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Multiple Origins, Uncertain Destinies: Hispanics and the American Future
in California, where immigration has fueled unusually rapid population growth.
The tendency for foreign-born Hispanics to cluster in high-density immigrant neighborhoods while they familiarize themselves with U.S. institutions and acquire proficiency in English largely explains their higher levels of social isolation. In 2000, Hispanic immigrants typically resided in neighborhoods where more than one-third of their neighbors were also foreign born and where fewer than half of their neighbors spoke English at home.20 Although the residential concentration of newcomers with limited English proficiency may retard their cultural assimilation, their economic integration is not necessarily hampered because many new arrivals use their social ties with established Hispanic residents to find housing and work. To what extent preexisting social ties promote the integration of Hispanic immigrants in new destinations is not yet known, but the pace at which Hispanic communities are expanding in some of the new locations suggests that social networks both reinforce growth and facilitate settlement.
Engines of Growth
One factor driving the geographic dispersal of Hispanics is the lure of employment opportunities in rapidly growing, labor-intensive industries. Having gained a reputation as hard workers in southwestern and mid-western agricultural labor markets, Mexican immigrants have made their way to the agricultural belt between Florida and New Jersey, moving from south to north and back again in response to harvest seasons and putting down roots in areas that offer more-permanent work. The relocation of meat and poultry processing plants from cities to nonmetropolitan areas to reduce labor costs has opened up many opportunities for unskilled workers, often leaving thousands of unionized workers jobless as a result. The poultry and meat processing industries in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska and the seafood industry along the East Coast have attracted numerous immigrants seeking stable employment, including many undocumented workers.21
In the new Hispanic destinations—primarily urban and suburban communities—there is expanding labor demand in construction, dwelling maintenance and repair services, private household services, and nondurable manufacturing. These industries are readily absorbing immigrant laborers searching for stable jobs in smaller, more affordable communities. In Nevada, for example, the Hispanic population swelled in response to a new phase of hotel and casino development that revived the construction