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Wallace Hall Princeton University      

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Study Goals: Why Study Immigration in America?

  • Immigration has a major impact on American society -- immigration now accounts for one-third of U.S. population growth.

  • In perhaps no other area of public policy is there such a large gap between information needs and existing data; it is remarkable that in its more-than-200-year history the U.S. has never had a nationally representative survey of immigrants and their children.

  • Immigration processes and immigration policy continue to be the subject of much political and scientific debate. What are the contributions and costs of immigrants to the economy? What is the relationship between legal and illegal immigration?

  • Little is known about the origins of legal immigrants, other than their countries of birth or last residence. We currently know little about their pre-immigration labor market experiences and the ability of immigrants to translate those experiences into labor market success in this country.

  • How many immigrants return to their home country? Which are the propensities to migrate including their previous stays in the U.S., and the family networks key to their immigration and which form the pool for potential immigrants through family reunification?

  • What are the factors affecting the assimilation of immigrants and their children? What are the achievements of, and burdens imposed by, immigrant children and the children of immigrants?

  • Over time, does migration to the U.S. improve the living conditions & health of migrants, and their children? How does the health and well-being of immigrants compare to that of the native-born?

The NIS design was motivated by these research questions, and the main objective is to provide a public use database on new legal immigrants to the United States and their children that will be useful for addressing scientific and policy questions about migration behavior and the impacts of migration. The specific aims of the study are:

  • To assess the differences that occur within immigrant lifestyles pre- and post-immigration, and how social networks of families serve as support, as well as the eventual role of family reunification in the immigrant experience;

  • To evaluate employment situations prior to immigration, as viewed from the perspectives of labor force participation, occupational attainment, income determination, and social assimilation before arriving in the United States. Also of great importance are employment and wage differences between native citizens and immigrants;

  • To evaluate the assimilation of immigrants in the American society, as well as their children;

  • To examine the schooling of immigrants, in areas covering the quality of schooling, language instruction, and grade repetition, through such means as child assessments and testing;

  • To compare a large component of the NIS survey instruments with comparable instruments used in the major U.S. longitudinal surveys, thus facilitating comparisons of immigrants and the native-born;

  • To examine the transition from temporary to permanent citizenship, including the process of finding a home and becoming financially successful; and,

  • To compare the health and wellbeing of immigrants with native citizens, in terms of child-rearing as well as individual health.

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