Population Research and Policy Review 21: 179–204, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Selection, context, or both? The English ﬂuency of Mexican
immigrants in the American Midwest and Southwest
EILEEN DIAZ MCCONNELL
FELICIA B. LECLERE
University of Notre Dame
International immigration to the United States is at its highest levels since the
turn of the century. Mexican-born persons comprise the plurality of the total
legal and illegal immigrant ﬂow to the United States. The primary destination
of Mexican immigrants has been and continues to be the Southwestern United
States (INS 1999a, 1999b), with Los Angeles remaining the top intended
metropolitan destination. Most studies of Mexican immigration have focused
on the United States, in general, (i.e., Gamio 1930; Bustamante 1984; Massey
1986, Massey et al. 1987, 1994) and thus, by default, the American Southwest
(Griswold Del Castillo & De Leon 1996; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994).
However, Mexican migrants appear to be relocating to non-southwestern
destinations (Binational Study 1997; Passel & Zimmerman 2000), sometimes
from other states (Gouveia and Stull 1997), as well as directly from Mexico.
Research shows that Mexican immigration to the Midwest particularly is in-
creasing (Durand et al. 2000; Gouveia & Saenz 1999; Saenz & Cready 1996).
Census 2000 data indicate that the Latino population grew by 71.2 percent in
the Midwest between 1990 and 2000 (Guzmán 2001, Table 2). Some of this
population growth is likely due to Mexican immigration. Indeed, Chicago is
the most popular non-southwestern destination for Mexican immigrants (INS
1999a, b, Martin et al. 1996), though the rural Midwest is an increasingly
popular destination, as well (Charvat-Burke & Goudy 1999; Gouveia & Stull
The adaptation of immigrants in a new environment has always been of
concern to scholars and policymakers. Research has demonstrated that learn-
ing and using English has serious consequences for immigrants’ occupational
status (Stolzenberg 1990) and earnings (Chiswick & Miller 1995; Delechat