Immigration and the social contract

Frank D. Bean, Robert G. Cushing, Charles W. Haynes, Jennifer Lynne Van Hook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective. The general goals of this paper are to try to explain not only why recent migration flows to the United States have come to be negatively perceived, but also why they appear increasingly to be seen as violating the prevailing sense of social contract. Methods. In order to accomplish these objectives, we analyze recent changes in the volume and character of four migration flows to the United States and assess changes in the social, demographic, and economic contexts in which they have occurred. Results. (1) Migration flows to the country have been increasing significantly and are beginning to diversify the racial/ethnic composition of the U.S. population; (2) wage stagnation and uncertainty about employment security continue as features of the economic context within which immigrants arrive; and (3) recent substantial increases in interracial and interethnic marriage indicate not only the current and future blurring of boundaries between U.S. racial and ethnic groups, but also the resilience and growth of levels of racial and ethnic tolerance in the country. Conclusions. Devising immigration policies that are fair as well as sensitive to their environmental, developmental, trade, and foreign-policy implications may prove difficult unless the public sense of economic security increases enough to strengthen what appears to be an increasingly fragile sense of social contract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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