Flight into despair: a profile of recent Haitian refugees in South Florida

Int Migr Rev. Summer 1986;20(2):329-50.


PIP: Based on a 1983-1984 random sample survey of 499 Haitians who had recently arrived in the US, plus participant observation and intensive interviewing, this article examines the following areas: 1) individual background characteristics of Haitian immigrants; 2) their arrival and early resettlement experiences; 3) their education, knowledge of English, and information about the US; 4) current employment status and occupation; 5) income and use of public assistance; 6) predictors of employment, occupation, and income; and 7) beliefs and orientations. Few immigrant groups in recent history have suffered unemployment, downward occupational mobility, and poverty to the extent that Haitians have. In part, this situation is a consequence of the modest education and occupational training brought by these refugees--above average in the country of origin but significantly below US standards. However, even among the better educated and knowledgeable, unemployment rates are unacceptably high and occupational status and income extremely low. The 2nd part of the explanation must be found in the reception accorded to this group. Haitians arrived into a social context unprepared to receive them either as economic immigrants or as political refugees. Their claims for political asylum have been repeatedly rejected by the US. The motivation of individuals who crossed 700 miles of open sea to Florida aboard barely seaworthy craft is high enough to succeed, but the Haitians' inability to gain more than a temporary entrant status weighs heavily against their eventual success.

MeSH terms

  • Americas
  • Caribbean Region
  • Demography
  • Developed Countries
  • Developing Countries
  • Economics
  • Educational Status
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Employment
  • Florida
  • Haiti
  • Income
  • Language
  • Latin America
  • North America
  • Population
  • Population Characteristics
  • Population Dynamics
  • Refugees*
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • Unemployment
  • United States