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Heterolocalism, Social Networks, and Migration: Refugee Nodes and Networks in the Pacific Northwest

This research project will test the impact of scale on the spatial theory of heterolocalism in a metropolitan area in the Pacific Northwest. This new theory suggests that, to a degree unknown in the past, new migrants in U.S. cities may choose to settle in widely dispersed places rather than in more concentrated ethnic enclaves while still maintaining their ethnic identities. The research will test this theory by comparing the settlement patterns and maintenance of identity of the two largest groups of recent refugees now residing in the central city, suburbs, and small towns located within the metropolitan region centered on the city of Portland, Oregon. The two groups are migrants from Vietnam and from the former Soviet Union. Vietnamese began settling in the region in the mid-1970s and are now well established while the majority of migrants born in the former USSR have arrived only within the past decade. The selection of these two comparative groups, therefore, is based on differences in the dates of their settlement, as well as on their internal diversity and comparative racial, religious, and linguistic characteristics. Methodologies to be employed in this research include cartographic analysis, survey questionnaires, structured and unstructured interviews, and participant observation. Outcomes will include improved knowledge of immigration and refugee settlement in the U.S., and a set of comparative geographic data showing the settlement patterns of the two largest refugee groups in the study area for the years 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2002. This analysis will be based on census data, demographic information listed in Immigration and Naturalization Service reports, school district enrollment data, and information provided by the close collaboration of the project team with the Director and staff of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization headquartered in Portland.<br/><br/>Globally, the study of refugee resettlement is critically important with more than 23 million displaced people on earth as a result of recent political, environmental, and economic crises. At least 2.3 million of these migrants have relocated to the U.S. in the past quarter century to seek new lives. Many choose to settle in traditional nodes of immigrant concentrations in East Coast cities, Chicago, or urban California. However, ever increasing numbers of refugee newcomers to the U.S. during the past decade have relocated to smaller cities. In northern New England, the upper Great Lakes, and the Pacific Northwest, for example (places long dominated by homogeneous Euro-American populations) unexpected increases in the number of foreign-born residents were recently documented in census reports. This research project will focus on one of these newly emerging nodes of diversity to investigate the geographic and social patterns of settlement of recent migrants.

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Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Region.