Graduation Year


Publication Date

Spring 2012


A qualitative study of Bloomington-Normal comparing academic literature on migration theory and assimilation theory with field research conducted in the community to understand the individual immigrant experience.


This project compares theories of international migration and theories of integration into the U.S. to the lived experience of actual immigrants in Bloomington-Normal, as ascertained by McLean County census data, supplementary reports by community agencies, and personal interviews of immigrants. While interview participants were recruited on a referral basis and are not representative of the entire immigrant population, their personal stories help to humanize the data. Following national urban-to-rural settlement patterns, immigrants who participated in this study chose Bloomington-Normal over urban migration hubs like Chicago. However, Bloomington-Normal stands out from other downstate Illinois communities because of the profile of employment opportunities, most notably the State Farm Corporate Headquarters in town. Participants cited economic opportunities, family reunification, and political persecution as primary motivations for leaving their countries of origin. They were drawn to Bloomington-Normal because of pre-existing networks and chose to remain because of employment opportunities, the presence of universities, a friendly community, and convenience factors. In general, the immigrant family experience—as assessed by economic well-being, educational opportunities, and level of comfort in the community—can be split into two immigrant experiences as divided on a continuum of education and skill level. The experiences of Bloomington-Normal immigrants are premised on education/skill level, facility with language, legal status, and pre-existing immigrant networks and associations, though none of these is an absolute predictor of successful integration.


International and Area Studies