Panel Paper: Building Evidence to Inform Local Government Decision Making for Immigrant Incorporation in Homogenous, Bifurcated and Multiethnic Places

Friday, November 9, 2018
Marriott Balcony A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Richard Smith, Wayne State University

Although the Federal government is responsible for immigration policy, immigrant integration into the workforce and community happens through the work of local governments and non-governmental organizations. Recent scholarship has proposed that urban spatial structure influences whether local governments implement policy to incorporate immigrants which in turn shapes the context of reception. Specifically, some have argued that a bifurcated population (e.g., about half Hispanic and half Anglo), would be more likely to have immigrant friendly policy outcomes for immigrants than a multiethnic population (i.e., a mix of ethnicities and racialized populations but no majority), which in turn would be more likely to have immigrant friendly outcomes than a homogeneously Anglo population. However, the state of the literature is generally limited, examining a small set of cases in depth, or looking at specific immigrant friendly or anti-immigrant ordinances as policy outcomes. This question is important for intergovernmental relationships (e.g., Federal requirements to support those with Limited English Proficiency) as well as community engagement.

In order to build evidence to inform decision making, I conduct content analysis of annual reports from local governments (n=127) that participated in place-based community development initiatives submitted to the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development from 1996 – 2008 to provide insight into this proposed relationship. First, I categorize these local governments as including immigrant-related projects or programs. Second, I categorize the neighborhoods designated within the local governments by type of spatial structure (i.e., homogenous, bifurcated, multiethnic) using census data for the designated areas. Then I test associations between having immigrant-related projects or programs and the designated neighborhoods’ spatial structures and population characteristics. I find that designated neighborhoods with increasing immigrant populations, Hispanic bifurcation, or homogeneously Hispanic were associated with local governments developing immigrant-related projects and programs.

Homogeneously Hispanic and bifurcated Hispanic places had higher odds of immigrant friendly policy outcomes than multiethnic places. There were no statistically significant differences between multiethnic places and bifurcated Black/White, or homogeneously Black or White places. While this research is not generalizable outside the study population, it is consistent with the theory that bifurcated places are more likely to have immigrant-friendly policy outcomes. This research is also consistent with theory in that multiethnic places may not successfully form coalitions for change. In these instances, it may rest on the action of local government civil servants to respond to population changes. Implications for research, policy, and performance management dashboards are discussed. For example, the American Community Survey has annual updates of population data that could be used to visualize urban spatial structure against self-reported English language attainment to inform local decision making regarding immigrant integration.

Full Paper: