Digital History

The Huddled Masses

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Digital History ID 3298



At the end of the 20th century, long-distance migration increasingly involves the movement of people from Third World to advanced industrial countries. Contributing to this immigration flow is a growing income gap between the richer and poorer countries; Third World populations increasing faster than economic growth; political conflicts that create large numbers of refugees; and improved means of communication and transportation, which alert migrants to opportunities available in affluent countries and make it easier to travel to them.

Perhaps the most important factor stimulating global migration in the late 20th century is the advanced countries' need for workers to perform low wage jobs that their own citizens are unwilling to take. A heightened demand for low-wage laborers from underdeveloped areas arose at mid-century. During World War II, the United States instituted the bracero program to bring migrant farmworkers from Mexico. After the war, many Western European countries brought in guestworkers to work in construction, manufacturing, and service occupations. Many of these guestworkers came from North Africa and Eastern and Southern Europe and former European colonies.

During the prolonged period of economic stagnation and inflation that began with the oil price hikes of 1973, immigration became an increasingly contentious political issue. Many European countries encouraged guestworkers to return to their homeland. Across the western world, societies debated whether to restrict immigration.

Due to advances in communications, including the spread of cable television, the development of videocassettes, and the declining cost of long distance telephone service, migrants are able to maintain contact with their native culture to a much greater degree than in the past.

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