Cover Page

Immigration & Society series

Carl L. Bankston III, Immigrant Networks and Social Capital

Stephanie A. Bohon & Meghan Conley,
Immigration and Population

Caroline B. Brettell, Gender and Migration

Thomas Faist, Margit Fauser, & Eveline Reisenauer,
Transnational Migration

Eric Fong & Brent Berry, Immigration and the City

Christian Joppke, Citizenship and Immigration

Grace Kao, Elizabeth Vaquera, & Kimberly Goyette,
Education and Immigration

Nazli Kibria, Cara Bowman, & Megan O’Leary,
Race and Immigration

Peter Kivisto, Religion and Immigration

Cecilia Menjívar, Leisy J. Abrego, & Leah C. Schmalzbauer, Immigrant Families

Ronald L. Mize & Grace Peña Delgado,
Latino Immigrants in the United States

Philip Q. Yang, Asian Immigration to the United States

Min Zhou & Carl L. Bankston III,
The Rise of the New Second Generation

Immigration and the City

Eric Fong and Brent Berry



Eric Fong would like to thank Kumiko Shibuya for her valuable suggestions. Brent Berry would like to thank Milos Brocic for his outstanding research assistance with the topics of immigrant housing, leisure, and time use in cities.


We are living in an “age of migration” (Castles et al. 2013). In 2011, about 6 million people in Canada were foreign-born, representing 21 percent of the total population (Statistics Canada 2013). In 2010, about 39 million people in the United States were foreign-born, representing 13 percent of the total population (Singer 2013). Most immigrants settle in cities when they first arrive. This is not a surprising pattern, as the majority of the Canadian and American populations reside in urban areas: 82 percent of the population of Canada and 81 percent of the population of the United States (World Bank 2015). Although many countries have experienced tremendous growth in immigration, this book largely focuses on the settlement and acculturation of immigrants in Canada and the United States. Rich data related to immigration are available in both countries, enabling effective comparisons.

Most people know a little about the settlement patterns of immigrants in cities from discussion with friends and media reports. This book explores these patterns, specifically how geographic contexts shape the settlement patterns of immigrants in contemporary cities. It also explores key aspects of immigrant housing attainment; community, business, and economic activity; and contributions to cosmopolitan city life. The settlement patterns, community forms, and economic endeavors of immigrants have become more varied and dispersed in contemporary cities, so a “one-size-fits-all” approach to explaining adaptation of immigrants in cities is no longer appropriate. Social scientists have been forced to expand and qualify their descriptions of these patterns, and also to use new forms of evidence, such as time-use data, to understand the behaviors of immigrants.

Understanding the social and economic lives of immigrants in cities is an important topic, and requires two processes to be clarified simultaneously: how immigrants adjust to the social, cultural, and economic environment of the city, and how they contribute to the social, cultural, and economic development of the city.

Characteristics of Contemporary Immigration

Many immigrants living in Canada and the United States arrived after 1970 as a result of changes in immigration policies. This new wave of immigrants has two major characteristics. First, many now come from non-European countries. The 2011 National Household Survey in Canada revealed that about 10 percent of immigrants in Canada were from African countries and nearly 60 percent were from Asian countries, especially the Philippines, China, and India, which represented 13 percent, 11 percent, and 10 percent of the total immigrant population respectively (Statistics Canada 2013). In 2013, most immigrants in the United States were from Mexico, at 28 percent of the total immigrant population, followed by India and China at 5 percent each, and then the Philippines at 4 percent (Zong and Batalova 2015). Because most of these immigrants chose to settle in major cities, one major direct consequence is the increasing racial diversity of cities, so the processes of immigrant integration may differ from those of European immigrants in previous generations.

The second characteristic is the increasing socioeconomic disparity among immigrants: some arrive with limited language and education, while others may have completed higher education and have considerable financial resources. In 2013, about 50 percent of immigrants aged 5 or older in the United States reportedly spoke English “not at all,” “not well,” or “well,” and about 50 percent only spoke English or spoke English “very well.” Additionally, about 30 percent of immigrants did not have a high school diploma, while 28 percent had completed a university degree (Zong and Batalova 2015). According to the 2011 Canadian National Household Survey, about 5 percent of immigrants aged 25–64 in Canada were not able to hold a conversation in either English or French; about 12 percent did not have a high school diploma, while about 31 percent had completed a university degree. These differences shape diverse integration outcomes: some immigrants have more resources to help them adapt, and more residential options. Because socioeconomic differences can lead to diverse assimilation outcomes, not all immigrants go through the same processes of integration.

Characteristics of the Urban Context

Since the 1970s, there have also been unique developments in the urban contexts where immigrants settle. Most major cities underwent rapid suburbanization between 1950 and 1970. Cities became more dispersed and decentralized, and a larger proportion of the population in urban areas settled in the suburbs. In 2006, Statistics Canada estimated that only 48 percent of the population in all metropolitan areas lived in neighborhoods less than 10 kilometers from the city center (Turcotte 2008). Suburban sprawl is known to affect daily activities and group interactions. The scattered residential arrangements of suburban areas encourage automobile culture, weakening close networks among neighbors and neighborhood shops. Suburban sprawl also usually means more distance between residence and workplace. Additionally, most suburban households are middle class, suggesting a possible socioeconomic segregation from people living in the city center.

The economies of cities have also changed to benefit more educated immigrants working in globally connected businesses at the expense of low-skill immigrants working in traditional manufacturing jobs. Since the 1970s, many manufacturing jobs have moved to developing countries. In the United States, for example, Chicago lost 177,000 manufacturing jobs and Detroit lost 87,000 between 1995 and 2005 (Pacione 2009). In Canada, the percentage of manufacturing jobs dropped from 22 percent to 17 percent of all jobs in only five years, from 1975 to 1980. Low-skill immigrants have been seriously affected, because manufacturing jobs are their major source of employment. At the same time, demand for skilled workers has increased.

This book explores immigrant settlement patterns within this increasingly complex context: how do urban forms shape the integration patterns of immigrants, and how does the adaptation of immigrants change urban forms?

Chapter 2 focuses on an issue central to understanding immigration and the city: the residential patterns of immigrants. It summarizes the classic perspectives and explores how scholars have recently developed new perspectives in an attempt to address some of the limitations of the classic perspectives. Almost all these theoretical perspectives suggest that the residential patterns of immigrants reflect their adaptation. In other words, their adaptation to the new country shapes urban forms. Chapter 2 also reviews the findings from current studies, which clearly show that no single perspective can be applied to all immigrant groups. Finally, it focuses on four types of neighborhoods that have been largely shaped by the process and outcomes of immigrant integration: mixed, gentrified, economically polarized, and immigrant suburban.

Chapter 3 focuses on the attainment of housing by immigrants at the individual level. It presents different trajectories of housing attainment related to individual socioeconomic resources. The discussion will reveal how immigrants with different socioeconomic resources adapt to the existing urban context. It will also show how the development of the physical housing environment is shaped by the socioeconomic and demographic background of immigrants. Overall, immigrants with different socioeconomic resources have diverse paths to housing attainment.

Chapter 4 focuses on immigrant community: the social and economic activities that bind immigrants together. Specifically, how have changes in the socioeconomic backgrounds of immigrants led to changes in the membership and functions of the commu-nity? The discussion will reveal that immigrant communities are beneficial to not only the first generation, but also the second generation. Chapter 4 also presents a review of two recent urban developments: the concentration of immigrants in suburban areas, and the transnational dimensions of immigrant communities. It will explore how the adaptation of immigrants transforms urban patterns, and how the nature and functions of immigrant communities are becoming more complex.

Chapter 5 focuses on immigrant businesses. Economic activities are one of the major activities of immigrant communities in cities. To help clarify the concentration of immigrant businesses, it presents a few ways to capture the complexity of contemporary economic activities among immigrants. As immigrant businesses become more diverse in size and involved in different industrial sectors, their geographical distribution is affected. Additionally, city contexts shape the earnings of individuals involved in immigrant businesses.

Chapter 6 explores the presence of immigrants in relation to the culture of the city. First, it focuses on how the food offered in local restaurants is influenced by immigrant communities and how the status of ethnic cuisine is elevated. Second, it explores how the socioeconomic background of immigrants shapes their participation in different leisure sports. Finally, it reviews how the cultural practices of immigrants shape the suburban landscape and public spaces.

Chapter 7 addresses the need for different types of data in research about the increasing complexity of immigrant adaptation and its relationship to urban patterns. It illustrates how time-use data can help clarify immigrant adaptation in a city. These data provide detailed information about individuals, so they reveal how people spend their time and how these patterns shape integration patterns, which in turn can lead to different urban forms.