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The two elements of migration

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From left: Roger Waldinger (UCLA), Filiz Garip (Cornell) and Philip Kasinitz (CUNY Graduate Center). (Photos: Kyilah Terry/ UCLA.)

Sociologist Roger Waldinger and two critics discussed a transnational theory of migration at a recent CSIM book talk.

By Kyilah Terry (UCLA 2019)

UCLA International Institute, May 6, 2019 — “I can't imagine an immigration course without this book; it is so clear and inviting,” said Filiz Garip, sociology professor at Cornell University, at a recent book talk sponsored by the Center for the Study of International Migration.

The book “Origins and Destinations: The Making of the Second Generation” (Russell Sage, 2018) is co-authored by immigration scholars Roger Waldinger, Renee Reichl Luthra and Thomas Soehl (the latter two are former Ph.D. students of Waldinger). The book uses surveys from second-generation immigrants to explain why experiences differ among immigrant offspring of various nationalities.

Waldinger was the sole author present for the “author-meets-critics” session. Critiquing the book at the event were Filiz Garip, author of the award-wining book, “On the Move: Changing Mechanisms of U.S. Mexico Migration” (Princeton, 2016) and Philip Kasinitz, co-author of “Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai” (Routledge, 2015) and sociology professor at the CUNY Graduate Center.

"Origins and Destinations": Background

“Origins and Destinations” emphasizes the importance of socialization during migration and the need to understand the countries of origin and destination of migrant families. Waldinger stressed that migration has to do with a home country’s fundamental features, noting that immigrant parents change countries at a time when they are likely to have children. “Therefore,” he continued, “lessons learned in the home country are likely to be salient and will then be transmitted to their children.”

The book investigates the relationship between immigration and politics, explained the sociologist. Policies used to control immigration, he said, “create civic stratification, specifically, differences in legal rights and entitlements with the focus on documented and undocumented migrants.”

By analyzing group- and individual-level data, the book’s findings demonstrate a great deal of heterogeneity in migration outcomes. Among 1.5 generation respondents — people born abroad but raised in the United States from childhood on — naturalized citizens attained higher levels of schooling than their non-citizen counterparts. Similarly, those 1.5 generation respondents who arrived on a temporary visa or without authorization experienced a far longer trajectory to citizenship than their counterparts who possessed a green card when crossing U.S. boundaries.

Filiz Garip's critique

“This book gives us a masterly review of the scholarly debates, reveals what we still do not know, proposes a new perspective and shows what we gain by it,” said Garip. She commended Waldinger and his co-authors for “measures and methods that reflect intra-group and inter-group differences.”

Garip supported the authors’ choice to not treat national origins as a nominal characteristic. “One thing that this book does is to try to come up with a different measure to capture the culture, economics and politics of sending and receiving countries, in order to avoid collapsing them into a single dimension,” she said. In particular, she noted that the book reveals a great deal of diversity in the history of immigrants who move to specific countries.

“One thing that I worry about is that some group-level characteristics may manifest themselves through individual-level characteristics, which can affect the importance of cultural values,” Garip remarked. She suggested the need for a new measure that could capture the context of migration. “I think if we come up with a more nuanced measure, then we can connect this literature to the broader work of how cultural processes feed into inequality between groups,” she said.

Author and critics address a full seminar room. (Photo: Kyilah Terry/ UCLA.)

Philip Kasinitz's critique

“One of this book’s main contributions is that it brings the context of immigration into discussion with the international perspective, which takes us back to the origins of immigrants,” Kasinitz noted. Another contribution, he continued, was the way in which it addresses group- and individual-level characteristics.

The book, said the CUNY professor, is both a research effort and a conversation about what the future holds for the children of immigrants in American society. “While most immigration studies make it seem like everything started over again with the moment migrants move, Waldinger is more analytic,” he said.

Kasinitz then turned to his concerns. “The data is almost exclusively from the children of immigrants, so [the question becomes] how much do they even know about their parents’ origins or can even articulate this,” he remarked. In response, Waldinger highlighted that the authors used data from sending and receiving countries to address this problem.

“I would say the next step is to come back to this research later and see how things have changed because this topic is a constantly moving target,” concluded Kasinitz.


Waldinger and his co-authors propose that scholars use an international perspective when studying immigration because, unlike the current literature, it encompasses both home and host societies. Garip and Kasinitz agreed that this transnational lens facilitates an understanding of second-generation immigrants and provides a completely new outlook on their migration outcomes.

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