Every day, new immigrants pour into America's largest
metropolitan areas, swelling the population and diversifying the
culture. There's only one problem. An increasing number of those
immigrants are later picking up and moving somewhere else. And
unlike the middle-class whites of the 1960s and '70s, they're not
fleeing to the suburbs, they're moving to entirely different cities
that are more affordable.
This migration bodes well for the assimilation of these
immigrants and the diversification of middle America. But some
observers worry that it will drive a further wedge between rich and
poor in the nation's largest cities.
"New immigrants come to cities like New York or Los Angeles
regardless of the economy; they come because they have family
connections there," says William Frey, a demographer and author of a
new report on the subject for the Brookings Institution in
Washington, D.C. At the same time, the "economic outmigration"
taking place at almost the same rate raises the prospects of a two-
tier economy that could ultimately polarize the groups.
"There is a potential concern about the availability of education
in the long term for children in the lower tier," he adds. "And
education in the long-term is one of the ways to bridge those two
The rising cost of living and lack of job opportunity are driving
the outmigration. In the last two years, for example, thousands of
immigrants have left the densely packed, well-established "Little
Guyana" section of Queens, N.Y. Their destination: Schenectady, a
former manufacturing town in upstate New York.
In less than two years, Schenectady's Guyanese population has
quadrupled, to approximately 5,000, estimates Elcid Ramotar, a
business developer and liaison at the city's Economic Development
The draw: affordable housing. In Queens, a typical single-family
home can sell for $500,000, says Mr. Ramotar. The same home in
Schenectady only costs $100,000.
Back in Queens, the outflow is noticeable. "So many people have
left for upstate, and many more people are planning to leave," says
Archie Narine, a wholesale distributor of West Indies products in
Queens. Still, he says, "new immigrants are coming [to Queens] every
day. You can't stop that flow."
In metropolitan New York as a whole, nearly 1 million new
immigrants arrived between 1995 and 2000, according to census