In cities around the world, but especially in Western Europe, Australia, the Persian Gulf, and North America, immigrants play a fundamental role in the labor force and the social life of cities. For North American and Australian cities, the numbers of immigrants are reminiscent of the early-20th century, although the diversity is far greater. In Western Europe and the Persian Gulf, unprecedented numbers of newcomers have arrived in the past two decades.
A quick review of the numbers gathered in this research reveals a top tier of cities that are both global economic centers and magnets for immigrants. There are also major urban immigrant destinations that urban and migration scholars tend to overlook, especially cities in the Middle East. Also, several cities of global importance have relatively few immigrants.
Overall, immigrant cities are growing in number due to globalization and the acceleration of immigrant flows driven by income differentials, social networks, and various state policies.
While many cities attract the majority of their immigrants from a narrow range of countries — thus Mexicans dominate in Los Angeles or Houston, while Turks are the leading group in Berlin, Indians in Dubai, and Malaysians in Singapore — others are extremely diverse.
These “hyperdiverse” localities are defined as cities in which:
- at least 9.5 percent of the total population is foreign born (this is the average percent of foreign-born stock for developed countries according to the United Nations);
- no one country of origin accounts for 25 percent or more of the immigrant stock; and
- immigrants come from all regions of the world.
Cities that meet this definition include established gateways such as New York, London, and Toronto, which together have approximately 9 million foreign-born residents. Other hyperdiverse cities include Sydney; Amsterdam; Copenhagen; Washington, DC; Hamburg; Munich; San Francisco; and Seattle. Such cities are a product of the globalization of labor that has both economic and cultural implications.
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