This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How Many Chechens Live in the US?

The discovery that the alleged Boston Marathon bombers were immigrants from Chechnya raises the obvious question of how many Chechens there are in the US. The answer turns out to be surprisingly hard to figure out. My first reaction was to download the latest American Community Survey from IPUMS.org (a wonderful source of data), but I discovered that there are few enough Chechens in the US that the ancestry questions on the ACS do not include Chechen or Chechnya as a response category. They are lumped into the category of North Caucasian, and there was no one in the 2007-11 pooled ACS data who indicated that ancestry. Part of the problem, of course, is that Chechnya is not an independent country (no matter what its aspirations might be along those lines), but rather is one of the republics of Russia--one of the pieces of the former Soviet Union that Moscow has kept under its wings, no matter how resistant the Chechens may be to that arrangement. So, Chechens are Russians as far as immigration statistics are concerned. It has been reported that the Boston bomber family was granted asylum a few years ago, but data from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement suggests that only a handful of refugees/asylees from Russia have been admitted over the past decaade.

A story in today's New York Times by Oliver Bullough seems to confirms the idea that there are relatively few Chechens in the US:
There are thousands of Chechen refugees in Austria, and thousands more in Poland, France, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Dubai and elsewhere (as well as scattered communities in the United States). Wherever they are, they stand out, a nation apart.
The word most linked to “Chechen” is “terrorist,” because of the attacks against the audience at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater in 2002, against children in Beslan, North Ossetia, in 2004, and now the marathon in Boston. But terrorists were only ever a tiny fraction of the population. A more accurate word to link to “Chechen” would be “refugee.” Perhaps 20 percent, perhaps more, of all Chechens have left Chechnya in the last 20 years.
A story in USA Today suggested that the number of Chechens in the may be very small, indeed.
There are probably fewer than about 200 Chechen immigrants in the United States, and most of them are settled in the Boston area, as many U.S. cities have refused to accept asylum applicants from the war-torn area of southern Russia, says Glen Howard, president of the Jamestown Foundation.
About 70% of the Chechen immigrants are women, Howard says. Very few men are granted asylum because of U.S. anti-terrorism policies and because Russia often protests when ethnic Chechens try to settle in the U.S., he said. The U.S. admitted only 197 refugees from all of Russia in 2012.
Overall, the Chechen population in Russia is not large, but there is considerable variability in estimates of its size. Information from the Russian Embassy in the UK suggests that in 2002, there were 1.3 Chechens in Russia, whereas a source purporting to have data from the 2010 census suggests that there may be nearly 8 million Chechens in Russia. We do know that most Chechens are Muslim, but we don't yet know whether religion played any role in the Boston bombings.

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