Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chain Diaspora

There are two sides to any diaspora. The Resilience Science blog noted this phenomenon described in the New York Times series on the plight of the Katrina refugees and the recovery of New Orleans. Those who left voluntarily and chose their destination fared much better than those who were evacuated, forced to camp in places such as Houston:

But the divergent experiences of those who went to Houston and those who went to Atlanta suggest that recovery depends on more than individual resources and demographics. Just as important are less quantifiable factors: a sense of welcome and connection, the presence of friends and family, even how narrowly they survived the disaster.

Moving along the path of your choice in an established network can smooth a difficult transition. Pioneers from your region pave the way for subsequent migrants, providing resources and local knowledge that outsiders normally don't have. This is known as "chain migration," which can help predict where new members of the diaspora will go (if given a choice) and how successful they will be once they arrive at their new home.

When people fled Pittsburgh, they did not distribute themselves randomly around the United States searching for economic opportunity in the best places. They tended to relocate nearby in regions where other Pittsburghers have moved. Chain migration can also work in reverse, but that won't happen until a few pioneers show the way.

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