Saturday, September 20, 2014

Residential Segregation and Immigration

Residential segregation is one of the most visible side effects of urbanization and immigration. While ethnic enclaves can provide important social and economic resources for newcomers, such segregation can become problematic if it persists across generations and is associated with indicators of disadvantage.

A pair of reports from the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration addresses segregation, which occurs for a number of reasons ranging from housing market discrimination to decisions on the part of the majority population about where to live.

In Residential Segregation: A Transatlantic Analysis, sociologist John Iceland explains that immigration-related segregation may differ from the segregation of long-standing minorities. New arrivals often settle in ethnic enclaves because of social networks that lead them there, but they (or their children) may move on once they have improved their socioeconomic status and learned about other neighborhoods. Sometimes, however, immigrant families become stuck in isolated communities with lower-quality housing and limited opportunities, exacerbating other problems such as poor health or unemployment.

The report examines policies to address residential segregation, which fall into two main categories: those that seek to reduce segregation directly, such as housing-related interventions; and those that target integration more broadly by attempting to improve socioeconomic outcomes or nurturing relations between groups. A central difference between the United States and Europe, Iceland notes, has been that U.S. policymakers focus on providing people with the tools to escape disadvantaged neighborhoods, while European policymakers seek to improve these neighborhoods.

A second report, Rotterdam: A Long-Time Port of Call and Home to Immigrants, points out that the city has been at the forefront of thinking about how to reduce residential segregation, as well as to improve social cohesion and bolster socioeconomic outcomes for immigrants. The authors, Han Entzinger and Godfried Engbersen of Erasmus University, argue that the recent rise in temporary forms of migration to Rotterdam presents new challenges for a city integration policy that has traditionally focused on permanent residents. To ensure the successful integration of the city’s long-term and temporary migrant populations, they conclude, Rotterdam will have to improve the quality of its housing and educational offerings, as well as invest in new industries and jobs.

These reports conclude the MPI Transatlantic Council on Migration series, “Cities and Regions: Reaping Migration’s Local Dividends.” Earlier reports in the series and a conclusory Council Statement can be found here.


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