Communication flows and the durability of a transnational social field

Ashton M. Verdery, Ted Mouw, Heather Edelblute, Sergio Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


We draw on unique data on communication flows between migrants and non-migrants in a bi-national, cross-border social network to test competing theories of the process of social incorporation. While advocates of the assimilation perspective argue that social incorporation is largely a one-way street, a recent literature on immigrant transnationalism challenges this view by arguing that changes in communication technologies and reductions in travel costs have made it possible for migrants to retain meaningful connections to their origin communities. In the context of this debate, we argue that communication flows—as measured by a combination of the number of social ties and the frequency of communication with them—provide an empirical test of the potential durability of cross-border networks. In our analysis, we find mixed support for both transnationalism and assimilation: while the classic assimilation perspective is correct that the strength of migrants’ ties to origin attenuates as time in the destination increases, we also find evidence of a striking persistence in cross-border communication that is reinvigorated by migrant return visits, consistent with an attenuated view of transnationalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-71
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Networks
StatePublished - May 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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