William H. Frey photo

Immigration and Internal Migration "Flight": 1990 Census Findings for California

Publication Abstract

Frey, William H. "Immigration and Internal Migration "Flight": 1990 Census Findings for California." PSC Research Report No. 94-306. 4 1994.

Recent analyses of 1990 census migration data have pointed up disparities in the way immigration and internal migration contributions affect an area's demographic profile. They show that there is little overlap between states with large population gains from internal migration from other parts of the U.S. and states with large population gains from immigration from abroad. This emerging pattern along with the fact that immigration and internal migration select on very different demographic characteristics, may be leading toward a demographic "balkanization" of the nation's population.

This paper evaluates immigration-induced "flight" in a case study of California, based on an analysis of recently released migration data from the 1990 U.S. census. The results presented here suggest that California's out-migration consists of two different migration systems: first, an immigration-induced "flight" that exports lower income and less-educated Californians, primarily, to the nearby states of Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. And second, a more "normal" migration exchange with the rest of the U.S. that involves the exchange of better educated, higher income migrants. It is the former migration system which appears to be most responsive to the low-skilled immigration flows, while the latter should be responsive to more conventional labor market employment characteristics. This implies that, irrespective of changing economic conditions in the state, the continued immigration of low-skilled migrants will lead to more losses of native-born internal migrants to neighboring states and metropolitan areas. However, these migrant streams will not be made up of the "best and brightest" residents that characterize most conventional migration streams.

In addition to focusing on California's inter-state migration exchange, the paper also evaluates the impact of these streams on the populations of nearby states and presents further information on internal migration dynamics for metropolitan areas and counties within California. The data in this paper are derived from both a 5% sample and the full 16.7% migration ("residence 5-years ago") tabulation of the 1990 census. These tabulations draw from the census question on "residence 5 years ago" and pertain to migration over the 1985-90 period. They represent the most current migration data that provide detailed social and demographic characteristics for migrants at the state and county level.

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