Integration of Documented and Undocumented Immigrants in a New Destination: Utah

With the Foundation's support, a multidisciplinary research team has examined the social, economic, and political integration of immigrants in Utah, a non-traditional gateway.

Utah is a “pre-emergent” gateway: a place with fast-growing immigrant populations as of the 1990s that may continue to grow as a destination. Latinos make up slightly more than 11 percent of the population in the state, up from 4.9 percent in 1990. About 47 percent of them are undocumented. To many outsiders, Utah calls to mind images of the Mormon Church, large and close-knit families, and a socially conservative electorate. But unlike many conservative states, Utah is one of only a handful where undocumented immigrants can obtain driving privileges and attend public colleges and universities while paying in-state tuition. Anti-immigrant legislation has consistently failed in Utah. What makes one of the nation’s most conservative places so receptive to Latino immigrants?

 

Under the direction of economist Kenneth P. Jameson, the multidisciplinary research team at the University of Utah will use data from the Utah Population Database (UPDB) to study the social, economic, and political integration of immigrants in this non-traditional gateway. The UPDB is a unique resource that combines state administrative data, geographic locators, and census data on over nine million state residents, past and present. First, the team will study social and economic outcomes over time, including income, education, health status, access to health insurance, and residential and geographic mobility for the native born and foreign born, documented and undocumented. The investigators hypothesize that undocumented status will delay integration across most, if not all, of the dimensions they are able to measure. The second phase will link UPDB data to state voter registration data for the period between 1998 and 2006 to assess which individual and contextual factors matter the most for participation in the formal political process (i.e., from registering to vote to casting a ballot in an election). The final phase will broaden the scope of the investigation by considering non-electoral forms of participation such as petitioning and collective acts of protest. The team will collect original data on a randomly selected sample of documented and undocumented immigrants in the UPDB in order to shed light on what motivates immigrants to participate in public life and which paths they take toward civic and political engagement.

 

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