A new experiment I’m trying here – sharing online some interesting background or side stories that I find in the course of reporting a bigger story, like the one I just did about Latinos across the Midwest. One of my biggest frustrations as a public radio reporter is how much research we do that doesn’t end up on air. Here, in a new section I’m calling Niala’s Notebook, I’ll highlight some interesting smaller stories (or as we say in the biz, angles) that don’t end up in larger stories.
Migration waves of ethnic groups to the United States have traditionally happened over about a hundred year period, I was told by a couple of folks as I researched this story. It begs the question: how does this wave of Latino immigrants differ from previous ones, like the Irish to the United States during the 18th to mid-19th centuries?
I had some interesting discussions about this with Allert Brown-Gort, the associated director at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. I’m sure this has been the topic of many graduate studies, in our discussion there are two interesting modern differences about current immigrants that I found especially interesting:
-Given the increasingly global nature of the world, and the mobility and improved communications, immigrants don’t lose as many ties to their home countries – how can you when a trip home is as simple as a plane ride or a Skype call? That results in an increased duality in the way immigrants approach life in the United States, although the traditional patterns of first- and second-generation immigrants still follow more familiar patterns of assimilation. (When I write this, I think of myself as a good example: I’m a first-generation American, my parents immigrating here from Trinidad for my father’s career as a university professor. I think I’m still of this hypen/bridge generation that straddles both worlds. If you’re really interested in this, my public radio colleagues over at Southern California Public Radio are doing a really neat job of reporting on this in their MultiAmerican project, check them out.)
-Even with this level of modern globalization, the unskilled immigrant who comes to the United States finds a vastly different work landscape than previous generations. As Gort told me, “What’s different now is that we are in a society that requires much formal educational attainment, and we’re living in an economy where businesses no longer really train people from the ground up. If that is the case, then when we think about the typical upward mobility we have to think the only door that is still wide open to them to assure that opportunity is entrepreneurship.”
That was, for me, an interesting take on why there may be even more entrepreneurs now than in previous generations. Your thoughts on how else this is different?