Livelihoods, Vulnerabilities, and Opportunities in Rural Missouri
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The issue of immigration, since the beginning of time, has never been an easy one. Countries have struggled with the integration of newcomers, and the U.S. is not an exception. In this country, 80 percent of immigrants are "people of color"; 75 percent of these are of Spanish-speaking origin. Unlike the past, when immigrants (Latinos or Spanish-speaking) tended to favor metropolitan areas, this time around settlement patterns have been widely dispersed throughout the hinterland of the U.S. Therefore, small farming towns observe a booming immigrant population looking to fulfill its "American Dream." However, economic integration into these new communities has not been easy for the newcomers. Causal elements have been creating vulnerability to economic success, including the local law enforcement agencies, newcomers' low educational background, and LEP (Cambio de Colores, 2002). A majority of Latinos have been pulled into the rural areas where large agricultural operations exist. They are in many cases first-generation Hispanics trying to escape harsh, new immigration laws (Patriot Act), seeking refuge into these places; these new laws have also been providing cover for new employers to exploit these immigrants. Additionally, factors such as immigrant's social and cultural capital and racial profiling have helped stereotype--in many instances and many places---Latinos as people highly susceptible to law breaking, thus disturbing the normal balance of a given society where they are present (Cambio, 2002). Up to date, this situation has affected the ability of these people to acquire tangible assets necessary to smooth their income and consumption and to cope--let alone start asset building that could come in handy for their resilience in these areas. The aim of the present project is to study the economic causes that contribute to the vulnerability of Latino newcomers in rural Missouri and how they are affecting communities and families in rural Missouri, which might lead to an elaboration of a framework that will allow researchers and policymakers to identify strategies that could help these immigrants adapt successfully to their new home environments. This presentation will address work in progress looking at the diversity of Latinos in rural Missouri and how language acquisition, education, and experience impact on income generation. Data from the 1990 and 2000 Census are used. Regression analysis measures how economic, employment, education, and language skills of Latinos in rural Missouri impact income generation. A discussion of additional factors affecting livelihoods and how these will be integrated into the analysis will follow.