Definition: Transformation occurring as movements of people, goods, and ideas among countries and regions increase greatly

Significance: Many countries, including the United States, are undergoing serious demographic transformations as a result of changing global migration patterns. Immigrants bring with them customs, practices and behavior patterns different fromthose of the receiving countries. Branches of the original culture are recreated in host countries, particularly within urban ethnic enclaves. Although multiethnicity is common in large urban communities, it can be threatening to native-born citizens.

In many ways the nature of migration has changed. Individuals migrate among countries for more than economic reasons. The creation of global culture brought about by a revolution in mass communications has encouraged foreign influences through media. Globalization of communication technology has helped to influence migration. By creating linkages between receiving and sending countries, communication technology has provided means by which news and information is readily available almost everywhere. This developed has helped to foster increasing immigration into the United States. Information about job opportunities is readily spread; earlier immigrants help later immigrants with housing, employment, and networking opportunities. Successful transitions from one country to another encourage still more immigration that may continue even after the original reasons for immigrating are no longer present.

Acculturation occurs when the attitudes and behaviors of individuals fromone culture are affected by contact with a different cultures. In order for acculturation to occur, a relative cultural equality must exist between the giving and receiving cultures. Acculturation differs from assimilation, which occurs when the cultural characteristics of a minority group become lost within a larger culture. The acculturation process affects a variety of behaviors, values, and beliefs. For individual immigrants, the amounts of time they have spent in their host countries and their ages when they immigrate have been shown to correlate with their likelihood of acculturation and are good indicators of an individual’s level of acculturation in the absence of more detailed information. Three dimensions of acculturation have been defined: assimilation, biculturalism, and observance of traditionality. Biculturalism is the ability to live in both worlds, with denial of neither. Observance of traditionality is the rejection of the dominant culture.

Sandra C. Hayes

Further Reading

  • Aneesh, A. Virtual Migration: The Programming of Globalization. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006. 
  • Bacon, David. Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants. Boston: Beacon Books, 2008. 
  • Reimers, David M. Other Immigrants: The Global Origins of the American People. New York: New York University Press, 2005. 
  • Spiro, Peter J. Beyond Citizenship: American Identity After Globalization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 

See also: “Brain drain”; Chain migration; Drug trafficking; Economic consequences of immigration; Ethnic enclaves; Foreign exchange students; Garment industry; Health care; “Immigrant”; Mexican immigrants.

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