Skipping the City for the Suburbs

URBANITE: How have immigration patterns changed in our cities, generally speaking?

SINGER: There are two big recent trends. The first is that we are a suburban nation and now, for the first time, there are more immigrants in the suburbs than in central cities. Related to that is that immigrants are locating themselves directly in the suburbs, whereas in the past, immigrants moved to the cities because that’s where the jobs were. There was housing close by; transportation was usually not a huge issue. And they tended to concentrate there and move to the suburbs when they started to do better economically.

Now, in massively suburban metropolitan areas like Atlanta, the opportunities are in the suburbs. Immigrants are settling directly there and bypassing the cities because the cities don’t have the same function that they used to have for immigrants.

The second big trend is the new geography of immigration. Immigrants are landing in big numbers in all kinds of new places like Las Vegas and Charlotte, North Carolina. A few metropolitan areas have absorbed the majority of immigrants for the past fifty years. New York and L.A. are still the big magnets, with Chicago and Miami not far behind. But what has happened in the past ten to fifteen years is a new development where immigrants are moving to metropolitan areas with very little history of immigration. We’ve seen a spreading out to places we didn’t see before all over the country and a particularly high impact on places in the Southeast.

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