IRW Distinguished Lecture Series - Hung Cam Thai, “The Making of a Transnational Expenditure Cascade: What Happens When Poor Immigrants Return Home to Spend and Give Money”


Thursday, October 22, 2015, 04:00pm - 06:00pm

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This lecture focuses on the social and personal sides of monetary flows in the Vietnamese diaspora. With few exceptions, the private use of money has been considered too personal and too mysterious for migration scholars to tackle, unless they examine “development issues,” such as daily household expenditures. I focus on low-wage working Vietnamese immigrants in the United States, who make up a significant portion of the aging Vietnamese diaspora, but also pay equal attention to their left-behind family members in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. The immigrant family members generally work in precarious jobs with little stability; most are high school graduates, but none are college graduates, which means they face severe barriers in accessing stable jobs and other social benefits that are increasingly closed to members of the low-wage labor market. They generally live with “insufficient funds,” yet regularly send money back to Vietnam as well as spend it lavishly when they make return visits. In this lecture, I document why they give such generous financial support to their left-behind family members and why they spend beyond their means upon return visits, despite living in precarious situations abroad.

Free and open to the public.

Ruth Dill Johnson Crockett Building, 162 Ryders Lane, Douglass Campus, Rutgers-New Brunswick