White America is quietly self-segregating
There’s a small town in Minnesota called Worthington. It’s a place that fascinates sociologists.
In the 1980s, Worthington was on its way to becoming a ghost town, like many other white, blue-collar communities.
But in 1989, the local pork processing plant added 650 jobs and attracted new workers, many of Mexican descent, by giving them one free week of lodging and food.
By the early 1990s, about 5 percent of the town’s population was Mexican. People told their friends and family about these jobs, and more and more Hispanic workers came to Worthington — a phenomenon called chain migration.
By 2010, more than one in three residents were Hispanic.
Worthington is so fascinating to sociologists because it shows a new type of migration — one they say they’ve never seen before. Traditionally, immigrants from Latin America and Asia live in gateway cities like San Francisco, New York, and Miami. But now, Cornell University sociologist Dan Lichter said, “You’ve got these different population groups that are spreading out in ways we haven’t seen in the past.”
Part of it is nonwhite Americans leaving urban enclaves and going to the suburbs. It’s a fulfillment of the traditional American dream — a path European immigrants took in past generations to leave poor, segregated neighborhoods that relegated them to a lower social class.