Hispanic Migration and Urban Development: Studies from Washington DC: Volume 17


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

The idea for this book first came about four years ago when I was asked to write about the social history of Latinos in Washington, DC and Maryland for an academic publication. One of the first difficulties I encountered then was that, with the exception of Marie Price, Audrey Singer, and few others, academics had largely overlooked the phenomenal growth of Hispanic immigrants in the District of Columbia and its suburbs while they continue to dedicate considerable amount of energy to demographic and social changes in other more traditional ethnic destinations like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.1 At the time, it was particularly difficult to assess the tipping point of when the Latinos community began to grow in the area and how that growth unfolded especially between the Great Depression and the 1960s. Yet, while doing archival research, I was surprised to find that the Hispanic presence, albeit a small one, in the region dates as far back as colonial times and that even some first- and second-generation Latinos, such as David G. Farragut, Juan de Miralles, and the civil engineer Aniceto Garcia Menocal, played a considerable role in the development of the capital city.

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the ascent of Metropolitan Washington from an area with low levels of immigration to a major U.S. destination.

Methodology/approach – Drawing on a growing body of research on immigration to Washington, DC, and data from the American Community Survey (ACS), trends are examined in detail to illustrate how this immigrant gateway fits into the national historical picture.

Findings – The findings analyze the historical comparative settlement patterns of immigrants to the United States to demonstrate how Washington has emerged as the seventh largest immigrant gateway. The paper further analyzes metropolitan-level data on country of origin and residence to show the diversity of the immigrant population and their disbursal to suburban areas from the central core over the past four decades.

Social implications – The paper also highlights some conflict in new suburban destinations within metropolitan Washington, which experienced fast and recent growth. But immigrant incorporation has worked well in the past and Washington can continue to work to be a model of immigrant integration as local organizations, governments, and communities continue to confront the challenges of immigration in productive and sustainable ways.

Originality/value of paper – This paper combines the historical settlement of immigrants across the United States with the in-depth examination of one of the newest and largest immigrant gateways, the U.S. capitol region, Washington, DC.

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the possible relationship between conditions of national development, as measured by human development indicators (HDIs), and the segmented assimilation of Hispanics in Washington, DC.

Methodology/approach – To discuss the association between these two variables, I identified five indicators of assimilation discussed in the literature and matched them against the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) ranking of nations according to their HDI composite index. In addition, I selected eight Hispanic groups’ representatives of the three tiers by which nations are ranked in the Human Development Report published by the UNDP.

Findings – My results show that conditions of national development impact immigrant assimilation, at least in the first generation.

Research limitations/implications – Due to the sample size and the peculiar conditions of Washington, DC, the findings presented require further testing.

Originality/value of paper – Despite these limitations, the findings make a significant contribution to the migration literature by taking into account how stock of knowledge contributes to the different rates of assimilation among immigrants with shared ethnicity.

Purpose – This chapter frames the horizon of inquiry intended by this conference on the Hispanic Presence in the Washington region. It presents social theory related to the formation of new types of community substance in immigrant receiving countries called ethnicities, especially in American metropolitan regions.

Findings – This synthesis of approaches to intergroup relations and account of changes in the collection of data regarding urban ethnicity frame a new research agenda.

Practical implications – This chapter proposes new horizons for regional studies and ethnicities. It addresses metropolitan governance, especially relationships among persons, groups, and cultures in regions that lack representation and institutions for political development. The web-based data sets and recommended readings provide sources that quantitatively and qualitatively deepen insight into the Hispanic presence in the country and in various metropolitan regions. Along with another forthcoming collection on the history, politics, and architecture of Washington, DC, this work catalyzes research to enable teaching and service related to the metropolitan region surrounding the federal district.

Social implications – This chapter includes models of action-oriented research that engage ethnic groups in coalition building and that test the viability of Hispanicity as a social-cultural development model.

Originality/value of chapter – This chapter blends social theory with community-based practices. It broaches substantive questions about appropriate scales of social analysis and ethnicity as interrelated dimensions of research and practice the government created data sets and places called metropolitan regions. It elaborates a new, fundamentally regional model that is unlike, but not opposed to, the country-wide focus of ethnic group advocacy and interest groups.

Purpose – To provide a demographic portrait of Latinos in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Design/methodology/approach – This is a descriptive analysis using published results from the 2010 U.S. Census and authors’ tabulations from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey.

Findings – According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 700,000 Latinos lived in the Washington metropolitan area. In many ways, Washington's Latino population is unique when compared to Latino populations in other U.S. metropolitan areas. For example, unlike other metropolitan areas, no single Hispanic origin group is in the majority in Washington. And while the largest Hispanic origin group in other metropolitan areas is often of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Dominican origin, in the Washington metro area Salvadorans are the largest group. In other ways too, the Capital Region's Latino population is unique. It has the nation's largest Bolivian community. It has a greater share of immigrants than Latino populations in most other metropolitan areas. It has a higher share of college graduates among its Latino population than any other metropolitan area nationwide. And it is dynamic – growing fast and dispersing across the region.

Originality/value – This chapter provides a detailed demographic portrait of Latinos in the Washington, DC, area using the latest data sources available.

Purpose – This chapter presents information about the residential patterns and reported segregation or discrimination of Latinos in the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan region. The author provides definitions, associated concepts, causes and consequences, selected data findings, and a historical and demographic overview of the Latino population in the region.

Methodology/approach – A literature review of scholarly articles from the social sciences, policy reports, census data, and other public use data, and other publications.

Findings – Data from the Harvard University DiversityData Project (2012) reveals evidence of Hispanic residential segregation throughout the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. In addition, Hispanic children are more racially isolated, have less exposure to Whites, and are more densely populated and residentially clustered in the region.

Research limitations/implications (if applicable) – This chapter does not present new research or original evidence about residential patterns, residential segregation, or housing discrimination among Latinos in the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan region.

Practical/social implications – The prevalence of residential discrimination, segregation and its impact on the restricted residential patterns, social mobility, and isolation of Latinos is a regional and national social problem. The greater Washington, DC, region will continue to receive Latino newcomers who will disperse into areas where they have not resided before. The ways in which they and their families are received and treated by their neighbors can provide context into race relations in a so-called post-racial America.

Originality/value of chapter – The residential patterns of Latinos in the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan region and evidence of the segregation and discrimination they have encountered caution us to examine how segregation perpetuates disadvantage, inequality, racialization, social distance, and other kinds of discrimination. Whether residential segregation is voluntary or involuntary, its remnants are a visceral force that cannot be ignored.

Purpose – This study examines Hispanic entrepreneurship in the context of global city formation by focusing on metropolitan Washington and the entrepreneurial activities of Bolivian immigrants, a small but significant Latino immigrant population.

Methodology – Employing a mixed methodology of analysis of census data, mapping, and conducting surveys and focus groups, this research highlights the socio-economic characteristics of Bolivians, the spatial patterning of residential settlement and business locations, as well as the network strategies the group employs.

Findings – Metropolitan Washington is the hub for the Bolivian diaspora in the United States. This group distinguishes itself with higher levels of education, income, and self-employment among Hispanics as a whole. Yet despite their economic and educational attainment, they are overly concentrated in certain sectors and experience blocked mobility that manifests itself through greater interest in self-employment and entrepreneurship. The study concludes that by developing businesses that serve both the ethnic community and the larger non-Hispanic population, Bolivians have had certain economic success.

Social implications – Strategies of residential concentration along with well-developed social networks maintain the ethnic community as well as support transnational linkages to towns and villages back in Bolivia.

Purpose – To examine the role of Latino community-based nonprofits in integrating first- and second-generation Latino immigrants into mainstream society.

Methodology/approach – This place-based study uses a mixed methods approach to analyze financial and administrative data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics and semi-structured interviews with organizational leaders.

Findings – Latino community-based nonprofits provide a wide range of programs and services to their constituents that promote the social and political mobility of Latino immigrants and their families. Findings also suggest a potential spatial mismatch between Latino-serving nonprofits and the people they serve. The organizations are concentrated in the Washington, DC metropolitan area while the Latino community is branching out into the outer suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Moreover, different political and administrative structures and policies affect the ability of these nonprofits to serve their constituents.

Research limitations/implications – The study's geographic boundaries may limit the generalizability of spatial mismatch between Latino-serving nonprofits and their constituents. However, the findings about programs and services and the impact of political and administrative structures and policies can be applied to other immigrant-serving organizations.

Practical implications – Policy makers, elected officials, and other stakeholders can learn the importance of Latino and immigrant community-based nonprofits. These organizations act as bridges to the Latino and other immigrant communities.

Social implications – Latino and other immigrant community-based nonprofits are integral to the integration of immigrant communities as active and contributing members of wider society.

Originality/value of paper – This study looks at immigrant integration through the lens of community-based nonprofits.

Purpose – Latino and African-American children and families in Washington, DC, face difficult circumstances, including high poverty, crime, and teenage pregnancy rates coupled with lower educational attainment. This chapter describes empirically supported approaches to positive development within and between the Latino and African-American communities, highlighting those utilized by CentroNía, a community-based, multicultural learning community in Washington, DC.

Approach – Community psychology promotes strength-focused, evidence-based practices shown to enrich child, family, neighborhood, and societal development among disenfranchised groups. This community psychology framework is used to examine CentroNía's work in support of the Latino and African-American communities of Washington, DC.

Findings – CentroNía espouses many of the tenets of community psychology. Its systematic efforts include the promotion of cultural unity and development, preventive interventions in early childhood and during the after-school hours, and context-enhancing practices at the family, school, and city levels.

Social implications – As the neighborhood of Columbia Heights becomes gentrified and the cost of living increases, Latino and African-American families find it increasingly difficult to remain in the community they have established together over the past 25 years. The consequences for low-income children, youth, and families, along with the evolution of CentroNía in this rapidly changing context, are discussed.

Purpose – Extant studies have shown immigration does not lead to higher crime rates, yet this fallacy persists. The aim of this chapter is to explore the relationship between crime and the presence and growth of the Latino and the foreign-born populations in Washington DC's City Council Wards.

Methodology/approach – This chapter draws on Uniform Crime Reports data and Census information to compare and contrast crimes rates, the presence and growth of the Latino and foreign-born populations, and socioeconomic indicators across Washington DC.

Findings – Violent and property crimes rates have decreased consistently since the mid-1990s despite the growth of the Latino and the foreign-born populations. While there are significant differences between crimes rates at the Council Ward level, they appear to be associated with persistent structural inequality – not the presence or growth of either group.

Research limitations – This work is largely exploratory and descriptive. Results should be interpreted with caution. Future research should employ multivariate methods to systematically identify factors that most significantly and strongly explicate crime rates within and across DC Wards.

Social implications – Preliminary findings suggest policy makers should shift attention away from scapegoating immigrants for social ills and focus on improving social and economic opportunities and the life outcomes of racialized subordinate group members throughout the United States.

Originality – Little empirical research exists focusing on the relationship between immigration and crime in the nation's capital. This is a significant gap in the literature considering the recent rapid growth of the foreign-born and Latino populations in Washington DC.

The first point worthy of consideration is that, until recently, Washington was not a traditional destination for Hispanics and other foreign nationals migrating from developing societies. Before the 1980s, when the Hispanic population exploded in the region, the city welcomed two waves of migrants. The first consisted of various waves of Europeans, primarily from Northern and Eastern Europe, who settled in DC as part of the migration wave of the late 19th century through the 1920s. Many from this group were professionals but the majority was journeyman simply employed in retailing and other low-cost entry services.1 Although we do not have an accurate and concrete account of the size of this migration wave, by simply examining the growth of the overall population of the city one can assert that the European migration at the turn of the 20th century in Washington did not amount to the proportions we witness today.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Race and Ethnic Relations
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN