Status in Different
Nations and Cities
When one looks at immigrant groups living in a particular urban area, as social scientists usually do, it is difficult to see how a group's social and economic position are affected by its institutional environment and context. In a given immigrant community, what we see is the location of the group in relation to the host population or to other specific groups. Our explanatory attention then focuses on what varies within this field of vision: on differences between immigrants and host population, among origin groups, or among individuals within groups. In this delimited frame, what does not vary is the social and institutional context in which the events play themselves out. So the impact of this context cannot be seen but only inferred.
Within a single setting, studies of particular immigrant origin groups, using both field observations and surveys, bring to light issues of how immigrants overcome initial disadvantages through processes of settlement, adaptation, integration, and mobility. These studies began in the United States with the Chicago series, including Thomas and Znaniecki Polish Peasant ( 1920); the tradition continued with Gans portrait of the Italian-born Urban Villagers ( 1962) in Boston; Wilson and Portes ( 1980), and subsequent, studies of Miami Cubans; Ivan Light and Edna Bonacich's Korean Immigrant Entrepreneurs ( 1988) in Los Angeles; Jiobu ( 1988) Japanese Americans in the Bay Area; Zhou New York Chinatown ( 1992); Waters ( 1994) West Indians in New York, and countless others. To a lesser extent, the same is true in other immigrant-receiving countries. In Toronto there are detailed studies of the Portuguese ( Anderson 1974) and West Indians ( Henry 1994). In Australia, Collins ( 1991) has provided a comprehensive overview. Much of our knowledge of the situation of immigrants is based on these studies. These studies show what is involved in the immigration experience from the vantage point of the immigrant community itself, clearly reflecting the gulf that often separates immigrants from their hosts.