The influential 1965 Immigration Act

The current position of the United States regarding immigrants was heavily influenced by the 1965 Immigration Act:

A new Pew Research Center report finds that the 1965 Immigration Act was largely responsible for bringing 59 million immigrants into the American population between then and 2015. These new arrivals, their kids, and their grandkids make up over half of the total U.S. population growth during this period. Looking ahead to 2065, immigrants that came to America as a result of this law, plus their families, will account for almost 90 percent of the nation’s population increase from now to then…

The Immigration Act of 1924 clamped down on immigration from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Western and Southern Europe. Here’s Stephen Klineberg, a sociologist at Rice University, commenting on the explicit racism of the policy, via NPR:

“It declared that Northern Europeans are a superior subspecies of the white race. The Nordics were superior to the Alpines, who in turn were superior to the Mediterraneans, and all of them were superior to the Jews and the Asians.”

The 1965 law re-wrote that policy, and since then America’s white population share has declined from 84 percent at the time to 62 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population share grew from 4 to 18 percent, and Asians rose from less than 1 percent to 6 percent (below, left). If President Johnson hadn’t signed the 1965 law, America would be 75 percent white today…

Quite a long-lasting impact for a piece of legislation that still doesn’t seem to get much attention today. And, as the article notes, it may not have been easy to know the impact of the Act at the time even as its effect from the vantage point of today looks significant. If supporters or opponents of immigration want to support or change policy, this is a place to start (though there have been changes made since then).

Also noted: much of the population increase in the United States in recent decades is due to immigration. Otherwise, the fate of the country looks more like many other industrialized nations with low birth rates and an aging population.

Houston as world’s fourth most popular refugee resettlement country

While most immigration policy debates take place at the national level, large cities are also involved:

Out of every 1,000 resettled U.N. refugees, more than 700 come to America. Though all 50 states accept some refugees, 75 of those 700 find their way to Texas, according to U.S. State Department numbers. And more of those will come to the Houston area than to anywhere else in Texas: The state health services department reports that nearly 40 percent of Texas’ refugees land in Harris County.

This means that Harris County alone welcomes about 30 of every 1,000 refugees that the U.N. resettles anywhere in the world — more than any other American city, and more than most other nations. If Houston were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for refugee resettlement…

In fact, Al Sudani said, some cold American cities host enormous groups of warm-region natives. Nearly 45,000 Iraqis live in Detroit and other parts of Michigan — more than in any other state, according to Census Bureau data assembled by the Migration Policy Institute. More East Africans live in Minnesota than in Texas; Minneapolis-St. Paul has a massive Somali population. “People, they adjust really quickly to their environment,” Al Sudani said…

The single most important factor in Houston’s ability to absorb all of the new refugee arrivals appears to be its vibrant, growing economy. “The focus of refugee resettlement in the United States is early employment,” said Sara Kauffman, Houston area director for Refugee Services of Texas. “We have a pretty fast economy, a lot of jobs available. People can get started working pretty quickly.” One of her clients found himself a job at a car dealership within two weeks of arriving.

Houston doesn’t often draw much discussion as a global city but this would suggest it is an important player in the 21st century world. Indeed, it might be the quintessential American city today.

Tracking the transformation of Houston’s population in recent years would make for a fascinating long-term study: oil capital transforms into cosmopolitan center. There is already some good sociological work on this and it is worth tracking. It may be out there but I haven’t yet seen work on how Houston residents are adjusting to these changes. Perhaps as long as the economy keeps growing, there aren’t many issues…

Guatemalan McMansions built with remittances

There may be McMansions built in Guatemala with remittance funds but they require a lot of resources:

The paradoxical strength of Guatemalan migrants’ transnational dreams is nowhere more evident than in the clash between these McMansions — often decorated in red, white and blue — and below-subsistence everyday life in largely indigenous areas like Cabricán…

The remittances they send have increased nearly sevenfold since 2001, according to the International Organization for Migration. The money is projected to reach a record $5.9 billion this year, according to the Banco de Guatemala – over 10 percent of the country’s GDP…

Worse, many experts argue that big houses — unattainable with quetzales, the Guatemalan currency — are risky investments for remittance dollars, too, especially since most migrants already used what little assets they have — land and their existing homes — as collateral for the large loans necessary to pay smugglers’ fees.

A home like the one built from the money sent by the Rojas children’s in San Antonio costs around 500,000 quetzales ($64,000) to build there.

Critics of McMansions might note that such homes in Guatemala reflect the illusory nature of all McMansions: lots of space and an impressive facade but difficult to sustain in the long run with what they cost to build and maintain (and how that money might be better spent elsewhere) and their dubious quality. The Guatemalan McMansions illustrate the downsides of globalization where cultural tastes and spending habits (big homes, lots of features) may cross borders but not all the potential consumers are able to realistically purchase the goods they see.

At the same time, given the cheaper costs for such homes in Guatemala, how long before we see HGTV featuring American retirees looking at McMansion neighborhoods in Guatemala as they try to escape higher costs in the US but still want the private home of the American Dream?

Diversity boom coming to America

The baby boom after World War II affected American social life and several experts discuss the impact of the coming “diversity boom”:

“This new diversity boom that we’re seeing right now will be every bit as important for our country in the decades ahead as the baby boom [people born between 1946 and 1964] was in the last half of the 20th century,” said demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution.

“We know that the baby boom has changed the country in lots of ways – popular culture, changing values about all kinds of social issues, families, women’s roles and politics.  And I think this diversity boom is going to have just as big of an impact.  We’ll be a very different country and we’re only just beginning to see the start of it,” said Frey…

“The degree of cultural diversity that this introduces to this country is rather like the cultural diversity we had in the 19th century, and for that matter in the 18th century at the time of founding,” observed American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray.  In many ways, according to Murray, diversity has been a positive force throughout America history…

A few decades ago, many analysts warned that these demographic trends would lead to a balkanization of America.  However, most experts now agree that U.S. culture and assimilation will reinforce America’s national character, particularly as the rate of interracial marriage grows.

Demographics or geographic mobility may seem fairly dull but sizable changes – here, an increase in immigration and the foreign-born population or a significant increase in birth rates in the postwar era – are influential. It is interesting to see the positive responses from the experts cited here as I’m less confident that such optimism would be shared by a big majority of Americans. Additionally, such booms don’t last forever (or statistically they may just cease to be booms) though it would be hard to predict when this current boom would slow.

Congressional Research Service estimates foreign-born population in 2024 of 58 million

One projection of the foreign-born population in the United States is that it will rise steadily to 58 million by 2024:

 

CRSForeignBornProjections2024

The full report has some interesting data on immigration as well as the methodology behind estimating some of the figures. And, the report notes that these projections assume consistent rates of growth with no policy changes, both unlikely occurrences. Predictions like these are hard to make. At the same time, this is a reminder that large flows of immigrants into the United States is not just a historical fact kids learn in history class but rather is an ongoing phenomenon.

Sociologist suggests three strategies for combating rural decline

A sociologist suggests rural communities can pursue three strategies to help them thrive in future decades:

Winchester, a sociologist and analyst of demographic changes, for years has battled against the narrative of rural decline. He argues although the percentage of Americans living in rural areas has been declining, contrary to some notions, the number of rural Americans has been rising, at least until very recently…

One is immigration. Any number of communities have seen school enrollments grow and Main Streets prosper and parks fill again with kids with the arrival of immigrants.

A second is to hang on to new retirees, particularly by paying attention to their housing needs.

Rural boomers want townhomes and condos and apartments just like urban counterparts. If those desires aren’t satisfied, they’ll move and take their Social Security payments out of the community. Those federal transfer payments amount to a fifth of the income in many rural communities, Winchester said, far surpassing the importance of agriculture.

And related to the boomers’ housing needs is an opportunity to appeal to the millennial generation. Winchester thinks housing will become more available in rural areas as boomers move, providing in turn affordable housing for young people priced out of the urban market.

This would seem to capitalize on three potential areas of growth. However, I imagine these factors are related to other factors that might be more difficult to find in rural areas:

1. A broad range of good-paying jobs.

2. A broad range of amenities and businesses.

3. A relative lack of social services.

4. A relative lack of walkability or public transportation options.

Yet, rural communities have the potential to try some new strategies. As Robert Wuthnow noted, small towns are not dead just yet.

Illinois the first Midwest state to have majority of minority students in public schools

New data shows that Illinois for the first time has a majority of minority students in the state’s public schools:

Whites fell to 49.76 percent of the student body this school year, the new data show, a demographic tipping point that came after years of sliding white enrollment and a rise in Latino, Asian and multiracial students.

The black student population also has declined, but it still makes up almost 18 percent of the state’s public school students…

If those numbers hold, Illinois would be one of a dozen states — and the first in the Midwest — to have a school system in which minority students are in the majority, according to the most recent federal education data. Included in that category are Western and Southern states with large Latino or black populations, as well as the District of Columbia, according to the National Center for Education Statistics…

Illinois’ diverse student population doesn’t match the diversity of its teaching staff. Based on 2012 state data, 83 percent of Illinois’ public school teachers are white.

This is a relatively common thing in the United States today though it is unusual for it to happen to a Midwestern state. Relative to whites, minority populations in the United States have been growing.

One way this happens is through immigration. This is a reminder that although certain states are associated with immigration – places like California, Texas, Florida – immigration is closely tied to big cities. Here are some bits from a 2012 Census report looking at foreign-born populations in the 2010 Census:

While the foreign born resided in every state in 2010, over half lived in just four states: California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Over one-fourth of the total foreign-born population lived in California…
In 14 states and the District of Columbia, the percentage of foreign born was equal to or greater than the national average of 13 percent. With the exception of Texas, Florida, and Illinois, these states were primarily in the western and northeastern parts of the country.
With the exception of Illinois (14 percent), the percentage of foreign born in all states of the Midwest region was below 8 percent, including North Dakota and South Dakota, each with about 3 percent.

The Chicago region draws a large amount of immigrants and drew a large number of black migrants during the early 1900s in the Great Migration. Without the draw of jobs and opportunities in Chicago, the demographics of Illinois children today might look much more like Iowa or Wisconsin.