Latinos and the “religion” of the American Dream

A new poll suggests Latinos are optimistic about the American Dream:

The poll, which surveyed 887 likely Latino voters, found that 73 percent believe that their families will achieve the American Dream, compared to only 7 percent who don’t think they’ll attain the American Dream.

“When they come to this country, they are like someone who has converted to another religion,” said Vincent Parrillo, a professor of sociology at William Paterson University, about the immigrant experience in the U.S. “They are a little more devout than those who are born here.”…

The Fox News Latino poll also found that Latinos believe the next generation of Latinos in the United States will be better off than they are today.

About 74 percent of those surveyed said that life will be better than today, while only 13 percent believe it will be worse and 3 percent said it will be the same, the poll states.

I’m intrigued by the link between the American Dream and religion. Does the American Dream really function like a religion in Durkheimian terms, as an ideology about ourselves that helps bring us together and helps provide social cohesion? There may even be rituals associated with it such as buying a home, going to college, and seeing your children get ahead. If we look at the words used at the recent Republican and Democratic National Conventions, both invoked the phrase “American Dream” with Republicans doing so at a slightly higher rate. Since we have freedom of religion and thus a variety of different beliefs and unbeliefs plus a fairly multicultural society with many subcultures and backgrounds, is the American Dream what truly unites Americans?

The ASA, the NRA, and St. Louis

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a recent piece that included the American Sociological Association:

When more than 5,500 association executives hold their convention next month in St. Louis, it will give tourism officials a rare opportunity to pitch the city for future conventions.

From an economic development perspective, the gathering of the American Society of Association Executives, though modest in size, represents the mother of all conventions — because its attendees have the power to bring thousands more visitors to the city, along with millions in revenue, during future conventions. The visiting executives represent groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association, American Sociological Association and Electrical Apparatus Service Association, to name a few confirmed attendees…

Though St. Louis, like many Midwest cities, struggles to compete with tourism meccas such as Las Vegas, New Orleans or Orlando, conventions nonetheless brought about 350,000 people and about $370 million into the local economy last year. And those figures leave room for growth, according to officials with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, who plan to field a sales team to woo as many as 1,500 of the associations represented at the conference…

For people living on the coasts, “St. Louis is thrown into the mix of Midwest cities,” Ratcliffe said. “We need a differentiator.”

This raises some questions:

1. Might this be the only time that anyone from the ASA would even be in the same room as someone from the NRA? Or do these association executives interact more often?

1a. It is interesting that this newspaper selected the NRA, ASA, and Electrical Apparatus Service Association as three diverse organizations.

2. Why not hold ASA in St. Louis? And how exactly does the organization select which cities in which it will hold a conference? Here are the factors the ASA says it uses to select its meeting sites:

  • Sites where members are afforded legal protection from discrimination on the basis of age, gender, marital status, national origin, physical ability, race, religion, and sexual orientation
  • Meeting space–flexibility, accessibility, under one roof
  • Date options
  • Hotel contract provisions, particularly room rates
  • Facilities’ recycling, compostable, and sustainability initiatives
  • Extent of unionization at facilities to be used for meeting space and guest rooms
  • Air access/service and local transportation multiplicity
  • Restaurant proximity and diversity
  • General “city feel”
  • City/Convention Bureau assistance

I would be interested to know exactly how some of these are figured out. And is there an official list of cities that could be approved?

3. Here is a tidbit about the ASA and St. Louis:

Stryker joined ASA in 1948 when he was a graduate student. He attended his first annual meeting in 1950 in Denver, CO. This was when ASA meetings had a sit-down dinner for all attendees. In an interview, Stryker said the proudest he has felt of the ASA was when the Association threatened to cancel its annual meeting in St. Louis because the hotel refused to allow African-Americans to register. The hotel backed down, thus effectively desegregating St. Louis.

4. It is interesting that St. Louis is supposedly off the radar of a lot of associations. At one point, St. Louis was poised to become the main city in the Midwest, leading Chicago in population as late as 1870 and was still the 8th largest city in the US in 1950. Is it simply a population issue now or is it something else: is it not interesting enough, does it not have large enough facilities, is travel in and out not easy/cheap enough? I’m sure St. Louis is like many cities that would want to attract more conventions and bring more money into the local economy.

Which comes first, the jobs or the people?

New research from an urban sociologist suggests that the conventional wisdom that jobs bring new residents doesn’t match reality:

But according to a study in the Journal of Urban Affairs, MSU’s Zachary Neal found the opposite to be true. Bringing the people in first – specifically, airline passengers traveling on business – leads to a fairly significant increase in jobs, he said.

“The findings indicate that people come first, then the jobs,” said Neal, assistant professor of sociology. “It’s just the opposite of an ‘If you build it, they will come’ sort of an approach.”

For the study, Neal examined the number of business air-travel passengers in major U.S. cities during a 15-year period (1993-2008). Business passengers destined for a city and not just passing through are a key to job growth, he said.

Attracting business travelers to the host city for meetings and other business activities by offering an easily accessible airport and other amenities such as hotels and conference centers is one of the best ways to create new jobs, Neal said. These business travelers bring with them new ideas and potential investment, which creates a positive climate for innovation and job growth. In the study, Neal analyzed all permanent nonfarm jobs…

Neal added that business airline traffic is far more important for a city’s economic vitality than population size – a finding he established in an earlier study and reaffirmed with the current research.

So will cities alter their strategies for creating jobs to match this research?

This could be taken as a call for improved infrastructure, specifically airports and convention centers. Such projects can be expensive and difficult to get off the ground. (As a good example, see the case of the proposed expansion of O’Hare Airport.) But if Neal is right, then having more capacity to bring in business travelers would lead to more jobs. The upfront cost to expand the airport or convention center or attract hotels for business travelers would pay off down the road.