglecting their organizational life. Only recently have empirical studies in several European countries focused on the role of migrant associations in social and political incorporation.

Alert sending country governments have begged to differ, engaging with migrant organizations in a multiplicity of development projects and even creating such organizations where none existed previously. Initially, these contacts were prompted by the discovery of the volume and aggregate significance of individual remittances and the interest of sending country officials in preserving these flows. Gradually, however, it dawned on them that the scope and importance – political and economic – of organized expatriate initiatives could go much farther than individual money transfers.

The history of the growth of immigrant organizations and their interactions with home communities, local authorities, and national governments is complex and varies greatly across particular communities and countries. So are the repercussions that these interactions can have on the prospects for sociopolitical incorporation and the development of sending nations.


Magaly Sanchez-R’s project, “International Migration of High Skills Educated and Talent to United States,” is advancing the coding after collecting qualitative data from in-depth interviews with 150 immigrants from different places throughout the world, as well with other key actors in private corporations, policy makers and academia. Using the Nvivo Program, coding and organization of data will allow for the construction of some statistical indicators with the correspondent qualitative data. Principal aspects of the data contain information on in-security and quality-of-life conditions, social services access, global market competition, integration and identity, and diversity and knowledge. After publications and capitalization, the data will be accessible through the public archives data of the OPR.


At the American Economic Association 2015 Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) Conference in Boston, MA, Magaly Sanchez-R presented her paper, “High Skills Immigrants in the United States: Approach in Education Level and Professional Status,” in the “Political Economy of Migration in Europe and United States: The Importance of Skills Session. In this presentation, she sustains that the high skill and educated migrants have been characterizing the flow of total international migration in recent years. With the globalization age, informational and knowledge society appears to be a key to understanding the mobility of talent and high-skills professionals around the world. Other elements that seem to play an important role are linked with authoritarian regimes, violence factors, criminal and political, as well as with violence resulting from discrimination to minorities and life quality deterioration. Using data from American Community Survey 2013 and MMP – Latin American Migration Project (LAMP), she compares Central and South American Latino groups, with native- and foreign-born populations, showing high levels of education and corresponding labor incorporation for South Americans.


At the Eastern Sociological Association (ESS) Carework Miniconference, Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meetings in New York, Magaly Sanchez-R and co-author, Suzanne Grossman, presented, “A Link between Immigrants and the Health Care System in the USA.” In this paper the authors shows the incipient trend that related immigrant’s not-English speaking community and the medical health care institutions. The role of Medical interpreters appears to be one of new professional activity that directly helps on medical knowledge and communication between providers and community. This is an important implication in the social spaces of community and health Institutions and providers and goes beyond the simple language translation in the sense that considerers social cultural characteristics of the served community. Using global data on foreign born occupation, data form NSC on medical interpreters training achievement by languages, data form the NCBMI by state, and data from three providers interviewed, the authors showed the existing link between skilled medical interpreters and low skilled immigrants patients.


At Latin American Studies Association (LASA) 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Magaly Sanchez-R presented,“The Complexity of the Violence in Venezuela: Youth Options and Violent Life,” in the Panel, “La violencia y las paradojas en la Venezuela Contemporanea.” In her paper, she refers to different aspects related to the complexity of the violence in Latin America and in particular in Venezuela. She argues that in the case of Venezuela, in a context of progressive authoritarianism so called “democracy” it has been a growing radicalization of youths, accentuated not only by the globalization of a criminal economy, but also by the aggressive political polarization affecting society , and giving space to the proliferation of armed groups known as “collectivos.” She argues that the lack of data on violent crimes, growing authoritarian democracies states, presence of political and criminal violence and the international migration and violence as a cause, appear to be key elements of understanding, and need to be seriously taken into account.


Finalizing the year, Magaly Sanchez-R presented a lecture “Migracion Internacional de profesionales altamente cualificados, Estudiantes y Deportados. El cado de Venezuela,” at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. Her talk showed evidence of two differentiated tendencies on international migration from Venezuela. In the first level she refers to the massive migration of High-Skills Educated (HSE) professionals who have been leaving the country since 2000.This tendency transformed over time, from the wave of HSE professionals with high human capital and already working in Venezuela, to the recent wave of students with college and university degrees. At the second level, she referred to the authoritarian military policy deportation affecting Colombians-Venezuelans people actively living in the borders of San Antonio- y Cucuta. These populations have been deported to Colombia without any satisfactory explanation, forced by military repression creating a new problem at the “border”.


In “Multiplying Diversity: Family Unification and the Regional Origins of Late-Age U.S. Immigrants,” published in International Migration Review, Marta Tienda uses administrative data about new legal permanent residents to show how family unification chain migration changed both the age and regional origin of U.S. immigrants. Between 1981 and 1995, every 100 initiating immigrants from Asia sponsored between 220 and 255 relatives, but from 1996 through 2000, each 100 initiating immigrants from Asia sponsored nearly 400 relatives, with one-in-four ages 50 and above. The family migration multiplier for Latin Americans was boosted by the legalization program: from 1996 to 2000, each of the 100 initiating migrants from Latin America sponsored between 420 and 531 family members, of which 18–21 percent were ages 50 and over.


In “Age at Immigration and the Incomes of Older Immigrants, 1994-2010” published in Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Kevin O’Neil (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and Marta Tienda state that seniors comprise a growing proportion of new U.S. immigrants. They investigate whether late-age immigrants are disadvantaged in older age relative to those arriving earlier in life, based on income, reliance on public benefits, and access to public medical insurance. They test whether the 1996 welfare reform law altered the relationships between age at immigration and these outcomes. The method--Immigrants aged 65 and older in the 1994–2010 Current Population Surveys were classified by age at immigration. Median and logistic regressions are used to estimate the association between age at immigration and several outcomes and to test whether these associations differ for arrivals before and after welfare reform. The results show that late-age immigration is strongly associated with lower personal income, lower rates of Medicare and Social Security receipt, and higher participation in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Arrival after 1996 is associated with lower rates of SSI, Medicaid, and Medicare receipt. The association between late-age immigration and income is stronger for post-1996 arrivals relative to earlier arrivals, whereas that between late-age immigration and Medicaid is weaker, suggesting that the penalty conferred by late-age immigration grew after reform.


Ph.D. candidate Mariana Campos Horta and Marta Tienda’s chapter, “Of Work and the Welfare State: Labor Market Activity and Income Security of Mexican Origin Seniors,” was published in Challenges of Latino Aging in the Americas, William Vega, Kyriakos Markides, Jacqueline Angel, and Fernando Torres-Gill (Editors). The book examines one of the most important demographic changes facing the United States: an overall aging population and the increasing influence of Latinos. It also looks at the changing demographics in Mexico and its impact on the health and financial well-being of aging Mexicans and Mexican Americans. The book provides a conceptual and accessible framework that will educate and inform readers about the interconnectedness of the demographic trends facing these two countries. It also explores the ultimate personal, social, and political impact they will have on all Americans, in the U.S. as well as Mexico.