Continuing the dramatic changes in immigration patterns seen in the 1990s, Hispanics contributed a whopping 55 percent of all non-metro population growth in the U.S. from 2000-2007. One key aspect of this transformation has been a rapid increase in the rural Latino populations of the Midwest and Southeast. William Kandel and his fellow researchers analyze the importance of place for the economic well-being of these immigrants (Rural Sociology, March 2011).
Their article suggests that new rural destinations don’t raise an immigrant’s likelihood of securing full-time, year-round employment, but they do offer greater chances of home ownership. It’s a trade-off: Latino immigrants may be willing to accept lower earnings if they can still build home equity in lower-cost rural areas.
Such immigrant strategies are precariously situated within the restrictive policy environments of new rural destinations, some of which curtail immigrant integration, social mobility, and economic well-being. As immigration policies increasingly fall under the purview of state and/or local level governments, the new pattern of Latino immigration will demand responsible legislative action.