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Abstract

Rapid Hispanic population growth represents a pronounced demographic transformation in many nonmetropolitan counties, particularly since 1990. Its considerable public policy implications stem largely from high proportions of new foreign-born residents. Despite the pressing need for information on new immigrants in nonmetro counties and a bourgeoning scholarship on new rural destinations, few quantitative analyses have measured systematically the social and economic well-being of Latino immigrants. This study analyzes the importance of place for economic well-being, an important public policy issue related to rural Hispanic population growth. We consider four measures of economic mobility: full-time, year-round employment; home ownership; poverty status; and income exceeding the median national income. We conduct this analysis for 2000 and 2006–2007 to capture two salient periods of nonmetro Hispanic population growth, using a typology that distinguishes among nonmetropolitan areas by the categories of “traditional” immigrant destinations concentrated in the Southwest and Northwest, “new” immigrant destinations to capture recent and rapid Hispanic population growth in the Midwest and Southeast, and “all other” rural destinations as a reference category representing more typical nonmetro population trends. We also compare our results to those for metropolitan destinations. We find that place type matters little for stable employment but more so for wealth accumulation and income security and mobility. Compared with urban Latino immigrants, rural Latino immigrants exhibit higher rates of homeownership as well as greater likelihoods of falling into poverty and lower likelihoods of earning a measure of U.S. median income. From 2000 to 2006–2007, rural-urban differences deteriorated slightly in favor of urban areas. We conclude by discussing implications of these findings and those of addressing rural immigrant economic well-being more generally.