FSM Information Services (October 10, 2012)
Palikir, POHNPEI (FSM Office of SBOC): October 3, 2012
The FSM Office of Statistics, Budget & Economic Management, Overseas Development Assistance and Compact Management (SBOC) has released the final report on the recently concluded Survey of FSM Migrants in the US including Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
In March 2012, the Office of SBOC obtained the services of two consultants, Fr. Francis X. Hezel, SJ, and Michael J. Levin, PhD, to conduct a scientific random sampling of emigrant Micronesian households in Guam, the CNMI, Hawaii and various mainland United States cities and regions. The survey was designed to gauge the economic wellbeing of the emigrant households, the degree to which they depend on US federal and/or local State government support and their contributions to their local communities as well as to their home islands in the FSM.
Migrant Population Growth
The report indicates that the number of FSM migrants living in the US and its territories is 49,840, with 13,558 living in Guam; 4,286 living in CNMI; 7,948 in Hawaii; and 24,048 in the US mainland. Although no attempt was made to distinguish post-Compact and pre-Compact migrants, the survey found that 16,790, or one-third, were born on US soil.
The total number of those migrating from the FSM, as measured in the survey, is about 2,100 a year, with migration to the US mainland accounting for a little over half of the migrant total. There is also clear evidence of “step-migration,” that is, movement from an early destination (usually Guam or Hawaii) to another one later (often mainland US). One-third, or 1,130, of the new FSM population abroad comes from births to FSM migrants after they have settled in the US and its territories.
The survey results in educational background of the migrant populations revealed a significant change from what was found in past surveys. Among the FSM migrants in Hawaii, 5 percent held a bachelor’s degree, while in the mainland US, 6 percent had a full college degree—both higher than the 4.3 percent rate among the resident population in the FSM.
Choice of Destination
While Guam and CNMI have typically been favored migration destinations, the survey results indicate that the new trend is toward the mainland US, which is the most affordable choice, as migration rates are showing. More than half of all FSM migrants in the last five years have elected to move there. The choice of city or town in the US seems to have been based upon several considerations: the presence of earlier FSM settlers in the area, the availability of employment in large plants, and affordable housing and tax rates. Welfare benefits did not seem to be a factor in the decision to move to the US.
Households and Housing
Contrary to the belief that migrants usually lived in over-crowded quarters, the survey found that the size of the migrant household was rather small by comparison with that in the FSM. The average household size on Guam was 5.4 persons, a drop from 7.2 just 20 years earlier. In CNMI, the size was slightly smaller at 5.1. In both Hawaii and mainland US the average size was 4.0 persons. Although in Guam, CNMI and Hawaii, some FSM families received public assistance for housing, in the mainland US subsidized housing was not available for migrants.
Homelessness was a considerable problem on Guam (for 5 percent of the migrant population) and Hawaii (for 12 percent of migrants), but not in other places. In Guam and Hawaii, the homeless often sought help in public shelters, while elsewhere, the few instances of homelessness were self-chosen.
Economic Well-being of Migrant Households
Many migrants reported that they had held the same job for years, since job security trumped the hope of increased salary. Yet, there were a number of individuals who had risen from entry-level jobs to management positions. Everyone who was not in school or taking care of the children seemed to be working. The number of earners was high relative to the number in the household. The number of workers per household increased as FSM migrants moved further away from their own islands. The yearly income for the average household also increased as one moved from west to east. The average household incomes, as recorded in the survey, were: Guam $24,800, CNMI $25,450, Hawaii $42,150 and US mainland $62,800.
According to the survey, FSM migrants who were receiving expensive on-going medical treatment were largely concentrated in Hawaii, with 389 receiving dialysis there. Few of the FSM migrants in Guam, CNMI or Hawaii had health insurance since they could not afford the premiums. On the other hand, 67 percent of the migrant households in the mainland US had health insurance.
Integration and Community Support
Statistical data show that arrests on Guam and Hawaii have increased in recent years. But of the 2,700 arrests of FSM people in Hawaii in 2010, all but 218 were for misdemeanors. In each destination there are a few FSM people serving long prison sentences, some of them convicted of domestic abuse. In all, 430 FSM migrants have been deported from the US and its territories for crimes committed.
The survey results indicate that in nearly all FSM migration destinations there is a strong support system to help migrants assimilate into local communities. Churches played a key role as an introduction to the broader community as well as a key element in the safety net that provided for migrant families in hard times.