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Mexican Immigration in Oregon: Labor Networks, Urbanization, and Socioeconomic Integration Michael S. McGlade Professor of Geography Western Oregon University.

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Presentation on theme: "Mexican Immigration in Oregon: Labor Networks, Urbanization, and Socioeconomic Integration Michael S. McGlade Professor of Geography Western Oregon University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mexican Immigration in Oregon: Labor Networks, Urbanization, and Socioeconomic Integration Michael S. McGlade Professor of Geography Western Oregon University

2 Why focus on the Mexican origin population in the PNW? It is the largest immigrant population in the region, and its trajectory will heavily influence the overall success of the current wave of immigration in its quest to achieve the American Dream.

3 Most of the Mexican origin population has been from rural communities many adults have ~6 years of formal education – the terminal level available in most rural regions few families can afford to send their kids to urban Mexico regions for a secondary or preparatory (high school) education most rural jobs are seasonal and pay less than $8 per day

4 Understanding the Historic Importance of Migration Networks Who can emigrate? It takes a great deal of money, is risky, and rural wages dont allow enough savings to do it. Initial migrants from most rural communities had significant financial resources (landowners or business class), or were recruited through Bracero Programs ( ) or industry.

5 Importance of migration networks (cont) Early migrants learned trip logistics, developed knowledge of and relationship with employers, and accumulated some savings. Early migrants shared their knowledge and migra-dollars with large numbers of later migrants from their communities who otherwise could not have made the trip. Thus privileged early migrants, most recruited by the US government, farmers, and industries, formed social networks that are the basis for the massive flows observed today. Recruitment initiated networks, and Mexicos proximity, help explain why Mexico is the leading sending region to the US.

6 Cumulative Causation: Low Cost Mexican Labor Leads to Demand for More Mexican Labor Availability of low cost labor since the 1960s facilitated the growth of labor intensive rural enterprise in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in irrigated regions. Key employing industries: –orchards in Central Washington, Hood River, elsewhere –nursery/greenhouse industry in N. Willamette Valley –vineyards

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11 Through the 1980s, migration from Mexico was highly seasonal and focused on rural PNW destinations.

12 1990s to Present: Urbanization Rural Mexico rural PNW movement (and sometimes rural Mexico California rural PNW) continues. Migration networks, being the primary conduit of human migration, mean that most people go to where their community network leads them. PNW rural communities that are near metro regions, particularly Portland and Salem, are the basis of: Rural Mexico Rural PNW Urban PNW or, Mexico Urban PNW (now the largest component)

13 The Luck of the Draw: Social Mobility Linked to your Network – and its Destinations Opportunities If your community network from Mexico leads to a rural community that is far from an urban region, your opportunities may be limited to rural employment. If your network has led to a rural community near urban jobs, or to an urban area, your job opportunities are much greater. But cant people who have migrated all the way from Mexico make one shorter resettlement trip from a rural community to a city, even in the absence of a network to help them?

14 Social Mobility and Integration of the Second Generation Children growing up in rural communities across the region, regardless of ethnicity, are seeing limited economic opportunities in their communities, relative to what is available in urban areas. English fluency and increasingly a college education are the keys to achieving the American Dream of middle class status.

15 Downward Assimilation of the Second Generation Alarmingly, dozens of national and regional studies find that the immigrant second generation (all major ethnic groups) is experiencing worsening statistical outcomes, relative to the first generation, in a number of diverse indicators of well being, including: –incarceration rates –educational achievement motivation –percent abusing drugs and alcohol –obesity, diabetes, depression, and suicide –low birth weight and infant mortality

16 Understanding Who is Most at Risk of Downward Assimilation Most at risk statistically are children of immigrants whose parents: have limited education have low income and job status are undocumented live in communities of failing schools have limited English skills Relative to other immigrant groups, rural origin Mexican parents are more likely to exhibit many of the above characteristics.

17 The Other Path to Social Integration: Fluent Bilingualism In the second generation, among those who are: 1) English monolinguals, 2) limited bilinguals (either language dominant), or 3) fluent bilinguals… fluent bilinguals show lower chances of falling into downward assimilation. Therefore, schools which facilitate fluency in English, together with strong training in the language(s) of the immigrant parents – and support for their cultural identity – are essential. This may be especially critical in rural communities, where there are few paths to economic advancement other than through education.

18 Sources for this presentation that would be useful for additional reading: For understanding the outcomes of the second generation: Alejandro Portes and Ruben G. Rumbaut, Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, For analysis of Mexican immigration to the Pacific Northwest: Michael S. McGlade, Mexican Farm Labor Networks and Population Increase in the Pacific Northwest. Association of Pacific Coast Geographers Yearbook, Vol. 64: 28-54, 2002.


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