Immigrant Intentions and Mobility in a Global Economy: The Attitudes and Behavior of Recently Arrived U.S. Immigrants


  • * Direct correspondence to Douglas S. Massey, Office of Population Research, Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 〈〉. Data from the New Immigrant Survey Pilot are publicly available from the New Immigrant Survey website 〈〉.


Objectives. In this article we develop a conceptual model connecting immigrants' objective circumstances to satisfaction with life in the United States, intentions with regard to naturalization and settlement, and concrete behaviors such as remitting and leaving the country.

Methods. We analyze data from the New Immigrant Survey Pilot to estimate structural equations derived from our conceptual model.

Results. Those expressing a high degree of U.S. satisfaction are significantly more likely to intend to naturalize and, because of this fact, are also more likely to want to stay in the United States forever. In terms of socioeconomic characteristics, however, those with high earnings and owners of U.S. property are less likely to intend naturalizing; and those with high levels of education are least likely to be satisfied with the United States, but satisfaction is itself unrelated to remitting or emigrating, which are determined by citizenship intentions and objective circumstances.

Conclusions. The picture that emerges from this analysis is of a fluid and dynamic global market for human capital in which the bearers of skills, education, and abilities seek to maximize earnings in the short term while retaining little commitment to any particular society or national labor market over the longer term.