Migration and Economic Impact

Activists protest gentrification in East LA, 2017

Activists protest gentrification in East LA, 2017. Photo by Ted Soqui © 2017 Los Angeles, CA.

Migration is connected to the economy on many different levels. Not only does movement impact one’s personal financial health, but also the economic health of communities. This section will explore the various ways in which migration impacts local, regional, and national economies.

When we discuss migration and the economy, it is important to note economic factors often influence a person’s decision to move. Moving for a job opportunity or being outpriced from your community are both ways in which the economy influences someone’s decision to move.

Areas with population loss can face economic hardship. As a population declines, it can be difficult to maintain local culture and customs. Even in cases where movement is temporary, such as in rural Mexico when Indigenous parents commute to urban areas for jobs, local culture can be impacted.

Some communities threatened with cultural loss due to economic declines have found innovative ways to remain connected to their heritage. For example, the short film Edgar Gonzalez: Mezcalero! focuses on a small village four hours northeast of Oaxaca that is facing a steep population decline due to a lack of job opportunities. Edgar Gonzalez created a mezcal distillery to not only create job opportunities but to also combat culture loss within his community.

The economy and migration influence one another. Communities that have thriving and robust job markets attract new people. Alternatively, new people entering a community can stimulate economic growth and development. Looking at the United States overall, economists generally see positive effects from immigration, such as increased innovation and productivity.

Migration’s impact on the economy goes beyond job creation and job loss. We must look at the role of urbanization and gentrification, as well as the ways in which people maintain their cultural identity in the face of these changes.


¡Edgar Gonzalez: Mezcalero!

Strangers in Town


Beijing from Below: Stories of Marginal Lives in the Capital’s Center

Beijing from Below: Stories of Marginal Lives in the Capital’s Center

Harriet Evans

front cover of The salmon way : an Alaska state of mind

The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind

Amy Gulick

front cover of The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns

Isabel Wilkerson

Other Resources

Podcasts and Playlists

Harlem Ever After – Zora’s Daughters

Train Tracks: A Transcontinental Railroad Playlist – Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

News Articles

Migrating Languages and Affections in Mexico – Anthropology News

Interactive Tenement Museum – The Washington Post

The Effects of Immigration on the United States’ Economy – University of Pennsylvania (brief)

The Story of a People and a Plant: American Ginseng and the Hmong People – Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Websites / Other 

Tenement Museum Digital Exhibits

Urbanization – National Geographic

Gentrification – National Geographic