Pioneer migration of U.S. immigrants to new destinations: who migrates and where do they go?

Douglas T. Gurak, Cornell University
Mary M. Kritz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research on immigrant dispersion to new U.S. destinations has not addressed the question of how place and individual factors influence settlement in pioneer places. While origin-group social networks influence immigrants’ initial settlement choices and secondary migration decisions, other factors must be important when immigrants move to pioneer places. By comparing the pioneer settlement process for ten Asian and Latin American immigrant groups, our goal was to identify national origin differences in pioneer migration and determine whether immigrants from different national origins have similar responses to economic, demographic, social, and co-ethnic labor markets conditions. We used 1990 and 2000 confidential decennial census data because they have sufficient sample cases and geographic detail to study national origin differences. We estimated zero-inflated Poisson models for each group to identify the place characteristics associated with higher pioneer settlement counts in the 1990s. Logistic regression models estimated the individual characteristics of immigrants who settled pioneer places. The major context determinants of pioneer settlement are 1990 population size, the pan-ethnic presence of foreign born from each group’s origin region (Asia or Latin America) and the lack of a significant agricultural presence in the labor force. The individual-level logit models indicated that pioneers were significantly more likely to be internal migrants than recent immigrants, speak English well or only, and have already been living in relatively dispersed places prior to moving to pioneer labor markets. The analyses demonstrated the importance of secondary migration and prior dispersion from gateways for pioneer settlement. They also showed considerable national origin heterogeneity in settlement dynamics and suggested that analyses for the total foreign born can be biased if national origin differences are ignored.

  See paper

Presented in Session 47: Determinants and consequences of immigrants' residential choices