Emigrant America

Estimating and Envisaging Expatriation to Canada and Mexico

Dissertation Abstract

Mindes at dissertation defense

Migration in North America is much more diverse than a single immigration flow to the United States; emigration from the U.S. has been growing numerically and in terms of the diversity of those leaving. Though exploration, description, and analysis of American emigration is largely absent from international migration literature, American citizens living abroad are important domestic political, social, and economic actors. The media promotes the idea of Americans in Mexico as retirees and in Canada as fleeing U.S. politics. Yet, the limited literature shows a disparity between how the media represents this group and more rigorous data- based emigrant profiles. This dissertation investigates this emigration flow, guided by research questions that: explore changes in demographic composition; examine the portrayal of American emigration in mass media; and compare the depiction of American emigration in secondary data to the narrative told by mass media. This dissertation contributes to sociological knowledge in general and to the field of migration studies in particular through: methodological contributions regarding use of the pragmatic approach (rather than postpositivist or interpretivist approaches); furthering the understanding of alternative migration flows; and content analysis of media framing of international migration.

This dissertation comprises six chapters. In the first, I provide an overview of the study of American emigration and an introduction to the common theories and themes in these studies, specifically migration transition theorymigration systems theory, and transnational and diaspora theories. In the following chapter, I investigate the claims of an “American Diaspora.” After systematically exploring the various definitions of diaspora in published literature, I consider the case of the American Diaspora through a comparative approach. Finding that the American case does not represent a diaspora, I propose and theorize an alternative way to discuss the group and the implications of atypical diasporic claims and the potential de-legitimization of the term stemming from the wide use. In the third chapter, I explicate the pragmatic methodological worldview and its application to migration studies. I review the methodology of this dissertation, which utilizes existing data analysis of quantitative demographic data and content analysis of qualitative data. Additionally, I evaluate the role of the pragmatic approach in overcoming various methodological issues in migration studies.

Mindes at dissertation proposal defense

The fourth chapter builds and evaluates a demographic profile of American emigration to Canada and Mexico. In addition to migration stocks, I present data on trends in age, education, citizenship, and, for younger people, location of birth of parent. Emigration trends and patterns are evaluated in terms of migration transition theory’s emphasis on development and social transformation. In the fifth chapter, I investigate representations of American emigration in the media since the early 1990s using qualitative content analysis of media coverage. Primarily, this chapter investigates how the national media portrayed (or framed) emigrants from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. To examine this, I analyze media representation of American emigration using the Dashefsky Typology. In doing so, I bring together literatures on migration systems theory, media framing, and the migration imaginary. Lastly, the concluding chapter compares the findings of Chapters 4 and 5 in four critically important social contexts: the migration histories (or repertoires) of Canada and Mexico; NAFTA; the Global Economic Crisis; and the diversity of politics, policies, and attitudes of migration in North America. Furthermore, I review the contributions of the dissertation and offer potential avenues for future research within my larger American emigration research agenda.