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Deflecting Immigration

Networks, Markets, and Regulation in Los Angeles

Ivan Light

Publication Year: 2006

As international travel became cheaper and national economies grew more connected over the past thirty years, millions of people from the Third World emigrated to richer countries. A tenth of the population of Mexico relocated to the United States between 1980 and 2000. Globalization theorists claimed that reception cities could do nothing about this trend, since nations make immigration policy, not cities. In Deflecting Immigration, sociologist Ivan Light shows how Los Angeles reduced the sustained, high-volume influx of poor Latinos who settled there by deflecting a portion of the migration to other cities in the United States. In this manner, Los Angeles tamed globalization’s local impact, and helped to nationalize what had been a regional immigration issue. Los Angeles deflected immigration elsewhere in two ways. First, the protracted network-driven settlement of Mexicans naturally drove up rents in Mexican neighborhoods while reducing immigrants’ wages, rendering Los Angeles a less attractive place to settle. Second, as migration outstripped the city’s capacity to absorb newcomers, Los Angeles gradually became poverty-intolerant. By enforcing existing industrial, occupational, and housing ordinances, Los Angeles shut down some unwanted sweatshops and reduced slums. Their loss reduced the metropolitan region’s accessibility to poor immigrants without reducing its attractiveness to wealthier immigrants. Additionally, ordinances mandating that homes be built on minimum-sized plots of land with attached garages made home ownership in L.A.’s suburbs unaffordable for poor immigrants and prevented low-cost rental housing from being built. Local rules concerning home occupancy and yard maintenance also prevented poor immigrants from crowding together to share housing costs. Unable to find affordable housing or low-wage jobs, approximately one million Latinos were deflected from Los Angeles between 1980 and 2000. The realities of a new global economy are still unfolding, with uncertain consequences for the future of advanced societies, but mass migration from the Third World is unlikely to stop in the next generation. Deflecting Immigration offers a shrewd analysis of how America’s largest immigrant destination independently managed the challenges posed by millions of poor immigrants and, in the process, helped focus attention on immigration as an issue of national importance.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

About the Author

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv


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pp. xv

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Chapter 1 Globalization and Migration Networks

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pp. 1-22

UNTIL RECENTLY, globalization theorists claimed that Third World immigration to the world’s large cities was simply a product of the changing income structure in the countries receiving those immigrants, especially in the largest cities.1 This change in income distribution had produced a large and growing effective demand for...

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Chapter 2 Regional Dispersion of Mexicans

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pp. 23-47

MIGRATION NETWORKS connect immigrants abroad with friends, neighbors, and relatives at home. When favorable information about a destination reaches them, the friends, neighbors and relatives acquire both the desire and the ability to migrate. The desire comes when migrants abroad point out the advantages that migration has afforded...

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Chapter 3 Is Migration Still Demand-Driven?

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pp. 48-59

IN THE BROADEST sense, globalization refers to all processes that incorporate the peoples of the world into a single society.1 These processes are economic, cultural, and political. However, in the narrower economic sense used here, globalization means movement toward a globally...

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Chapter 4 Hard Times in the Barrios

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pp. 60-80

LOS ANGELES had undergone thirty-five years of well-documented globalization by 2000. Global restructuring created the Pacific Rim trading area, of which Los Angeles became the second-ranking city behind Tokyo. During this transition, manufacturing industry left...

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Chapter 5 How the Garment Industry Expanded

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pp. 81-95

GLOBALIZATION HAD many economic effects on Latinos in Los Angeles between 1970 and 2000. Expansion of employment buffers in the face of network-driven migration from Mexico and Central America was one of these. Although associated with declining economic welfare...

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Chapter 6 Why the Garment Industry Contracted

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pp. 96-112

IN 1924 LOSANGELES was only the fourth largest garment-manufacturing center in the United States.1 New York City was still the nation’s capital in the industry, and remained so until the 1980s, when Los Angeles finally passed it.2 Of course, the inter-city balance had begun to tip before 1980. After 1970, extensive immigration from Asia and Latin America began....

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Chapter 7 Asian Place Entrepreneurs

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pp. 113-128

ALL IMMIGRANTS are not the same. In the late twentieth century era of globalization, the United States attracted two divergent streams of immigration. One was a demand-driven stream of highly skilled Asians, Europeans, Middle Easterners, and Latin Americans. These immigrants started business firms or took well-paid jobs in growth...

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Chapter 8 Deflecting Latinos from Suburbs

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pp. 129-149

UNLIKEASIAN immigrants, working-class Latinos did not have homeland banks, coethnic entrepreneurs, and Mexico-based international real estate developers to prearrange the housing they would need in Los Angeles.1 Instead, Latinos crashed into the housing status quo with no resources except their willingness to overpay and overcrowd...

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Chapter 9 Racism or Poverty Intolerance?

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pp. 150-156

EXPLAINING THE deflection of Latino immigration from Los Angeles, and (by inference) from other traditional destinations, on the basis of intolerance to poverty, these chapters have ignored racism and ethno-racial prejudice. Yet these two factors might plausibly explain why California, Los Angeles, and various suburban municipalities enforced...

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Chapter 10 Sequential Absorption and Deflection

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pp. 157-171

WHEN PROTRACTED over decades, the routine operation of migration networks drives immigrants’ wages in high traffic destinations down and their housing costs up. For this reason, the economic welfare of Mexican immigrants gradually declined in Los Angeles relative to low-traffic destinations. The bad news filtered back to...


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pp. 172-174


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pp. 175-204


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pp. 205-232


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pp. 233-246

E-ISBN-13: 9781610443593
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871545381
Print-ISBN-10: 0871545381

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2006