Can Immigration Save Small-Town America? Hispanic Boomtowns and the Uneasy Path to Renewal

Patrick Carr, Daniel T. Lichter, Maria J. Kefalas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


In the often polarized discussions over immigration, the point is sometimes missed that immigration often brings immediate and tangible benefits. Nowhere is this truer than in the hollowing-out parts of America. Many nonmetropolitan counties in America have seen net out-migration for decades. While young people have always left small towns, the loss of this group comes at a time when opportunities for those who stay have been severely reduced. One trend that runs counter to the decline of many nonmetro areas is the influx of immigrants, the majority of Hispanic origin, during the 1990s and 2000s. The authors argue that if immigration is "done right," it can provide a lifeline to many places that are hollowing out. In this article, the authors outline the complex nature of immigration in rural America and offer two case studies of small towns, one where immigration became a lightning rod for controversy and division and one where the process has occurred with little divisiveness and a great deal of success. The authors conclude with some policy suggestions as to how to better accommodate immigration in rural America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • immigration
  • policy
  • rural
  • small towns
  • social change

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