Example Of Research Paper On Perception Versus The Reality Of Mexican Immigration Into The United States

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Immigration, Migration, Mexico, America, Education, Population, Study, United States

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2021/01/07


Immigration remains one of the most emotive and politically contentious issues in the developed world, but the debate is often driven by possible large-scale misconceptions about the scale of immigration (including documented and undocumented immigrants) and actual costs/benefits of such immigration on the economy and culture. Owing to the demographic significance of Mexican immigrants in the United States, the relevance of this debate has even greater significance. Large scale Mexican migration into the US started in the first half of the 20th century, driven by high demand for labour, a large and porous border (illegal immigration) and major reforms to the US’ immigration system. Between 1980 and 2013, the number of Mexican immigrants in the US rose from 2.2 million to more than 20.6 million in 2000 58.5% of the total immigrant population. The Mexican population did, however, reduce between 2000 and 2010, reaching 11.157 million people (representing 28% of the 41.3-strong immigrant population in the country). This study will seek to determine the perceptions towards Mexican immigrants by Americans and establish the causal reasons for such perceptions. It will then determine the factual foundations for any perceptions and causes, by comparing them with the actual costs and benefits of Mexican immigrants in the US.


In 2013 alone, upwards of 990,553 people received lawful permanent residence in the US, of whom 14% were Mexican. According to Jimenez (2007), the vast majority of immigrants of Mexican origin enter the US illegally, and they comprise the largest proportion of undocumented immigrants. The many Mexican immigrants exhibit considerable assimilation (as measured by wages, education, occupational status, intermarriage and culture), the high arrival numbers and their uptake of low-status, low-wage jobs has contributed to their visibility in the mainstream ethnic and racial landscape. Levine (2010) argues that immigrants of Mexican origin have low English proficiency and employable skills (due to low levels of formal schooling) and their average productivity falls far below the productivity of American citizens and other immigrant populations. This necessarily means that many Mexican immigrants take up jobs that Americans are unwilling to do (notably in the agriculture and construction industries), which means that they are not in direct competition with the mainstream population in the labour market, but add considerable value to the country’s economy.

Literature Review

It is indeed highly likely that perceived labour market displacement may contribute to the negative perceptions towards Mexican immigrants. The challenge remains whether or not the mainstream American population realizes the benefits and costs of immigration or not. In a study to determine racial barriers facing Mexican Americans in their economic and social mobility, Ortiz & Telles (2012) found that darker-skinned Mexican Americans reported heightened experiences of stereotypical discrimination, and darker men reported equally high incidences of discrimination than women and lighter men. Further, more educated Mexican Americans were likely to encounter discrimination and stereotyping compared to their less educated counterparts, in part because of the increased contact with whites and the perception that they are taking away jobs from deserving Americans.
Larsen, Krumiov, Van Le, Ommundsen, & van der Veer (2009) reviewed literature on the perceived threats from illegal immigration to the US economy and national identity, as well as the gap between opinions and immigration policies. The review found that perceived and actual economic frustration on the part of the mainstream citizens played a critical role in informing the perceptions towards immigrants. The isolation of immigrant populations in ghettos also works to negate their integration into the mainstream American society. Further, this study established that the increased in the number of immigrants either coincided with, or triggered off increasing nationalistic movements in the United States driven by the perceived threat to the native population’s cultural identity. Individual and collective attitudincal differences stem from the relative rightwing dictatorship and the need for social dominance. The widespread associationof immigrants with illegality (e.g. illegal entry into the country, national security threats and terrorism, drug and people trafficking) also serves to create unhelpful perceptions towards immigrants. The political solutions from the the rightwing political extreme tend towards an emphasis on the economic benefits of cheap immigrant labour and the need for control of the country’s borders, while leftwing solutions emphasize encouragement of economic development in the source nations.
The Mexican immigrant population in the US struggles against the falling demand for casual labour, hostile immigration laws growing public intolerance for health care and welfare benefits. This hostility may have influenced beliefs that the costs of immigration far exceed the benefits. The preponderance of empirical evidence demonstrates the considerable gains from immigrant labour, and the distribution of the costs/benefits. The changing socio-political and economic circumstances in the United States have, and may in the future, alter the contemporary impacts of Mexican migration. Empirical evidence points to the increasing returns to education since the early 1970s and high economic mobility for earlier arrivals. It is just as important to differentiate between legal and undocumented immigrants, while at once estimating how the costs and benefits of their participation in the US economy and culture contributes towards the perceptions that Americans have towards the broader Mexican and immigrant communities.
Other studies studied the media driven perceptions of immigrants and the potential effects that this had on the mainstream American perceptions of immigrants. Chavez, Whiteford, & Hoewe (2010) investigated stories about Mexican immigration as published by four leading newspapers in the United States. The study found that these media houses consistently prioritized stories about crime (including violence, drug-trafficking, organized crime and criminal proceedings) in relation to the Mexican immigrant population. Given the fact that these media houses mostly cover domestically important issues and have mainly mainstream readership, the few negative stories that they include paint the immigrant population in poor light and subsequently influence the perceptions of Americans towards immigrants. Other key subjects covered included the interdependency of the US economy to Mexican immigration, family effcets of deportation, immigration legislation and policies (Chavez, Whiteford, & Hoewe, 2010; Larsen, Krumiov, Van Le, Ommundsen, & van der Veer, 2009).
Harrell (2011) finds that most mainsteam Amercian and European perceptions of immigrants in general are biased and wrong. In the US, average citizens believe that upwards of 39% of the country’s population is foreign-born and thus fueling a perception that immigration is unsustainable, when in fact the actual the foreign born population is only 14%. Maintream Americans and Europeans are more inclided to think that there are too many immigrants in their respective countries and that most immigrants lack legal residency. At 78% of the population of non-immigrant US citizens believed that the government had an inadequate immigration policy, respeonsible for the huge influx of illegal immigrants, to the deteiment of social welfare. Effectively, the discrepancies between the actual level and contribution of immigrant sto the US economy, culture and society is certain to be a source of hostile perceptions (Harrell, 2011; Chavez, Whiteford, & Hoewe, 2010).

Research Questions and Method

The proposed study will seek to answer the following research questions:
What are the attitudes of American citizens towards mass Mexican immigration since 1960?
What do American citizens think are the benefits of Mexican immigration?
What do American citizens think are the costs of Mexican immigration?
What factors influence the American citizens’ perceptions towards the mass Mexican immigration?
In order to answer these questions, the proposed study will conduct in-depth interviews with non-immigrant Americans (and/or third-generation immigrants). After conducting a pilot study using a sample of 5, a sample 25 participants will be drawn at random from the population at a gas station and mall outside campus. The town has a multicultural community and given the fact that the neighbouring gas station and mall attract a huge range of patrons, it is expected that they will provide a sample that is representative of the general population. The researchers will approach people at random and request them to the participant in the study. The final sample of 25 would drawn from the number of people who agree to participate and sign informed consent forms. The researcher will then sent them questionnaires and/or conduct phone interviews based on the questionnaires. At the same time, the researcher will gather factual, peer-reviewed data on all aspects tested in the research. Once the data from the participants and peer-reviewed sources is collected, the researcher will code it using an iterative theme identification and interpretation process. According to this process, the researcher will go through the responses identifying most important and common themes. The themes will then be noted down and other responses will be categorized within the same themes, with care being taken to avoid reducing important data into broad categories. Once completed, it is expected that the generated themes will over a succinct summary of the data gathered. Lastly, the data from the participants will be compared against the peer-reviewed data.

Key Qualifications and Background

I have spent at least five years living in a multicultural community that included a substantial amount of immigrants, and I am alive to many issues involved in the debate on immigration and perceptions towards immigrants. As such, I believe my most important qualification is a personal interest in the research issue. This experience allows me to identify and understand complex concepts on immigration. I am equally aware of personal other people’s biases, which makes it possible to conduct research that is relatively free from biases. In addition, I have read extensively about quantitative and qualitative research (and methods), their strengths and limitations as well as concepts such as validity and reliability, which should enable me to design and conduct a study that is robust. I am also privy to the varied sampling designs, qualitative and quantitative research designs/methods, including their strengths and problems. For instance, by conducting a pilot study beforehand, I will be able fine tune many aspects of the study, determine the validity and reliability of the instruments that I will employ, to ensure that the ultimate study yields results that are representative of the population and reproducible by other researchers.

Broader Reasons for Undertaking Study

Most of the existent research on immigration dwelt on the desired level of immigration. This study hopes to identify and describe the relationships between Mexican Americans (and Mexican immigrants) with the mainstream American population, effectively providing an insight into the influence of ethnicity and race on the immigration debate. With the passing of laws such as SB1070 Law in Arizona and the growing evidence of hostility towards immigrants in Europe and the US, the successful completion of this study will be critical to understanding key issues involved. It would determine the discrepancy between the perceived effects of Mexican immigration and the factual evidence about the same. This should also inform public opinion and policy-makers on multiple immigration-relation issues including the desired immigration levels, benefits, costs and social security. It is hoped that the results will help identify and explain the cause of different views about both Mexican immigrants and other immigrant populations, as well as provide an important stepping-stone to address the challenges and opportunities open to immigrants.


The intention of this study is not only to identiufy and describe the perceptions of mainstream Americans towards Mexican immigrants, but perhaps most importantly, to establish whether or not a discrepancy exists between the identified perceptions and the factual evidence. It will help to determine the contribution of varied opinion drivers such as the media, racial stereotypes, misinformation, ignorance, white previlege and even xenophobia among others, to the perceptions that people hold about immigration. Given the fact that immigration laws in most US states are heavily shaped by the public (including through direct elections to change state constitutions), the evidence from this study could prove critical in determining the strategies to use in order to ensure that the public is aware of the potential biases in reaching informed decisions. It is established that significant discrepancies exist between perceptions and reality, then campaigns to eliminate these discrepancies could prove considerably fruitful.


Chavez, M., Whiteford, S., & Hoewe, J. (2010). Reporting on Immigration: A Content Analysis of Major U.S. Newspapers' Coverage of Mexican Immigration. Norteamérica vol.5 no.2 México jul./dic.
Creswell, J. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Ennis, S. R., Rios-Vargas, M., & Albert, N. (2011). The Hispanic Population: 2010. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf: US Census Bureau C2010BR-04.
Furchtgott-Roth, D. (2013). The Economic Benefits of Immigration. New York: Manhattan Institute.
Harrell, E. (2011, Feb 3). How We See Immigration — and Why We're Wrong. Retrieved Mar 31, 2015, from http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2045932,00.html
Jimenez, T. R. (2007). Weighing the Costs and Benefits of Mexican Immigration: The MexicanAmerican Perspective. SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY, Volume 88, Number 3e, 599-621.
Kelley, K., Clark, B., Brown, V., & Sitzia, J. (2003). Good practice in the conduct and reporting of survey research. International Journal for Quality Health Care 15 (3) , 261-266.
Larsen, K., Krumiov, K., Van Le, H., Ommundsen, R., & van der Veer, K. (2009). Threat Perception and Attitudes Toward Documented and Undocumented Immigrants in the United States: Framing the Debate and Conflict Resolution. European Journal of Social Scienc es – Volume 7, Number 4 , 115-38.
Levine, L. (2010). Immigration: The Effects on Low-Skilled and High-Skilled Native-Born Workers. Congressional Research Service 7-5700.
Ortiz, V., & Telles, E. (2012). Racial Identity and Racial Treatment of Mexican Americans. Race Soc Probl.4(1), 10.1007/s12552-012-9064-8. .
Wilson, E. (2012). School-based Research: A Guide for Education Students. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

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