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Immigration and Population von Bohon, Stephanie A. (eBook)

  • Erscheinungsdatum: 05.03.2015
  • Verlag: Polity
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Immigration and Population

Immigration is the primary cause of population change in developed countries and a major component of population change in many developing countries. This clear and perceptive text discusses how immigration impacts population size, composition, and distribution. The authors address major socio-political issues of immigration through the lens of demography, bringing demographic insights to bear on a number of pressing questions currently discussed in the media, such as: Does immigration stimulate the economy? Do immigrants put an excessive strain on health care systems? How does the racial and ethnic composition of immigrants challenge what it means to be American (or French or German)? By systematically exploring demographic topics such as fertility, health, education, and age and sex structures, the book provides students of immigration with a broader understanding of the impact of immigration on populations and offers new ways to think about immigration and society. Stephanie A. Bohon is Associate Professor of Sociology and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Social Justice at the University of Tennessee. Meghan E. Conley is James Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Civil Rights and Social Justice at the University of Mary Washington.


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Immigration and Population

The Demography of Immigration

Reyna works at a grocery store in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains. An immigrant of Turkish descent, she entered the United States about 10 years ago. Although her foreign accent is unmistakable, Reyna speaks fluent English, and she is polite and pleasant to her customers. Having worked her way up from an entry-level position, she is currently training to manage her own store in the grocery's chain, and she has just purchased her first home.

Much about Reyna's story epitomizes the classic stereotype of the hardworking immigrant striving for a better life in a new country. At the same time, her story also illustrates today's complicated global web of international migration, in which place of birth and ethnic identity often differ and immigrants sometimes have experiences of living in three or more countries. For example, Reyna often returns to Turkey to visit relatives, but she was not born in Turkey, nor has she ever lived there. Reyna was born in Germany, where Turks are the largest ethnic minority and comprise about 5 percent of the German population (Sen 2003). Reyna is one of nearly 43 million immigrants living in the United States and one of nearly 49 million Americans who are associated with German-US immigration either by immigrating directly from Germany or by being the descendants of German immigrants. Yet, she is not German. She is one of only a relatively small number of US immigrants of West Asian / Middle Eastern descent (United Nations 2011).

The story of people like Reyna underscores that there is no universal "immigrant experience" in today's globalized world; rather, there are as many immigrant experiences as there are immigrants. Despite this, there are important trends in immigration, and immigrants share several characteristics. First, many people today live in a country other than the one where they were born. Most of these immigrants reside in the developed world (nearly 128 million in 2009) in the 34 wealthiest countries that comprise the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD countries are home to nearly 60 percent of all immigrants. In fact, about 9 percent of the population of OECD countries is comprised of immigrants, although immigrants comprise only 3 percent of the world's total population (United Nations 2011). Most immigrants migrate to developed countries from other developed countries; increasingly, however, immigrants are also migrating to developed countries from developing countries (OECD 2007). The developing world is also home to a smaller but still sizable number of immigrants (just over 86 million in 2009: United Nations 2011). This book focuses exclusively on immigration to developed countries, especially emphasizing the United States, which is the world's biggest immigrant receiver.

Second, immigration typically flows along network lines shaped by cultural, geographic, and historical conditions (Gurak and Caces 1992; McKenzie and Rapoport 2010). Thus, many people from the Middle East immigrate to the European Union, especially France and Germany, but far fewer Middle Easterners immigrate to the United States (Foad 2010). At the same time, many Asian immigrants settle in English-speaking countries, and there are large East and Southeast Asian populations in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Australia. Network migration also explains why immigrants end up in some parts of a host country instead of others. For example, in the early 1900s, the demand for sheepherders resulted in the migration of many people from the Pyrenees Basque Country of Spain and France to southern Idaho; today, Idaho is home to the largest population of Basque people outside of their homeland (Bieter and Bieter 2004).

Third, immigrants are not the same as those they leave behind (Kennedy, McDonald, and Biddle 2006; Belot and Hatton 2

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