Citizenship acquisition is often promoted as one factor that can facilitate the economic integration of immigrants. However, not all individuals and groups experience positive benefits to naturalization. This article argues that social distance from the native-born is an important factor that influences who does and does not benefit from citizenship acquisition. Specifically, I create of new continuous measure of social distance for immigrants during the age of mass migration living in the southwest. I show that the relationship between social distance and the economic returns to citizenship takes an inverted U-shape. Those who are considered close in social distance and those who are considered furthest away in social distance report little to no advantages to citizenship acquisition while those in the middle report larger returns. I then focus specifically on the Mexican population and take advantage of a unique enumeration in the complete count 1930 US census that coded Mexicans as either white or nonwhite. Mexicans coded as white report economic differences between political statuses while Mexicans coded as nonwhite report no difference between political statuses. The results suggest citizenship may not benefit all individuals and groups depending on where they fall in the ethnoracial hierarchy.
The Melting-Pot Problem? The Persistence and Convergence of Premigration Socioeconomic Status During the Age of Mass Migration. Forthcoming, Social Forces. (non-paywalled SocArXiv version) (paywalled Social Forces version)
A long-standing debate is concerned over how long premigration socioeconomic differences persisted for immigrants and their descendants who entered at the turn-of-the-twentieth century. Some researchers argue that differences exist today, over 100 years after first arrival, while others argue that most differences disappeared after the third generation. However, none of this research has directly measured pre-migration socioeconomic status nor has it directly linked immigrants to their children. I create a new panel dataset that follows immigrants and their children from the sending country through settlement. Specifically, I link ship manifest records to census records to track how long premigration socioeconomic differences persist across generations. Passenger records provide a wealth of information of individuals including the occupation before arrival. I analyze how long premigration differences persist within and between groups. Whereas premigration socioeconomic status is associated with the first generation’s economic outcomes after settlement, many of these differences disappear by the second generation. These results suggest that background is not destiny for immigrant descendants. As scholars and politicians debate about whether countries should admit primarily high-skilled or low-skilled immigrants, the results from this article tell us whether such selection policies are necessary to ensure strong migrants’ performance in a period of open borders.
Winner: IPUMS Research Award; Louis Wirth Award
Scholars who study immigrant economic progress often point to the success of Southern and Eastern Europeans who entered in the early 20th century and draw inferences about whether today’s immigrants will follow a similar trajectory. However, little is known about the mechanisms that allowed for European upward advancement. This article begins to fill this gap by analyzing how naturalization policies influenced economic success of immigrants across generations. Specifically, I create new panel datasets that follow immigrants and their children across complete-count US censuses to understand the economic consequences of citizenship attainment. I find that naturalization raised occupational attainment for the first generation that then allowed children to have greater educational attainment and labor market success. I argue that economic progress was conditioned by political statuses for European-origin groups during the first half of the twentieth century.
Catron, Peter. 2016. “Made in America? Immigrant Occupational Mobility in the First Half of the Twentieth Century.” American Journal of Sociology 122(2) (non-paywalled SocArXiv version) (paywalled AJS version)
Winner: Outstanding Graduate Student Paper, Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility section of the American Sociological Association
Assimilation research largely assumes that Southern and Eastern European immigrants achieved assimilation due to job ladders within manufacturing firms in the first half of the twentieth century. But this literature has never tested these claims and often acknowledges that little is known about whether Italians and Slavs experienced upward mobility. Did manufacturing allow for the upward advancement among European-origin groups? Using unique datasets containing employment histories in three manufacturing companies – A.M. Byers Company, Pullman-Standard Manufacturing, and Ford Motor Company – between 1900 and 1950, this article is the first to analyze occupational mobility within factories among European-origin groups. Results suggest that organizational structures within firms through the formation of internal labor markets did little to counter or prevent other forces that kept migrants from achieving upward mobility. Migrants ended their careers within firms where they began – positions at the bottom of the occupational hierarchy – which runs contrary to assimilation research. Pictures are of employment profiles analyzed in this article.
Waldinger, Roger and Peter Catron. 2016. “Modes of Incorporation: A Conceptual and Empirical Critique.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42(1): 23-53 (non-paywalled version) (paywalled JEMS version)
Entering the debate over segmented assimilation, this paper seeks to refocus discussion on a core, but neglected claim: that intergroup disparities among immigrant offspring derive from differences in a contextual feature shared by immigrant and immigrant descendants: a nationality’s mode of incorporation. The paper engages in both theoretical and empirical assessment. We critically examine the concept of mode of incorporation, demonstrating that its operational implications have not been correctly understood; consequently, the core hypothesis has never been appropriately tested. The second part of the paper implements those tests, making use of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey. We do so by using nationality as a proxy for mode of incorporation, systematically contrasting more advantaged against less advantaged nationalities. We show: (a) that tests systematically varying modes classified as more or less advantageous yield inconsistent outcomes; (b) that positive or negative modes of incorporation are associated with few longlasting effects; (c) that differences in governmental reception are particularly unlikely to be associated with interethnic disparities; and (d) that compared to theoretically relevant nationalities, neither Mexicans, a nationality assigned to a negative mode of incorporation, nor pre-Mariel Cubans, a nationality assigned to positive mode of incorporation, prove distinctive.
Catron, Peter. 2013. “Comment on Rosenfeld and Kleykamp, ASR, December 2009: Immigrant Unionization through the Great Recession.” American Sociological Review 78(2): 315-332 Previous research has found that in recent years immigrants had a higher propensity to unionize than did native-born workers. However, little research shows that historically marginalized immigrant workers are able to maintain newly acquired union jobs, especially during times unfavorable to unionization more generally. This comment focuses on immigrant unionization during the Great Recession of 2008 to determine whether inroads that immigrants made through organizing were maintained in hostile union environments. Using the Current Population Survey (CPS), I extend Rosenfeld and Kleykamp’s (2009) models for Hispanic unionization (which end in 2007) through the recent downturn and beyond. I find that Hispanic immigrants, who held higher odds of union entry or membership in Rosenfeld and Kleykamp’s pre-recession analysis, lost union jobs at an increased rate during the Great Recession compared with native-born white workers. These effects for Hispanic immigrants filtered throughout various subcategories and control variables, including years since entry, citizenship status, and nationality. These results are likely not due to immigrants’ unfavorable labor market allocation, and to some degree undercut the hopes of those who view immigrants as the key to organized labor’s future and organized labor as the key to immigrant prosperity.