2014-15 Annual Report

This is the 2014-15 report of the activities of the UCD Gifford Center for Population Studies. Director Philip Martin accepted a five-year term effective July 1, 2012, and this report summarizes Gifford-supported interdisciplinary research and dissemination activities in 2014-15.

Gifford-supported activities in 2014-15 assessed the impacts of population growth, including fertility, mortality, and migration, on a wide range of factors, from climate and agricultural systems to labor markets and the integration of immigrants. There were three major Gifford Center conferences and seven faculty-student workshops in 2014-15. The newsletter-journal Rural Migration News was produced quarterly with the support of the Gifford Center.


There were four Gifford Center conferences:

  1. Turkish Migration Conference. June 25-27, 2015. This conference involved over 200 participants who discussed the migration transition in Mexico, Morocco,  and Turkey, countries that sent large numbers of migrants to the US and Germany, respectively, but are now net in-migration countries. Mexico, Morocco, and Turkey have five to 10 percent of people born in their countries living abroad. In all three countries, the process began with the recruitment of low-skilled guest workers to fill jobs in agriculture, construction, and manufacturing who were expected to return when seasonal jobs ended or after a year or two abroad. Many and perhaps most guest workers returned as expected, but enough stayed and formed or united families that there are now significant Mexican communities in the US, Moroccan communities in France, and Turkish communities in Germany.
  2. Farm Labor and the ALRA at 40. April 17, 2015. This conference involved 120 participants who discussed significant changes in the state’s agriculture, farm labor market, and the interactions of farm worker unions and employers.  Three major themes ran through the discussion, viz, the continued importance of hired workers to the state’s fruit, vegetable, and horticultural specialty agriculture that accounts for almost two-thirds of the state’s farm sales, the shift in ALRB activities from supervising elections to determine if farm workers want to be represented by a union to implementing a 2002 law that created Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) or allowing a mediator to develop a collective bargaining agreement that the state imposes, and the continued importance of immigration to the state’s agriculture.
  3. Frontiers of Immigration Research. January 22-23, 2015. This conference drew over 150 participants and 25 speakers to discuss topics that ranged from the economic effects of immigration in the US to the effects of migration on the development of migrant-sending countries. The conference focused on the economic impacts of immigrants, the integration of immigrants and their families, migration and development in migrant-sending countries, and the outlook for US migration policy changes.
  4. STEM, Immigration, and Controversy: Does the U.S. have enough STEM Workers? October 9, 2014. Michael Teitelbaum, former vice president of the Sloan Foundation and now at Harvard Law School, explained that the US has long worried about shortages of scientists and engineers, prompting government subsidies for STEM education and R&D as well as increases in visas for science and engineering students and temporary workers from other countries. International students earn most of the Ph.D.s awarded by U.S. engineering schools, and they constitute a large share of Ph.D. students and postdocs in the sciences. Those in computer-related occupations receive half of all H-1B visas, and in recent years have been filling 20 to 25 percent of net new IT jobs. Teitelbaum discussed these issues by summarizing the major themes of his new book, Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent (Princeton).


The UCD Gifford Migration Workgroup brings UCD graduate students and faculty together in an interdisciplinary setting to discuss migration-related research. 

  1. The Impact of International Graduate Students on US Graduate Education. November 6, 2014. UCD economics PhD student Kevin Shih assumes that, if there is a fixed supply of slots for graduate students, and the number of foreign graduate students rises, then local or domestic students could be displaced. However, if the number of slots for graduate students is not fixed, enrollment of foreign and domestic students can rise together as, e.g. tuition paid by international graduate students allows universities to create more slots for domestic students and the presence of foreigners in PhD programs encourages more domestic students to earn advanced degrees because they have more collaborative opportunities. UCD PhD student Carlos Becerra organized the workshop.
  2. The ILO and Migrant Workers: Challenges and Opportunities. February 9, 2015. UCD graduate and chief of the ILO’s Migration Branch Michelle Leighton explained that half of the world’s 232 million international migrants are in the labor force of the countries to which they moved. Migrant workers are over 10 percent of the labor force in industrial countries, a third of workers in Singapore, and over 90 percent of private-sector workers in Gulf Cooperation Countries. The International Labor Organization, the oldest UN agency founded in 1919, has a constitutional mandate to protect the rights of all workers, including migrant workers. Over 50 law students participated.
  3. Making Invisible Carceral Spaces Visible: Immigration, Detention, and Activism Inside the El Centro SPC. February 27, 2015. UCD PhD student Jessica Ordaz of the History Department examined how undocumented and incarcerated immigrants make claims on the state by studying a hunger strike by migrants at the El Centro Special Processing Center in 1985. She emphasized the contradictions created by a system that supports and deters migration by importing and deporting workers through different institutions. PhD student Carlos Becerra organized the workshop.
  4. Food Chains. April 2, 2015. Documentary film director Sanjay Rawal introduced his film about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization in southwestern Florida that requires buyers of Florida mature green tomatoes to pay an extra 1.5 cents a pound for the Florida tomatoes they buy.  Growers pass on the extra funds to tomato pickers under the CIW’s Fair Food Program.  Major restaurant chains including McDonald's, Subway, Burger King and Taco Bell (Yum! Brands) have joined the FFP. About 75 students participated.
  5. Children in No Man’s Land. April 15, 2015. Documentary film director Anayansi Prado introduced her film about Central American children migrating alone to the US and responded to questions from the 140 attendees for about an hour.
  6. The Perfect Storm: The Role of Public Health and Ethnic Composition in Refugee-related Conflict Initiation. April 23, 2015. UCD PhD  students Tracy Lin and Aaron Shreve presented their research on how and why influxes of refugees sometimes lead to conflict with local residents. They conclude that pre-existing socioeconomic conditions, not the characteristics of the refugees, are the major reason why some influxes generate conflict and others do not.
  7. Enrique’s Journey. May 11, 2015. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sonia Nazario summarized her book and explained the push and pull factors that attract Central Americans to the US with a diverse group of over 200 UCD faculty and students. The book follows a Honduran boy seeking his mother in the US through Mexico; Nazario believes that conditions in Honduras assure a continued out-flow of migrants. In summer 2014, large numbers of Central American youth and women and children arrived in the US and applied for asylum. The US government pressured Central American governments to stop the exodus by e.g. prohibiting bus companies from selling tickets to youth traveling alone and requiring women to have written permission from their husbands to take children abroad, and President Obama proposed a $1 billion aid package to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to cope with gang violence.

Rural Migration News

This newsletter-journal of 20,000 words, published in mid-January, April, July, and October, provides a summary and analysis of the most important migration issues affecting rural and agricultural areas of California and the US for 1,200 subscribers. Rural Migration News covers people- and labor-related developments in rural and agricultural areas of California and the US, with a special focus on immigration issues. Rural Migration News is produced with the help of graduate and undergraduate students, providing them with  training in data collection and analysis.


There are two Gifford accounts, 3-GIFFINA (student support) and 3-GIFENDO (program support). When Martin became director, both accounts were in deficit, prompting a conservative approach to spending such as securing co-sponsors for costly events. Gifford has been very successful finding co-sponsors, which has reduced the need for Gifford funds to maintain a very active program of conferences and workshops.

Plans for 2015-16

The Gifford Center plans a similar set of programs for 2015-16, viz, major conferences that draw 100 or more faculty and students and workshops that feature students presenting work in progress.

Gifford Center operations are based on three principles:

  1. Gifford funding should help the UCD community to address population-related issues as specified in by the donor, as when Gifford support adds a population dimension to a conference whose main topic is migration or integration
  2. Gifford should be a low-cost operation that involves the Director working closely with UCD faculty and students to maximize the impacts of available funds. In practice, this means co-funding events and workshops rather than hosting only one Gifford-funded event a year, as was done previously
  3. Graduate students are supported when they present papers or provide remarks that can be posted on the Gifford web site, ending the past practice of providing support with no documented outcomes of that support

A Final Thanks

The John & Mary Gifford Endowment promotes interdisciplinary research at UC-Davis on many aspects of population growth, from feeding ever more people to managing migration between countries to educating and empowering women to influence population growth and distribution. Gifford support enables many UCD faculty and students to add a population dimension to their research and teaching programs that would otherwise be lacking, fulfilling the wishes of the donors, adding to the stock of knowledge, and enriching the world.