Figure 2.9

Proportion of immigrants who are male, 1820-1990. Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1975, 1996); U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (1994, 1996, 1997).

way to relatively equal numbers of women and men until the 1930s. This historic imbalance was even more pronounced among prime-aged adults. Among immigrants in their late twenties, the ratio of men to women was greater than 3 to 1 (Carter and Sutch, 1996). This tilt toward men should not be surprising; in virtually all contexts, men have been historically more migratory than women, especially when economic betterment was the primary motive for moving. As U.S. immigration policy changed and family reunification became a more dominant reason to come to the United States, the gender balance shifted. Since the 1930s, cohorts of immigrants—the successive groups of immigrants who arrive in a given period of time—have been more equally split between men and women (Carter and Sutch, 1996). In 1995, for example, women accounted for slightly over half of all legal immigrants—54 percent.

Why should the proportion of males and females matter for the way immigrants affect American society? A male-dominated immigrant pool has the following implications: without mates from their home country, many will eventually return home. Others will marry outside their group; their children will be of mixed parentage, with looser ties to the original home country. Men are also far more likely to engage in criminal activity, so that the crime rate associated with immigration may be higher.

The differences may also appear in the labor market. Women still work less than men do. With more women in the immigrant pool, the aggregate effect on the job market of a given number of new immigrants will generally be smaller. Since women hold different types of jobs than men do, different segments of the labor market will hear the competitive footsteps of these immigrants.

Because the sex ratio among immigrants is close to that among the native-born and is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, the gender composition



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