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Migrants in their family contexts: Application of a methodology

The composition of immigrant families is a topic which has attracted considerable public and political attention in recent years. In the late 1980s concern was expressed over the size of some households of Pacific Island peoples in New Zealand. In the 1990s a more persistent concern has been with the incidence of what have been called ‘astronaut’ families – families where one of the partners is persistently absent overseas. The ‘astronaut’ family phenomenon has been most commonly associated with Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan. This report uses a novel methodology to examine the incidence of ‘astronaut’ families in New Zealand at the time of the 1991 and 1996 censuses. The methodology is described in some detail in the first section, and it is hoped that the careful attention to the procedures used to examine migrants, who have been identified in the census, in their family contexts will stimulate further research in this area. The second part of the report presents the findings of an initial exploration of 1991 and 1996 census data using the methodology outlined in the first section. It is clear from results of this inquiry that the ‘astronaut’ family phenomenon is well established amongst some components of New Zealand’s Asian community. However, it is not as widespread as media comment in 1995 and 1996, before the 1996 election, suggested. It is important to develop ways of assessing characteristics of immigrant family structures in order to counter unsubstantiated assertions which promote negative stereotypes of immigrant communities. This research, which builds on a project supported by the Marsden Fund in 1997, suggest one fruitful avenue for making more extensive use of census data on immigrants in New Zealand to provide more objective assessment of “migrants in social context”.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Population Studies Centre (PSC) Discussion Papers
Ho, E., Bedford, R. & Bedford, C. (2000). Migrants in their family contexts: Application of a methodology. (Population Studies Centre Discussion Paper No.34). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Population Studies Centre.
University of Waikato, Population Studies Centre