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Immigrants and Neighborhoods of Concentrated Poverty: Assimilation or Stagnation?

November 2006

Paul A. Jargowsky, University of Texas at Dallas.

Download 'working_paper06-44.pdf'.


Immigrants and their children often live, at least for a time, in neighborhoods that have high concentrations of fellow immigrants. Typically these neighborhoods also have high poverty levels are located near concentrations of the native-born poor. The conventional wisdom is that living in extremely poor neighborhoods leads to “concentration effects” that exacerbate the problems of poverty and limit economic opportunity (Wilson 1987). While immigrants are not immune to the problems of crime, gangs, dilapidated housing, and failing schools associated with high-poverty neighborhoods, it has been argued that immigrant neighborhoods provide advantages as well. These include the creation of parallel institutions, vernacular information networks, and familiar cultural practices. The analyses presented here provide some support for this notion, by showing immigrants progress from higher- to lower-poverty neighborhoods over time. Yet Mexican immigrants do not transition nearly as rapidly. More importantly, concentration of poverty diminishes the economic outcomes of the young Hispanic adults in the second generation. They are less likely to enter the labor force, less likely to be employed, and receive lower earnings if they live in metropolitan areas where they had a greater probability of exposure to high-poverty neighborhoods as children.

Immigration, Race and Ethnicity