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Reviewed by:
  • Asian Immigration to the United States
  • Eric Y. Liu (bio)
Asian Immigration to the United States, by Philip Q. Yang. Cambridge: Polity, 2011. 192 pp. $22.95 paper. ISBN: 978-0-7456-4503-2.

Much has been written about Asian immigration to the United States in the past several decades. Although scholars from across disciplines have attempted to address the topic from different perspectives and angles, there has been an urgent need for a systematic, sociological understanding of the rapidly increasing flow of Asian immigrants, especially since 1965. Asian Immigration to the United States [End Page 354] by Philip Q. Yang is a valuable, significant contribution to this literature. With a primary focus on post-1965 Asian immigration, this book fills this gap by adopting a rigorous social scientific approach. The author raises and answers three central questions: What causes Asian immigration to the United States? How do post-1965 Asian immigrants impact American society? How do new Asian immigrants and their children adapt to American life?

The book is well organized and includes seven chapters. Chapter 1 paves the path for the following chapters by clarifying the term “Asian immigration,” introducing data sources (e.g., U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Census Bureau), and defining the scope of the book, which covers immigrants only from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. Interestingly, Philip Q. Yang begins with a handful of “mini” stories of individuals who immigrated to the United States from Asian countries such as China, Japan, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Korea. The “mini” stories provide insights into the daily lives of Asian immigrants in multiracial and multiethnic America, engaging readers in understanding Asian immigration by integrating anecdotes with statistical analyses of data to be presented in the rest of the book.

Chapter 2 is centered on theory. The author first offers an excellent review of the previous theories developed for explaining why international migration occurs. These theories are divided into three broad categories: the classical push-pull theory, economic models, and sociological models. What’s most fascinating to me, however, is that the author is not content with such theories. He continues to propose a synthetic theory that, as the author claims, has more explanatory power than the conventional theories. In my opinion, Yang’s synthetic theory seems, to some extent, derived from the previous theoretical perspectives, but his theory is unique in (but not limited to) at least four substantive aspects: it is (1) an integration of theories regarding the initiation of Asian immigration and theories regarding the continuity of Asian immigration, (2) an integration of macro and micro theories of Asian immigration at the societal and individual levels, (3) a comprehensive examination of crucial conditions of Asian immigration, and (4) a theoretical model that considers Asian immigration to American society over different periods of time. According to Yang, this new theory may be labeled “macro-micro interactive and cumulative causation theory.”

Armed with his novel theory and drawing on rich data sources, Philip Q. Yang goes on to paint a detailed picture of pre-1965 (in Chapter 3) and post-1965 (in Chapter 4) histories of Asian immigration. He identifies significant causal factors and mechanisms involved in the immigration processes. The author shows that in the pre-1965 period, a large number of immigrants from China, Japan, the [End Page 355] Philippines, Korea, and India came to the United States through labor recruitment and settled in rural areas, but they were eventually rejected by the majority-white population due to intensified economic competition and were excluded by U.S. laws that reflected anti-Asian racism. However, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 provided a new opportunity for Asian immigration. Guided by the macro-micro interactive and cumulative causation theory, Yang shows that in addition to this change in U.S. immigration policy, what contributed to the growth of Asian immigration since 1965 included changes in emigration policies of Asian sending countries; economic, political, and social disparities between the United States and those sending countries; dynamic military, political, economic, and cultural relationships between the United States and the Asian sending countries; and shifts in social networks in...


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pp. 354-356
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