As a result of family members or neighbors contacting others from their home countries for purposes of inspiring them to become their new neighbors in America, chain migration has had a significant impact on the history and growth of immigration to the United States. The virtual replication of“Old World” neighborhoods in America not only has historically allowed recently arrived immigrants to reconstruct familiar communities but has also enabled the new immigrants to survive the rigors of a new and unfamiliar land, by incorporating familiar language, religious worship, and social venues into a sustainable working and living environment.
Chain migration is in many ways a larger sociological process involving the movement of labor around the world. Networks of social connections developed over time between newly arrived immigrants in the United States and peoples in the immigrants’ former homes that paved the way for further migration to America. This process made it easier for newcomers to find and secure economic opportunities in the growing industrial, urban, and later agricultural, areas of the United States. When new immigrants arrived, they stood a better chance of achieving prosperity and endured less “shock” to the new American culture. This was because previous migrants had already established culturally familiar communities–with churches, ethnic neighborhoods, social-benefit societies, and foreign-language newspapers–that made even the newest arrivals believe that they were, in essence, “coming home.”
During the last few decades of the nineteenth century and the first few decades of the twentieth century, eastern and southern Europeans migrated by the hundreds of thousands to the United States seeking new lives. Many Slavic,
Recently arrived immigrants sometimes returned home themselves and spread the word about the opportunities for unskilled workers in the coal mines and steel plants in the United States. Their letters and conversations inspired many others to follow their examples by migrating to America. When they arrived in their new homes, they often found fellow countrymen who spoke, read, and wrote in their own languages, worshiped in the same churches, and socialized at the same institutions. Moreover, they often found that the immigrants who had preceded them had already built familiar social and community networks, which gave the newcomers a sense of security and the basis for a successful start.
Bell, Thomas. Out of This Furnace: A Novel of Immigrant Labor. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976. Originally published in 1941, this historical novel is set in the steel mills and communities of Braddock, Pennsylvania, drawing on three generations of the author’s own Slovak family history. Castile, George Pierre, and Gilbert Kushner, eds. Persistent Peoples: Ethnic Enclaves in Perspective. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982. Valuable collection of essays on immigrants living in ethnic enclaves. A good introduction to the subject. Čulen, Konštantin. History of Slovaks in America. St. Paul, Minn.: Czechoslovak Genealogical Society, 2007. Translation of Dejiny Slovákov v Amerike (1942), a detailed portrait of Slovak life in the United States before 1914. Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1990. Popular social analysis of immigration to America since the sixteenth century that includes many obscure facts and personalized accounts. Jones, Maldwyn Allen. American Immigration. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Comprehensive history of American immigration that explores all aspects of the newcomers’ impact on the United States as well as the overall immigrant influence on American history. Rechcígl, Miloslav. Czechs and Slovaks in America. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 2005. Collection of essays relating to the history and contributions of Czech and Slovak immigrants and their descendants in the United States.
Religion as a push-pull factor