Origins and Destinies: Immigration to the United States Since World War II
Sociological Forum, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 583-621, December 1994
39 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2011
Date Written: 1994
Contemporary immigration to the United States and the formation of new ethnic groups are the complex and unintended social consequences of the expansion of the nation to its post-World War II position of global hegemony. Immigrant communities in the United States today are related to a history of American military, political, economic, and cultural involvement and intervention in the sending countries, especially in Asia and the Caribbean Basin, and to the linkages that are formed in the process that open a variety of legal and illegal migration pathways. The 19.8 million foreign-born persons counted in the 1990 U.S. census formed the largest immigrant population in the world, though in relative terms, only 7.9% of the U.S. population was foreign-born, a lower proportion than earlier in this century. Today's immigrants are extraordinarily diverse, a reflection of polar-opposite types of migrations embedded in very different historical and structural contexts. Also, unlike the expanding economy that absorbed earlier flows from Europe, since the 1970s new immigrants have entered an "hourglass" economy with reduced opportunities for social mobility, particularly among the less educated, and new waves of refugees have entered a welfare state with expanded opportunities for public assistance. This paper seeks to make sense of the new diversity. A typology of contemporary immigrants is presented, and their patterns of settlement, their distinctive social and economic characteristics compared to major native-born racial-ethnic groups, and their different modes of incorporation in – and consequences for – American society are considered.
Keywords: immigration, types of migrants, causes and consequences of immigration, social and economic adaptations, ethnic diversity
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