Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The Mexican Immigration Debate: The View from History

  • Michael B. Katz, Mark J. Stern and Jamie J. Fader

Abstract

This article uses census microdata to address key issues in the Mexican immigration debate. First, we find striking parallels in the experiences of older and newer immigrant groups with substantial progress among second- and subsequent-generation immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and Mexican Americans. Second, we contradict a view of immigrant history that contends that early–twentieth–century immigrants from southern and eastern Europe found well–paying jobs in manufacturing that facilitated their ascent into the middle class. Both first and second generations remained predominantly working class until after World War II. Third, the erosion of the institutions that advanced earlier immigrant generations is harming the prospects of Mexican Americans. Fourth, the mobility experience of earlier immigrants and of Mexicans and Mexican Americans differed by gender, with a gender gap opening among Mexican Americans as women pioneered the path to white–collar and professional work. Fifth, public–sector and publicly funded employment has proved crucial to upward mobility, especially among women. The reliance on public employment, as contrasted to entrepreneurship, has been one factor setting the Mexican and African American experience apart from the economic history of most southern and eastern European groups as well as from the experiences of some other immigrant groups today.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Alba, Richard, and Nee, Victor (2003) Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bean, Franklin D. (forthcoming) “Unauthorized migration,” inWaters, M. and Ueda, R. (eds.) The New Americans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bean, Franklin D., and Stevens, Gillian (2003) America’s Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Bernhardt, Annette, Morris, Martina, Handcock, Mark S., and Scott, Marc. A. (2001) Divergent Paths: Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Borjas, George J. (1985) “Assimilation, changes in cohort quality, and the earnings of immigrants.” Journal of Labor Economics 3: 463–89.
Borjas, George J. (1999) Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Brody, David (1993) Workers in Industrial America: Essays on the Twentieth Century Struggle. 2nd ed. New York:Oxford University Press.
Citrin, Jack, Reingold, Beth, Walters, Evelyn, and Green, Donald P. (1990) “The ‘official English’ movement and the symbolic politics of language in the United States.” Western Political Quarterly 43: 535–59.
Cohen, Lizabeth (1990) Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cohen, Miriam (1992) Workshop to Office: Two Generations of Italian Women in New York City, 1900-1950. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Cornelius, Wayne A. (1998) “The structural embeddedness of demand for Mexican immigrant labor: New evidence from California,” in Suarez-Orozco, M. (ed.) Crossings: Mexican Immigration in Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press: 113–56.
Donato, Katherine M. (1994) “U.S. policy and Mexican migration to the United States, 1942-1992.” Social Science Quarterly 75: 705–29.
Donato, Katherine M., Durand, Jorge, and Massey, Douglas S. (1992) “Stemming the tide? Assessing the deterrent effects of the Immigration Reform and Control Act.” Demography 29: 139–57.
Durand, Jorge, Massey, Douglas S., and Capoferro, Chiara (2005) “The new geography of Mexican immigration,” in Zúñiga, Victor and Hernández-León, Rubén (eds.) New Destinations: Mexican Immigration in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 120.
Espenshade, Thomas, and Huber, Gregory A. (1999) “Fiscal impacts of immigrants and the shrinking welfare state,” in Hirschman, C., Kasinitz, P., and DeWind, J. (eds.) The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 36070.
Farley, Reynolds, and Alba, Richard D. (2002) “The new second generation in the United States.” International Migration Review 36: 669701.
Golab, Caroline (1977) Immigrant Destinations. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Gonzales Baker, Susan, Baker, Frank, Latapi, Augustin Escobar, and Weinbraub, Sidney (1998) “U.S. immigration policies and trends: The growing importance of migration from Mexico,” in Suarez-Orozco, M. (ed.) Crossings: Mexican Immigration in Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press: 82105.
Gouveia, Lourdes, Carranza, Miguel A., and Cogua, Jasney (2005) “The Great Plains migration: Mexicanos and Latinos in Nebraska,” in Zúñiga, Victor and Hernández-León, Rubén (eds.) New Destinations: Mexican Immigration in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 2349.
Huntington, Samuel (2004) Who Are We? Challenges to America’s National Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Hutchinson, Edward Prince (1956) Immigrants and Their Children, 1850-1950. New York: Wiley.
Jencks, Christopher (2001a) “Who should get in?” New York Review of Books, November 29.
Jencks, Christopher (2001b) “Who should get in? Part II.” New York Review of Books, December 20.
Katz, Michael B., and Stern, Mark J. (2006) One Nation Divisible: What America Was and What It Is Becoming. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Katz, Michael B., Stern, Mark J., and Fader, Jamie L. (2005a) “The new African American inequality.” Journal of American History 92: 75108.
Katz, Michael B., Stern, Mark J., and Fader, Jamie L. (2005b) “Women and the paradox of inequality in twentieth-century America.” Journal of Social History 39: 6588.
Katznelson, Ira (2005) When Affirmative Action Was White. New York: Norton.
King, Miriam, Ruggles, Steven, and Sobek, Matthew (2003) Integrated Public Use Micro-data Series, Current Population Survey: Preliminary Version 0.1 [machine-readable dataset]. Minneapolis: Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota.
Lewis, H. G. (1963) Unionism and Relative Wages in the United States: An Empirical Inquiry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lim, Nelson (2001) “On the back of blacks? Immigrants and the fortunes of African Americans,” in Waldinger, Roger (ed.) Strangers at the Gates: New Immigrants in Urban America. Berkeley: University of California Press: 186227.
Lopez, David E., and Stanton-Salazar, Ricardo D. (2001) “Mexican Americans: A second generation at risk,” in Rumbaut, Ruben G. and Portes, Alejandro (eds.) Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America. Berkeley: University of California Press; New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 5790.
Lowell, Lindsay B., and Suro, Robert (2002) “How many undocumented? The numbers behind the U.S.–Mexican immigration talks.” Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, www.pewhispanic.org/files/reports/6.pdf.
Lozano-Ascencio, Fernando, Roberts, Bryan R., and Bean, Frank D. (1999) “Interconnections of internal and international migration: The case of the United States and Mexico,” in Preis, L. (ed.) Migration and Transnational Social Spaces. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate: 163–78.
Marcelli, Enrico, and Cornelius, Wayne (2001) “The changing profile of Mexican migrants to the United States: New evidence from California and Mexico.” Latin American Research Review 36: 105–31.
Massey, Douglas S., Durand, Jorge, and Malone, Nolan J. (2002) Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Morawska, Ewa (2001) “Immigrants, transnationalism, and ethnicization: A comparison of this great wave and the last,” in Gerstle, G. and Mollenkpopf, J. (eds.) E Pluribus Unum? Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Immigrants’ Political Incorporation. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 175211.
Myers, Dowell (1998) “Dimensions of economic adaptation by Mexican-origin men,” in Suarez-Orozco, M. (ed.) Crossings: Mexican Immigration in Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press: 157200.
Myers, Dowell, and Cranford, Cynthia (1998) “Temporal differences in the occupational mobility of immigrant and native-born Latina workers.” American Sociological Review 63: 6893.
Myers, Dowell, and Lee, Seong Woo (1998) “Immigrant trajectories into homeownership: A temporal analysis of residential assimilation.” International Migration Review 32: 593625.
Passel, Jeffrey S. (2005) “Estimates of the size and characteristics of the undocumented population.” Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, www.pewhispanic.org/files/reports/44.pdf.
Perlmann, Joel (2005) Italians Then, Mexicans Now: Immigrant Origins and Second-Generation Progress, 1890-2000. New York and Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Russell Sage Foundation/Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.
Perlmann, Joel, and Waldinger, Roger (1999) “Immigrants, past and present: A reconsideration,” in Hirschman, C., Kasinitz, P., and DeWind, J. (eds.) The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 223–38.
Peters, Enrique Dussel (1998) “Recent structural changes in Mexico’s economy: A preliminary analysis of some sources of Mexican migration to the United States,” in Suarez-Orozco, M. (ed.) Crossings: Mexican Immigration in Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press: 5574.
Portes, Alejandro, and Rumbaut, Ruben G. (2001) Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. Berkeley: University of California Press; New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Portes, Alejandro, and Zhou, Min (1999) “Entrepreneurship and economic progress in the 1990s: A comparative analysis of immigrants and African Americans,” in Bean, F. D. and Bell-Rose, S. (eds.) Immigration and Opportunity: Race, Ethnicity, and Employment in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 143–71.
Raijman, Rebeca, and Tienda, Marta (2000) “Immigrants' pathways to business ownership: A comparative ethnic perspective.” International Migration Review 34: 682706.
Rosenfeld, Michael J., and Tienda, Marta (1999) “Mexican immigration, occupational niches, and labor market competition: Evidence from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, 1970 to 1990,” in Bean, F. D. and Bell-Rose, S. (eds.) Immigration and Opportunity: Race, Ethnicity, and Employment in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 64105.
Ruggles, Steven, Sobek, Matthew, Alexander, Trent, Fitch, Catherine A., Goeken, Ronald, Hall, Patricia Kell, King, Miriam, and Ronnander, Chad (2004) Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 3.0 [machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: Minnesota Population Center.
Rumbaut, Ruben G. (1999) “Assimilation and its discontents: Ironies and paradoxes,” in Hirschman, C., Kasinitz, P., and DeWind, J. (eds.) The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: 172–95.
Rumbaut, Ruben G., and Portes, Alejandro, eds. (2001) Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America. Berkeley: University of California Press; New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Sanchez, George J. (1993) Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.
Smith, James P., and Edmonston, Barry (1997) The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Smith, Robert C. (2001) “Mexicans: Social, educational, economic, and political problems and prospects in New York,” in Foner, N. (ed.) New Immigrants in New York. New York: Columbia University Press: 275300.
Smith, Robert C. (2002) “Gender, ethnicity, and race in school and work outcomes of second-generation Mexican Americans,” in Suarez-Orozco, M. and Paez, M. (eds.) Latinos in the Twenty-first Century. Berkeley: University of California Press: 110–25.
Smith, Robert C. (forthcoming) Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Spener, David, and Bean, Francis D. (1999) “Self-employment concentration and earnings among Mexican immigrants in the U.S.” Social Forces 77: 1021–47.
Stern, Mark J. (2004) “Comparing the socio-economic standing of early and late twentieth-century immigrants: Occupation, property ownership, and English ability among Italians, Poles, Russian Jews, Mexicans, other Latin Americans, and Koreans, 1900-2000,” December, www.sp2.upenn.edu/america2000/tabfig.htm.
Waldinger, Roger, ed. (2001) Strangers at the Gates: New Immigrants in Urban America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Waldinger, Roger, and Bozorgmehr, Mehdi, eds. (1996) Ethnic Los Angeles. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Waldinger, Roger, and Lee, Jennifer (2001) “New immigrants in urban America,” in Waldinger, R. (ed.) Strangers at the Gates: New Immigrants in Urban America. Berkeley: University of California Press: 80116.
Woolard, Kathryn A. (1989) “Sentences in the language prison: The rhetorical structuring of an American language policy debate.” American Ethnologist 16: 268–78.
Zúñiga, Victor, and Hernández-León, Rubén (2005) “Introduction,” in Zúñiga, Victor and Hernández-León, Rubén (eds.) New Destinations: Mexican Immigration in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation: xiߝxxix.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed