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Reviewed by:
  • Host Societies and the Reception of Immigrants
  • Randy Lippert
Host Societies and the Reception of ImmigrantsEdited by Jeffrey G. Reitz Center for Comparative Immigration Research, San Diego, CA: University of California, 2003. 550 pages. $25.95 (paper)

This edited collection comprises 19 chapters written by scholars from the United States, Canada and Europe for a 2001 Harvard University conference. Six of the chapters have been previously published as an issue of an international journal. The collection's major focus is how features of 'host' (i.e., receiving or settler) societies determine the incorporation of immigrants. The editor's introductory chapter elaborates four intersecting dimensions of this research trajectory that [End Page 1853]serve to organize the book. (1) prior ethnic or race relations within host societies (2) variance in labor markets (3) effects of immigration and other state policies, and (4) the shifting of international boundaries and globalization. Many of the subsequent chapters within these sections adopt a comparative approach and employ sophisticated quantitative analysis. In addition, a fifth section contains two chapters that have a more historical orientation.

This is an interesting collection of articles that explores diverse aspects of immigrant integration in receiving societies, including educational attainment, residential segregation, housing shortages, labor market incorporation and income levels, entrepreneurship and political engagement. It effectively showcases varied approaches – sociological, economic, and historical – within the study of immigration. If there is a single revelation flowing from this book, it is that the incorporation of immigrants is far more complex than previously acknowledged. The chapters reveal a process wherein the characteristics of settler societies are as important for integration as immigrants' attributes and one that correspondingly enlists a range of social institutions in its service, institutions which themselves are seen to change significantly over time.

This complexity of immigrant incorporation is exemplified in three chapters from different sections in particular. In the section on pre-existing ethnic or racial relations, the chapter by R. Alba, J. Logan and B. Stultson on residential inequality and segregation reveals that spatial assimilation, place stratification nor the newer 'ethnic-community' model anticipate the identified patterns, thereby "indicating that the settlement of contemporary immigrant groups is indeed complex and involves elements of all three models." (p. 144)

G. Borjas's chapter, in the section on state policy, centers on immigrant participation in welfare programs and shows the complex effects of efforts to reduce such participation in the form of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Welfare reliance is found after 1996 to have declined among immigrants relative to U.S.-born individuals nationally, but upon closer analysis it is revealed this supposed national change is entirely a result of reductions in welfare participation in California alone (p. 291). The reasons for such a dramatic shift in only one state can only be speculated upon.

Finally, in the section on globalization, D. DeVoretz, J. Ma and K. Zhang introduce a triangular human capital transfer model that problematizes the widely-held assumption in the neo-classical model wherein the immigrant enters the host society and, if disappointment results, returns home. By referring to the case of Hong Kong and Canada these authors paint a far more complex picture that involves a third nation (i.e., a triangle) to which human capital can migrate and thus three movement options for the immigrant.

One significant consequence of the complexity of the incorporation process revealed in these and other chapters is to starkly expose how policies, especially those deploying crude point selection systems or excluding all immigrants from welfare programs, are unlikely to effect positive change in immigrants' experiences in the labor market or in immigrants' institutional integration more broadly. The presence of a range of topics and approaches such as these is the collection's main strength but perhaps also its principal limitation.

While the editor does his best to categorize disparate articles into five key themes in his well-written introduction, the collection ultimately lacks an overarching theoretical theme. To be sure, the editor notes the four dimensions he identifies "may be useful in developing an emerging theory about how host societies affect immigrant integration" (p. 15), but he fails to show...


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