Monday, April 18, 2011

Brazilian immigration

Tyler Cowen asks why Brazilians migrate less frequently to the United States than Salvadorans.  He then offers some hypotheses, some of which ("Brazil is too much fun to leave") seem only to be feeble attempts at humor, while others ("Brazil has a history of viewing the United States as a rival; El Salvador does not") don't actually make sense to me.  Cuba is a rival, yet Cubans come to the U.S. in large numbers.  So let me offer three others:

1. The United States did not spend billions on a violent civil war in Brazil.  That alone accounts for a lot of Salvadoran migration (see also: Colombia and Iraq).

2. Speaking Portuguese rather than Spanish puts low wage Brazilians at a distinct disadvantage in the United States compared to Spanish-speaking migrants.

3. Brazil is geographically a lot farther from the United States than El Salvador.


JHD 11:11 AM  

I think your language argument holds water. Significant immigration from Brazil and Capo Verde to the US first happened in Massachusetts - because there was an established Portuguese population there working as fishermen. Brazilians tend to settle in very tight proximity to one another - along the same lines as Mexicans to the United States for whom Spanish is a second language or early urban migrants from Europe. Spanish speaking immigrants do seek out people from a village or family connection, but seem to move with far more flexibility after arrival. Just some random thoughts.

quijanog 1:35 PM  

Current academic research on migration in latin america is not focusing in "pull in effect" (the idea of one country being more suitable that one's for living) to "push out" effect: migration is explained more because of the conditions in one's country.
Probably we should start looking how Brazil is pushing out migrants instead of where are they going.
Great blog!

Randy Paul 11:38 PM  

I don't buy the language argument as there are significant Brazilian populations in cities such as Austin and Keene, TX as well as throughout Florida and parts of California where there no signifcant Portuguese populations.

As I have been married to a Brazilian for some 17 years, I offer some additional insights here.

Greg Weeks 7:51 AM  

OK, though you argue for why Brazilians come, and not about why they don't come in larger numbers, which was the original question.

Randy Paul 12:12 PM  

I believe that they are significantly undercounted. I believe that they are many more Brazilian immigrants living here.

As for the comparison with Salvadoran communities, I believe that the answer to that can be found in the large amount of internal migration in Brazil. If you're desperately poor in Pernambuco, you can still go to São Paulo to improve your lot (e.g., Lula). getting to the USA is virtually impossible: you need airfare, a passport and a visa.

Until recently, if you had two of the three, but couldn't get a visa, you flew to Mexico and crossed by land. This was so prevalent that they had an entire separate category referred to as OTM's (other than Mexicans).

Many Brazilians can claim dual citizenship: from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany. I've known of several Brazilians who entered the US with an EU passport from a nation that was a participant in the visa waiver program

Tambopaxi 5:27 AM  

I have no idea how many Brazilian immigrants live in the States, but Greg's points proximity and jobs/politics still pertain.

Land travel to the States from Brazil is difficult, to say the least, due to distance and language difference, and the push factor out of country isn't as strong; Brazilians are more inclined to immigrate elsewhere within the country rather than to the States, as Randy says.

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