21 Jul 2022


Immigrants’ Economic Integration In Host Societies

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Academic level: Master’s

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Residents of developing nations often use both legal and illegal means to gain access into developed nations. The move is often motivated by the promise of access to a better economy, education, jobs among others. The immigrants often hope to take advantage of new employment opportunities to help boost their chances of economic empowerment. Unfortunately, in most cases, the opportunities available rarely matches the high expectations of the immigrants but they make do in order to survive and thrive. The immigrants however play a critical role in the development of the economy. A generous portion of members of the immigrant body are employed directly into the informal sector. Unions have been coming up to address issues of immigrant workers who find themselves engaging in work such as housekeeping, landscaping and other manual positions. 

Immigrants are frequently unable to gain access into occupations of higher economic return due to various reasons. Parity in the education levels is one of the barriers they face. It may occur because of the high academic background of the people competing for jobs of the same level. They are also rejected on the basis of incompatibility owing to different components of education in the different countries. Immigrants are not always rejected on the basis of education. They may be discriminated against because of their nationality and immigration status which causes apathy among the host societies. (Verloo, 2006) When some immigrants are unable to find gainful employment, they turn to entrepreneurship. Their businesses initially target the immigrant community as these are more likely to support them. The businesses may continue to thrive and eventually they form an integral part of the society and the economy (Borjas, 1994). 

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For an immigrants business to thrive, it has to overcome a myriad of challenges. Even before a business can be established, the immigrant must first get access to financing. This crucial first step is hampered by lack of supporting factors such as collateral and a good credit history. This is made worse by the lack of a formal record of savings and monthly income and expenditure. Some immigrants may eventually manage to gain access to financing. They then face the hurdle of starting the businesses. Here, they clash with financiers because of the different business practices that each wants to apply. The business community among the host societies is often treated better than the immigrants, who are held to a higher standard. These unique challenges that affect establishment of businesses by ethnic minorities is the concept known as mixed embeddedness (Portes & Sensenbrenner, 1993). 

Mixed embeddedness is largely responsible for the large number of informal businesses set up by immigrants. This includes the mushrooming of street vendors, unlicensed door to door salesmen and the backstreet establishments. Limitations of funding and lack of educational support to aid in decision making, the immigrants settle for running the small local scale businesses that they were accustomed to in their places of origin. The reliance on this format of enterprise is based on the social implications. The immigrants understand each others culture so they are able to establish businesses that meet specific needs. Furthermore, these businesses are often unique and they offer different services when compared to the busineses run by host societies. Lastly, the immigrants support these entrepenuers by doing businesses with them in a show of solidarity. This support is the basis or foundation of social capital. Social capital are the crucial aspects in social organization, which are defined as the elements of social life which includes networks and norms that cements the relationship among individuals trough which they attain the shared goals. Baker (1997) Presents a typology of organizational processes, connecting, bridging and linking the intra-community, community-public as well as inter-community agency , through which a number of immigrants invest in and distributes social capital within themselves. Moreover, unlike other types of capital, is structural viable, an aspect that only exists between and among specific individuals in a given context. The immigrants hence empowers their people to prosper as this will give them a chance to prosper as well. The entrepreneurs among these group include their family members in the day to day running processes. This cuts down the costs of operation. The family members are also sources of marketing information as each member grows the business within his network. 

These lower end interactions in the business community lead to partnerships that may grow into giant corporations. Some business people marry locals who are already citizens in a bid to improve their chances of success. These unions are sustained by the mutual business interests and the overall need for self preservation. The immigrant businessmen and business women often intermarry, and this creates a generation of businesses. The children born to this immigrants are residents of the nation they reside , hence carries on with the business outside the constraints of mixed embeddedness. This new generation of immigrants is born out of the concept of selection . People naturally have the inborn desire to want better for themselves. This applies even in marriage. A partner is selected based on what the other person stands to gain or improve in their lives. 

Not all of the small scale businesses invented by immigrants succeed. The success or failure of these businesses is mainly as a result of the personel who are responsible for the day to day running of the business. Successful completion ethnic social networking is responsible for a great percentage of the success. Personal skills such as cultivating and building a vibrant customer base , collecting and using feedback to grow the business and educational background of employees are determining factors of success. These factors as well as creativity and vibrant personal attributes are collectively known as human capita l. For many decades, there has been an upsurge in the educational gap among the American immigrants as well as natives. This shift in both skill composition and experience has led to the high number of immigrants in low-skill careers. Certainly, both the economic shift along with the increasing educational achievement of the natives , has been a primary force in escalating immigration pressure. Each employee or business man brings different value to the organisation. Careful selection and allocation of personel to different aspects of the business thus determines success (Pieter & Sandra, 2012). 

Immigrants are the best examples of businesses that thrive through social capital. Before the exponential growth of social media, they had already established socialization circles that exerted great influence on the community's outlook. People built each other up financially by consuming their products and endorsing them to others within and outside the community (Bevelander & Pendakur, 2014). This culture set up the immigrants to an extent that they could almost operate without dependence on their host nations. Social media platforms have enhanced this aspect of their interaction to a point where that they can do business exclusively on this platforms. So though not every immigrant community can be seen to thrive financially to the level of multi billion corporations, they have a strong and rich social capita l (van et al.,2003). 

Crenshaw (1989 argues that the face of immigrants in developing nations is quickly changing. The immigrants of earlier years were poor uneducated migrants that had no easy access to economic empowerment. The immigrants of today are often young students who come to pursue higher education. They have the advantage of being in the country legally and so they can access work permits after a relatively short period of time. Portes and Julia (1993) further points out this new crop of immigrants start working as soon as they come and they pursue their education at the same time. By the end of their academic journey usually between 2-5 years, they are well versed with the economic policies of the nation they reside in. This when combined with their education, places them in a position that allows them to,compete with residents who have the home advantage  (Robert et al.,2010). 

Immigrants have thus positioned themselves in places of influence in all areas of expertise. They now thrive in both blue collar and white collar jobs. It is not uncommon to find immigrants sitting in places of authority and thriving . They are experiencing faster growth in earnings than native host residents. In some cases immigrants earn more than their counterparts who are residents rights by birth. This is the overall cohort effect that is shaping the nature of economic growth in developing nations. Cohort effects include both the social as well as historical changes impacting the immigrants such as income, country of origin, education background among others. The progress of the new face of migrants has led to a direct improvement in the economic status of the old generation. The old are learning from the new and the immigrants are now able to positively turn their lives around. 


Baker, M. " Benjamin, D. (1997) “The role of the Family in Immigrants’ Labor Market Activity: An evaluation of alternative explanations”, American Economic Review, vol. 87  (4)  

Borjas, G. (1994) “The Economics of Immigration” in Journal of Economic Literature, Vol.XXX11, pp 1667–1717. (electronically available via JStor)  

  Bevelander P and Pendakur R (2014) The labour market integration of refugee and family reunion immigrants: a comparison of outcomes in Canada and Sweden, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40:5, 689-709, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2013.849569    

Crenshaw, K. (1989) “Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine”. The University of Chicago Legal Forum: 139–167  Martiniello M (Eds.) Selected studies in International Migration and Immigrant Incorporation. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University press, Imiscoe textbooks. 

Pieter Bevelander " Sandra Groeneveld (2012) “How Many Hours Do You Have to Work to Be Integrated? Full Time and Part Time Employment of Native and Ethnic Minority Women in the Netherlands”, International Migration 50(1): 117–131.   

Portes, Alejandro and Julia Sensenbrenner (1993) “Embeddedness and Immigration: Notes on the Social Determinants of Economic Action”, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 98, No. 6, pp. 1320-1350. (electronically available via JStor)    

  Robert Kloosterman, Joanne van der Leun and Jan Rath (2010) Mixed embeddedness: (in)formal economic activities and immigrant businesses in the Netherlands. 

In Rath, J."  van Tubergen, F., Maas, I., " Flap, H.. (2004). The Economic Incorporation of Immigrants in 18 Western Societies: Origin, Destination, and Community Effects. American Sociological Review, 69(5), 704–727. Retrieved from  http://www.jstor.org/stable/ 3593035    

Verloo, M. (2006) “Multiple Inequalities, Intersectionality and the European Union”. European Journal of Women’s Studies 13(3): 211–228  October 26: 10-12 (NI)   

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