Geography Geography of Immigration and Immigrants
Kyle Walker
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0151


Scholarship on immigration addresses all aspects of the movement of people across international borders. Such research might focus on the reasons why people leave their home countries, pathways of flows between countries, policies designed to regulate international migration flows, and the receptiveness of host societies toward immigrants, among many others. Geographical scholarship on immigration is distinguished from other disciplines by its focus on the spatial aspects of the migration process. For example, geographers might focus on scalar hierarchies of migration policies and the complexities this creates for immigrants; the place-making process of immigrant communities, and how immigrants shape the identities of the places in which they reside; or the geographical dynamics of networks forged by immigrant communities, such as remittance flows between specific locations within home and host societies. As the study of immigration is inherently interdisciplinary and all geographical scholarship on the topic relies on contributions from other disciplines, the works cited in this bibliography come from multiple disciplines. However, they all incorporate some aspect of the geographical approach to immigration research.

General Works

General scholarship relevant to the geographical study of immigration comes from both the field of geography and allied disciplines. These texts comprise both theoretical overviews of global migration and case-study-driven analyses of immigration’s local impacts and the local experiences of immigrants. Overview texts include Castles, et al. 2014 and Boyle, et al. 2013. These texts provide readers with fundamental information about theoretical approaches to the study of migration, such as neoclassical and world systems theory as well as analytical approaches to migration research. Other texts, like Clark 1998 and Massey 2010, explore new trends in immigration and how immigrants have been received by local communities. Additionally, shorter chapters and articles like Hardwick 2015 and King 2012 assess the state of immigration research in geography and outline both its theoretical position and future prospects.

  • Boyle, Paul, Keith Halfacree, and Vaughan Robinson. Exploring Contemporary Migration. New York: Routledge, 2013.

    Provides an overview of migration as an analytic subject. The first part of the book outlines approaches to the study of migration, including quantitative/qualitative research methods and conceptual frameworks underpinning migration scholarship. The latter part of the book addresses topical subjects in migration research, including international labor migration and refugee migration. First published 1998.

  • Castles, Stephen, Hein de Haas, and Mark J. Miller. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. New York: Guilford, 2014.

    Influential text that should be a key resource for both migration scholars and educators in human geography. Provides useful overviews of migration theories as well as the history of international migration and immigrant integration around the world.

  • Clark, William A. V. The California Cauldron: Immigration and the Fortunes of Local Communities. New York: Guilford, 1998.

    Examines the dynamics and consequences of the significant growth in California’s immigrant population since 1965. Includes demographic analysis of the shifting geography and composition of the state’s immigrant population between the 1960s and 1990s, and focuses on the politics of immigration in California, in particular Proposition 187, a proposed measure to deny services to undocumented immigrants that passed in 1994 but was later declared unconstitutional.

  • Hardwick, Susan W. “Coming of Age: Migration Theory in Geography.” In Migration Theory: Talking across Disciplines. Edited by Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollifield, 198–226. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    Chapter that provides an overview of theoretical developments within the field of human geography, and how they apply to the study of migration. Discusses research on the residential patterns of immigrants, with a focus on spatial assimilation theory and Zelinsky’s model of heterolocalism, transnationalism and geography, and feminist and critical race theories.

  • King, Russell. “Geography and Migration Studies: Retrospect and Prospect.” Population, Space and Place 18 (2012): 134–153.

    DOI: 10.1002/psp.685

    Traces geographers’ contributions to migration theory over time, providing both a historical and contemporary overview. Historical examples include Ravenstein’s Laws of Migration; Zelinsky’s “Hypothesis of the Mobility Transition”; and Hagerstrand’s time geography. More recent theoretical developments covered in the article include transnationalism, the “cultural turn” in migration studies, feminist perspectives, and mobilities and diaspora.

  • Massey, Douglas S., ed. New Faces in New Places: The Changing Geography of American Immigration. New York: Russell Sage, 2010.

    Edited volume composed of case studies of immigrant experiences in “new destinations” around the United States. Includes a focus on immigration patterns and trends, as well as local responses to immigrants in suburban and rural areas and new metropolitan gateways.

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