The Great Recession and the Allure of New Immigrant Destinations in the United States


  • The Geography and Spatial Sciences Program at the National Sciences Foundation funded this research through award 0961232. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development provided additional support through awards 5R24HD042828 and 5T32HD007543.


In the 1990s, the immigrant population in the United States dispersed to non-traditional settlement locations (what have become known as “new immigrant destinations”). This paper examines whether the allure of new destinations persisted in the 2000s with a particular focus on the internal migration of the foreign-born during the recent deep recessionary period and its aftermath. Three specific questions motivate the analysis. First, are immigrants, much like the U.S.-born population, becoming less migratory within the country over time? Second, is immigrant dispersal from traditional gateways via internal migration continuing despite considerable economic contraction in many new destination metropolitan areas? Third, is immigration from aboard a substitute for what appears to be declining immigrant internal migration to new destinations? The findings reveal a close correlation between the declining internal migration propensity of the U.S.-born and immigrants in the last two decades. We also observe parallels between the geographies of migration of native- and foreign-born populations with both groups moving to similar metropolitan areas in the 1990s. This redistributive association, however, weakened in the subsequent decade as new destination metropolitan areas lost their appeal for both groups, especially immigrants. There is no evidence to suggest that immigration from abroad is substituting for the decline in immigrant redistribution through internal migration to new destinations. Across destination types, the relationship between immigration from abroad and the internal migration of the foreign-born remained the same during and after the Great Recession as in the period immediately before it.