IIL Banner 2013
CommentaryMeasuring Immigrant Integration
From Rhetoric to Reason:
Politicians work up the masses about immigration and parties face gridlock over immigration, but few rise above rhetoric and get to the facts, to hard assessments and significant research.
Getting beyond sound bites, two projects here at Boston College School of Social Work (BCSSW) are noteworthy and one other from Paris. In one, I assembled a national team of experts to participate in the 38 country comparative study called MIPEX (Migrant Integration Policy Index). In the other, Immigration Integration Lab (IIL)'s distinguished Director of Research, and BCSSW Associate Dean, David Takeuchi, was a primary contributor to a new assessment of immigrant integration in the U.S.
What is immigrant integration really? It runs a gamut of issues from open housing to police profiling, from availability of language classes to pathways to citizenship. In the E.U. over 10 million non-nationals live without permanency and in the U.S. over 21 million residents are not citizens. While just one sub-group, their situation is always in focus. Many personal as well as policy issues impact their life choices and many policies facilitate or frustrate the full inclusion of the newcomer as an equal member of the society. Even when the foreign born become citizens, issues of xenophobia, discrimination, credentialing and labor mobility are highly impactful on the journey to full equality.
The project of the IIL was to update MIPEX which compares 38 nations, in 8 policy areas using 168 indicators. While too often politicians reduce immigration to a discussion of legal and illegal and advocates respond with the primary elements of reform needed, there is no other attempt to give such a comprehensive set of policy comparisons. Based on the assessment of our team, as examples, we looked at the positive effect of President Obama's Executive Orders but also at the rise of deterrents by the Department of Homeland Security and their impact. Marriage definitions improved the U.S. score as the country joined 25 other nations that acknowledge same sex marriage. Anti-immigrant legislation is one of the counter forces and at both the federal and state level there has been increased restrictive activity.
MIPEX ranks these factors and serves as tool for educators, policy makers, and advocates to compare national policies and to anticipate the outcome of any proposed change. They provide a useful website ( with interactive graphics. The good news is that this year, the U.S. has moved up from 11th to 9th in the MIPEX standings of countries facilitating immigrant integration.
Based on this international comparison, six particular recommendations stand out:
  1. The U.S. needs a federal commitment to English language classes and integrated occupational training that leads to doubling the number of English classes available
  2. Overhaul the U.S. immigration system with legislative action and administrative systems, reprioritizing DHS border funds to family reunification and judicial reform
  3. Provide incentives for employers, community colleges, and economic/workforce development initiatives to upskill incumbent workers and provide meaningful career pathways for new and existing workers while eliminating market-restricting barriers that hinder the recognition of overseas training
  4. Increase civics education and federal/ local partnership that increase civic engagement, access to services and equal treatment under the law regardless of national origin or status
  5. Empower educational, faith and third sector partnerships to facilitate initial services and the development of human capital in a climate of Welcoming Cities, States and Nation with competitive integration funding
The second major effort at measuring integration is richer in macro data analysis versus policy analysis. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has just published Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In. Using the EU's Zaragoza Indicators, this study offers trend analysis and breaks out statistics about young people who have immigrant parents, a subject of much interest especially in Europe where ethnic marginalization is greater. Using available datasets, OECD gives evidence that in the U.S., lower skilled immigrants do better than similar populations in other receiving countries but higher skilled immigrants have greater obstacles to equal pay and opportunity; thus professionals who immigrate to the U.S. are more likely to indicate facing discrimination. Data is again helpful to see income disparity with immigrants being over 30% poor compared to native born at about 25% and facing further challenges related to the U.S. having the greatest economic disparity of all developed countries.
A third approach is the excellent work of 17 U.S. scholars funded by the National Academy of Science. This panel reviewed available empirical research on immigrant integration in the U.S. and conducted some original analyses to fill the gap with new findings where appropriate. Their findings include nuggets such as "immigrants are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and all cancers, and they experience fewer chronic health conditions, have lower infant mortality and obesity rates, and have a longer life expectancy.  However, over time and generations, these advantages decline as their health status converges with that of the native-born population." And on education "Available evidence indicates that today's immigrants are learning English at the same rate or faster than earlier waves of immigrants.  However, the U.S. education system is currently not equipped to handle the nearly 5 million English-language learners in the K-12 system - 9% of all students." Takeuchi says "the report provides illumination of scientific evidence to replace the heat of political commentary about the subject of immigrant integration." Among the 10 chapters there is also an assessment of the data and research needs.
In granting this year's Nobel Prize to Angus Deaton for his work on economic indicators, it is obvious that knowing the facts, the choices of individuals and governments, enables progress. "To design economic policy that promotes welfare and reduces poverty, we must first understand individual...choices" wrote the Swedish Academy in announcing the award. So too in building a strong America for the future, and a world responsive to sustained migratory flows, we must first understand the choices of migrants, their behavior and experience. To do this we need to improve our measurement techniques and then pose basic questions that will lead to improving human welfare. Careful analytic study of household data guides away from simplistic solutions and will produce a new generation of informed policy and effective service. In social work, evidence-based service delivery is a key to effectiveness.
Westy Egmont, Director
BCSSW Immigrant Integration Lab

The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is a unique tool which measures policies to integrate migrants in all EU Member States, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and the USA. A total of 167 policy indicators have been developed to create a rich, multi-dimensional picture of migrants' opportunities to participate in society. The index is a useful tool to evaluate and compare what governments are doing to promote the integration of migrants in all the countries analyzed. The project informs and engages key policy actors about how to use indicators to improve integration governance and policy effectiveness. Policymakers, NGOs, researchers, and European and international institutions are using its data not only to understand and compare national integration policies, but also to improve standards for equal treatment.
By the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)
Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015, a joint publication by the OECD and the European Commission, presents the first broad international comparison across all EU and OECD counties of the outcomes for immigrants and their children, though 27 indicators organized around five areas: employment, education and skills, social inclusion, civic engagement, and social cohesion. This international comparison of integration outcomes provides policy makers with benchmarks so that they can compare results in their own country with those of other countries and identify good practices. This should help countries to design better policies for a more effective integration of migrants and their children, to the benefit of both receiving societies and migrants themselves.
By Mary C. Waters & Marisa Gerstein Pineau (Eds.) 
Co-authored by David Takeuchi, Associate Dean of Research, Boston College, School of Social Work
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2015)
"Today, the 41 million immigrants in the United States represent 13.1% of the U.S. population. The U.S.-born children of immigrants, the second generation, represent another 37.1 million people, or 12% of the population. Thus, together the first and second generations account for one out of four members of the U.S. population. Whether they are successfully integrating is therefore a pressing and important question. Are new immigrants and their children being well integrated into American society, within and across generations? Do current policies and practices facilitate their integration? How is American society being transformed by the millions of immigrants who have arrived in recent decades? To answer these questions, this new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine summarizes what we know about how immigrants and their descendants are integrating into American society in a range of areas such as education, occupations, health, and language." National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI)  is an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit think tank based in Washington D.C. dedicated to the study of migration worldwide. MPI provides analysis of migration at all levels to meet the demand to the challenges that migration presents to communities and institutions worldwide. MPI's work is centered on the belief that international migration needs active and intelligent management and works on four basic tenets:  fair and rights-based policies can improve security and cohesion; immigrants contribute greatly when given the opportunities to do so; sound policy comes from a balanced analysis of solid data; and national policymaking benefits from international comparative research. In addition to publishing a respected online research journal, the Migration Information Source, MPI conducts research on migration management, refugee protection and humanitarian response, North American Borders and migration agenda, and immigrant integration and settlement. MPI's  impartial and balanced research is an important resource for those with an interest in immigrant and refugee issues. MPI offers a variety of perspectives by engaging with experts from various industries and communities, and it provides a thorough analysis on current debates and issues, such as the European migrant crisis and the recent debate over birthright citizenship in the United States.

Akresh, I. R., Massey, D. S, & Frank, R. (2014)
Social Science Research, 45, pp. 200-210
English proficiency is often used as a measure of immigrant integration. However, Akresh, Massey, and Frank argue that English use is a more accurate measure of social and cultural integration. The authors observe that English proficiency does not necessarily mean that it will be used in a way that promotes integration. Using data from the New Immigrant Survey (NIS), Akresh et al. tested a conceptual model of English language acquisition and its strength in predicting assimilation. The model assesses the interplay of pre-migration, post-migration, and intermediate variables in predicting linguistic proficiency, and also in assessing the actual use of the host country language for social and cultural purposes. Social workers can use this article to better predict and assess immigrant integration.
Goodman, S. W. (2015)
Comparative Political Studies, pp. 1- 37
Immigration and citizenship is a growing area of research. Although initial studies were mostly qualitative, recent research has involved development and analysis of comparative citizenship and immigration policy indices. This article addresses methodological issues with this quantitative approach. First, Goodman examines problems with policy indices, including a) concept validity and boundary maintenance and b) measurement, compensability, and aggregate index use. Goodman then discusses the implications of these concerns - what scholars know about the effects of immigration and citizenship policy is subject to data and sample selection. The author concludes with recommendations and strategies for moving forward. Social workers can use this article to critically examine integration policies.

Hamermesh, D. S., & Trejo, S. J. (2013)
Journal of Population Economics, 26(2), pp. 507-530
Hamermesh and Trejo examine the process of economic assimilation for immigrants in the United States. Comparisons between natives and immigrants reveal that there are differences between use of time when activities are distinguished by incidence and intensity. Hamermesh and Trejo use a model that utilizes the daily fixed costs for assimilating activities, such as taking an English course, using the transportation system, working outside the ethnic community, and shopping in nonethnic stores. The model predicts that immigrants are less likely than natives to engage in assimilating activities on a given day, but the immigrants who do will spend comparatively more time on them. The results also indicate that the costs of these activities are higher for immigrants with poor English proficiency and for those who immigrated from less developed countries. This article can be used to understand the process and cost of assimilation.
Chuong, K., & Rashid, F. (2015) 
Community Engaged Scholarship Institute, University of Guelph, ON 
This project from the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute at University of Guelph scans and reviews reports from other Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) on immigrant settlement and integration, with a focus on the LIPs in Ontario. This research supports the Guelph Welling-LIP Research Team with examination of priority areas of immigrant settlement and integration, and selection of potential performance indicators that can be used to assess those areas. Common priority areas and key indicators of LIPs have been highlighted, as well as differences in how the priority areas have been assessed. This report can be used as a review of common priority areas of immigrant integration, such as employment, housing, health and wellbeing, language skills and education, community safety and relationship with police and justice system, civil engagement and political participation, social support and community inclusion and engagement, and public transit. This report also provides examples of how each priority area can be measured. 

Social cohesion and immigration in Europe and North America: Mechanisms, conditions, and causality
By Koopmans, R., Lancee, B., & Schaeffer, M. 
Routledge (2014)
Concerns about the rising visibility of ethnic and racial minorities have triggered fierce debates among scholars on the impact of ethnic diversity on trust, cooperation, and other aspects of social cohesion. Tapping into a variety of disciplines, including sociology, political science, social psychology, and economics, Koopmans, Lancee and Schaeffer conduct a comprehensive analysis of the connections between social cohesion and ethnic diversity.  
Outsiders no more? Models of immigrant political incorporation 
By Hochschild, J., Chattopadhyay, J., Gay, C., & Jones-Correa, M. (Eds.)
Oxford University Press (2013)
Outsiders no more?, an incisive collection of scholarly works by leading American and European immigration experts, provides a dual emphasis on immigration and the political inclusion of the newcomers. Outsiders No More? explores the process of immigrant political incorporation, discusses how patterns of incorporation  are shaped by the impact of socioeconomic, cultural, and political factors, and provides an analytical review of the current issues brought up by immigrant political incorporation studies. According to Deborah J. Schildkraut, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Tufts University, Outsiders no more? "is an indispensable resource for immigration scholars across disciplines." 
After civil rights: Racial realism in the new American workplace
By Skrentny, J.
Princeton University Press (2013)
"John Skrentny, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC-San Diego, gives readers a well-researched, thoroughly documented and provocative work, presenting his theory for how employers view race in the workplace in the USA. Skrentny's chapter on racial realism, and its corollary, immigrant realism, in the low-wage workplace, is one I wish I had written. His account of how the law works in practice and on the ground is a great read for those interested in legal studies, history, political science, sociology or civil rights." Leticia Saucedo, LSE Review of Books

Follow Professor Egmont on Twitter @wegmont 

EDITORS: W. Egmont, K. Kalliontzi, J. Margolis, K. Medeiros, J. Ozieblowski, & Q. Zhang