Jeffrey G. Reitz, Warmth of the Welcome: The Social Causes of Economic Success for Immigrants in Different Nations and Cities. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998, 298 pp. $65.00 US
During the past two decades, empirical analyses of large surveys and census data have become commonplace in North American immigration research. Conducted by labour economists, demographers and quantitatively trained sociologists, these studies frequently have two characteristics: 1) they measure immigrant economic integration as a function of the individual characteristics captured by surveys and censuses; and 2) they deduce policy implications from the analytical results. As a result, such studies risk oversimplifying the answers to the question of why immigrants do better, the same, or less well than non-immigrants. The importance of structural factors for migrant integration seldom is directly assessed other than as variables depicting the occupational or industrial locations of individuals. And, immigration policy often is viewed as a powerful lever that selects immigrants and thus determines their subsequent economic integration, with little attention paid to the influence of other social and economic policies.
Warmth of the Welcome moves beyond these traditional approaches and indeed challenges them. The central question asked in the book is a standard question: what influences the economic integration of recently arrived immigrants compared to the economic experiences of non-immigrants. However, the answers are sought using a framework that is comparative and institutional in emphasis. Jeffrey Reitz, Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, begins with the observation that new immigrants from non-European sources occupy different places in the social and economic hierarchies of three traditional receiving countries: Australia, Canada, and the United States. The core tenets of his book are that inter-country differences in immigrant economic integration reflect differences between the societies in educational systems, labour markets, and welfare policies. In their influence on the immigrant experience, these institutions are of equal, or greater importance, than racial attitudes and discrimination within institutional settings. The forces of globalization and immigration policy matter less for immigrant economic integration than commonly presumed. In particular, Warmth of the Welcome takes issue with the argument that lower earnings of immigrant groups in U.S. cities reflects the forces of globalization, which through the creation of a bi-furcated service economy in large global cities generate demand for low wage immigrant labour. It also debunks the Canadian and American mantra that immigrants to Canada and Australia have higher entry level earnings because immigration policies have provisions to admit high skilled immigrants.
Recent immigrants are defined as those arriving in Australia, Canada, and the United States in the decade following the immigration reforms of the 1960s in these countries. Census data from the early 1980s provide empirical data on the educational levels and earnings of these recently arrived immigrants. Earnings are the key indicators of economic integration in all three countries, with considerable attention paid to inter-urban variations. An extensive literature review of country specific immigration policies and of their educational, labour market and welfare institutions also produces evidence that is used both to establish the setting for the core arguments and to supplement the empirical analyses of census data. The first two chapters review the factors that affect immigrant social and economic integration. They also pose the major analytical questions to be addressed, and they present data on inter-country and intra-urban differences in immigrant characteristics. Chapter 3 assesses the argument that immigration regulations are formidable forces in producing high skilled immigrant flows, concluding that such regulations have resulted in occupational selectivity rather than skill per se. The fourth chapter undertakes an exhaustive review of educational systems in the three countries, resolving an empirical paradox in the process. Dr. Reitz finds a greater earnings gap between immigrants and non-immigrants in the US compared to Canada and Australia. Yet with the exception of Mexican immigrants, U.S. immigrants have higher levels of education than do recently arrived (c. 1970s) immigrants to Canada and Australia. The perplexing findings reflect the fact that a mass higher education system arrived earlier than in Australia and Canada, with the result that the American-born population also has relatively higher educational levels. Chapter 5 examines the influence of labour markets on earnings inequalities, provocatively concluding that labour market structures influence immigrant-non-immigrant earnings gaps through their influence on the shape of earnings distributions. Chapter 6 reviews the evidence on income redistribution and welfare benefit policies and their affects on immigrants. Two concluding chapters follow, with chapter 7 integrating the arguments and analytical findings in earlier chapters and a short chapter 8 discussing likely policy implications.
Limited by space constraints, the content summary in the preceding paragraph does not adequately represent the many findings and novel ideas found in Warmth of the Welcome. The task that Jeffrey Reitz sets for himself is innovative, ambitious and complex. He documents and seeks to explain earnings gaps between recently arrived immigrants and non-immigrants not just in one country but in three, as well between urban centres. Adding to this comparative task is the stated (Chapter 1) agenda of being attentive to the interdependence between four institutional arenas (immigration policy, education, labour markets and welfare) and the need to show how the features of each institutional sector affect the positions of arriving immigrants (in each of the three countries). Statistical analyses are only part of the evidence, with other studies being mined and discussed as part of the argument building exercise. The result is a book that gives much food for thought, offers a wealth of insights, and provides a much applauded push to include institutional forces and comparative research in studies of immigrant economic integration. However, ambitious and complex agendas also can reduce accessibility. The target audience appears to be those economists, demographers and sociologists who conduct quantitative research in the area of immigrant integration. Undergraduates, the lay public, policy makers, or academics with low tolerances for numbers, detailed descriptions and many points will not find this book easy to read. They will want to concentrate on Chapters 1, 2 and 7 and the summary sections in other chapters.
Florida State University
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