Mariel refugees: six years after.

A. Portes, J. M. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In 1983, the economic situation of Mariel Cubans could be summarized as abysmal. Those without a job represented close to 1/2 of the sample; the unemployment rate amounted to 27%. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Miami-Dade Community College and Florida International University has investigated whether Mariels remain a group apart within the broader Cuban community or whether they have melted into the rest of the community. The study followed a large sample of Mariel refugees living in the Miami area over a period of several years. A sample of 514 Mariel men and women were interviewed in 1983 and were reinterviewed during 1985-1986. The authors conclude that, as a group, Mariel refugees have made rapid progress toward integration into the South Florida economy. There has been a rapid decline in unemployment during the past 2 years and a rapid shift into self-employment. There is still a sizable gap in labor force participation and earnings between this group and the pre-Mariel Cuban population. Mariel incorporation into South Florida society has taken place almost completely through their absorption into the pre-existing Cuban community; there is tension, however, as Mariel refugees see themselves as more discriminated against by fellow Cubans than by outside Anglos. This minority-within-a-minority syndrome is likely to underlie the reported willingness of many to leave the US if conditions in Cuba were to change for the better. Despite these problems, the majority of Mariel refugees would come again to the US if they had to make the choice anew and declare themselves satisfied with their present lives. Within Dade County, the more positive indicators of economic advancement and general adaptation are found among refugees in the cities of Miami and Hialeah. The most problematic economic situation and the greatest alienation from their surroundings is detected among refugees living elsewhere, primarily in Miami Beach. Results indicate that official and private programs targeted on this refugee group should give priority to 4 aspects: 1) support of small entrepreneurship through credit and training facilities to buttress the widespread efforts in this direction; 2) provision of English language courses and help to overcome extreme language deficiencies; 3) promotion of the reunification of the Mariel refugee families who were separated against their will; and 4) additional efforts by Cuban-American organizations to combat lingering prejudice against Mariel refugees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-18
Number of pages5
JournalMigration world magazine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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