Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles (IIMMLA)
The source of new immigrants to the United States shifted radically after 1965, when U.S. immigration law abolished the national origins quota system and enabled migration for reuniting families and to fill the need for scarce occupational skills. “The new preference system allowed highly skilled professionals, primarily doctors, nurses, and engineers from Asian countries, to immigrate and eventually to sponsor their families. About the same time, and largely independently of the 1965 Immigration Act, immigration from Latin America began to rise.” Asian immigration now accounts for about a third of new immigration, and a steadily growing flow from the Americas—more than half of the total. Unlike their early twentieth-century counterparts, these newcomers are also entering a vastly changed economic landscape. Urban labor markets in major metropolitan areas where immigrants concentrate have experienced profound structural economic changes, such as deindustrialization, declining wages for low-skilled workers, and the expansion of “dead end” service sector jobs. The Immigrant and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles (IIMMLA) survey focused on assimilation patterns among six Latino and Asian groups in metropolitan Los Angeles to determine how well today’s immigrants are adjusting to these new realities. IIMMLA findings raise important considerations for future immigration policy and upend concerns that today’s immigrants are not integrating into mainstream U.S. society.
With funding of over $1.7 million provided by Russell Sage, the IIMMLA study was conducted from 2004–2008 under the direction of Rubén G. Rumbaut, Frank D. Bean, Leo Chávez, Jennifer Lee, Susan K. Brown and Louis DeSipio of the University of California, Irvine, and Min Zhou of the University of California, Los Angeles. The survey expanded the scope of two previous major studies of immigrants funded by Russell Sage, The Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) and the Immigrant Second Generation in New York Study which assessed how well the young adult offspring of recent immigrants were faring as they moved through American schools and into the labor market. A multi-stage, multi-method survey, IIMMLA examined immigrant incorporation and mobility among their young adult children (ages 20-39) in metropolitan Los Angeles. In the case of the sizeable Mexican-origin population in the Los Angeles area, the survey also looked at mobility among young adult members of the third or later generation. More than 5 million persons of Mexican origin live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and, nationally, Mexicans comprise more than 30 percent of immigrants to the United States. Their mobility paths and outcomes represent a critical case study for both immigration theory and public policy and were therefore a major focus of IIMMLA’s analyses.