Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 473–504 | Cite as

Pathways to legal immigration

  • Douglas S. Massey
  • Nolan Malone


In this paper we use the New Immigrant Survey Pilot Study (NISP) todescribe the amount and kind of experience that immigrants accumulate in the United States before they become permanent resident aliens. The NISP surveyed a representative sampleof legal immigrants who acquired residence papers during July and August of 1996, yielding a completed sample of 1,135 adults. Our analysis revealed that roughly two-thirds of thesenewly arrived immigrants had prior experience in the United States within one of six basic categories: illegal border-crossers, visa abusers, non-resident visitors, non-resident workers, students or exchange visitors, and refugees/asylees. Each of these pathways to legal immigration wasassociated with a different profile with respect to nationality, social background, and economic status. Using simple earnings regressions we demonstrate how these differences can yield misleading conclusions about the process of immigrant adaptation and assimilation, even if measured effects are reasonably accurate. We suggest that social scientists should changethe way they think and ask about immigrants' arrival in the United States.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas S. Massey
    • 1
  • Nolan Malone
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaUSA

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