In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Immigration to the United States

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Recent Global Immigration Initiatives
  • Post-1965 Immigration Policy in the United States
  • Borders and Enforcement
  • Theories of International Migration and Incorporation
  • Integration and Assimilation
  • Economic Integration and Well-Being
  • Case Studies of Latino Immigrants
  • Gender and Family
  • Old and New Spatial Transformations
  • Political Incorporation and Mobilization

Latino Studies Immigration to the United States
Greta A. Gilbertson, Mary G. Powers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 November 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0088


Major increases in the numbers of global immigrants over the last half-century have resulted in a large and growing literature on migration. As of 2010, the World Bank estimated there were about 215.8 million persons living outside their countries of birth compared to 76 million in 1965. In response, an increasing number of countries have developed data systems to identify the numbers and characteristics of immigrants in their own countries and policies specifying the numbers of immigrants they will accept. Large-scale immigration from Latin America to North America is a relatively recent part of a much larger movement of peoples to the Americas (north and south). Over the last three centuries, significant numbers of Europeans, Africans, and Asians have moved to the western hemisphere. Early immigration research focused on European immigration to the United States; more recently, however, the focus has shifted to Latino and Asian immigration to the United States. Migrants move in all directions but mostly from less-developed to more-developed countries. Most also move within major geographic regions (e.g., Europe, Asia, the Americas). Of the 215.8 million immigrants worldwide in 2010, 57.2 million were in the Americas and more than half of these (29.2 million) were from the Americas. This entry focuses on studies of immigrants and immigration from Latin America, Mexico, Central America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean to the United States since 1965, a period during which immigration from these areas increased dramatically. That research includes questions concerning why people move, the effects of the move on the migrants and on the sending and receiving countries, and the extent to which immigration policies affect immigration and settlement. Issues of assimilation and/or incorporation are addressed as are citizenship, undocumented immigration, and transnationalism. It is important to note that the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are broad ethnic categories, frequently loosely defined and used interchangeably. For example, in census data on Hispanics cited by many researchers, the Hispanic population count is derived from respondents’ self-identification to questions on the census or American Community Survey (ACS). Although the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are used by the US government in census and other official publications to identify persons whose origins are in Spanish-speaking countries, a majority of such individuals identify themselves in terms of the countries of origin of their families (i.e., Mexican, Dominican, etc.). Moreover, the category Hispanic/Latino often includes Puerto Ricans who are not immigrants or children of immigrants but American citizens, born in the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Research focusing on immigration or immigrants to the United States will not include Puerto Ricans; research focusing on broad categories of ethnic groups may include them, however.

General Overviews

A large and diverse literature focuses on immigrants to the United States since 1965 and summarizes trends in numbers and origins of the immigrants. It also analyzes the experience of the immigrants in the labor force and other institutions and identifies issues related to assimilation and integration. Castles and Miller 1993 examine the nature of global migration and the resulting challenges with respect to ethnic diversity, citizenship, and national identity. The handbook by Hirschman, et al. 1999 bring together scholars from varied disciplines and perspectives to explore different research questions regarding immigration to the United States. The article by Hirschman 2005 examines the long-run patterns and consequences of immigration to the United States. Waters and Ueda 2007 provide not only a comprehensive overview of migration to the United States but also detailed chapters on immigration from the largest sending nations or regions. Pew Hispanic Center 2013 focus on undocumented immigration as part of overall immigration and on Hispanic immigration. Tienda and Mitchell 2006 include studies from several disciplines focusing on two broad questions: the first being whether the groups clustered under the panethnic label “Hispanic” are in fact distinct from other groups, and the second focuses on whether these immigrants and their children are assimilating into the mainstream along specific economic, social, and cultural dimensions. Donato 2010 reviews trends in migration from Latin America.

  • Castles, Stephen, and Mark J. Miller. The Age of Migration. New York: Guilford, 1993.

    This volume includes comparisons of diverse countries such as Australia, Germany, Britain and the United States. See also later editions by the same authors.

  • Donato, Katherine. “U.S. Migration from Latin America: Gendered Patterns and Shifts.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 630 (2010): 78–92.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002716210368104

    Review of migration from Latin America to the United States with attention to changes in gender composition.

  • Hirschman, Charles. “Immigration and the American Century.” Demography 42 (2005): 595–620.

    DOI: 10.1353/dem.2005.0031

    Examines the impact of immigration on American society over the long term, demonstrating that immigrants and their children create a diversity of cultures and become more “American” over time. Emphasis on the transformation of American society and culture.

  • Hirschman, Charles, Phillip Kasinitz, and Joshua DeWind. Handbook of International Migration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1999.

    This edited handbook reviews major theories of international migration, assesses the incorporation of immigrants and reviews some of the economic, social and political responses to immigration.

  • Pew Hispanic Center. Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States, 2011. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2013.

    A statistical profile of the Hispanic population in 2011 based on population estimates from the American Community Survey.

  • Tienda, Marta, and Faith Mitchell, eds. Hispanics and the Future of America. Washington, DC: National Research Council, 2006.

    Edited volume explores the diversity among Hispanics, assimilation, identity, and social mobility, among other themes, from different disciplinary perspectives.

  • Waters, Mary C., and Reed Ueda. The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

    This guidebook includes twenty thematic essays on various topics including immigration law and policy, refugees, undocumented immigrants, family relations, among others. They are followed by articles on immigration and integration from the thirty most significant nations or regions of origin.

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