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Good news and bad news: Numeracy and framing in newspaper reporting of unauthorized migration estimates in Arizona


The most politically charged demographic change in Arizona in recent decades is the increase in international migrants who lack legal permission to reside in the country. State-level legislation focused on immigrants has received national and international attention, particularly Senate Bill 1070, which passed in Arizona in 2010. This study focuses on estimates of unauthorized migrants in Arizona and how this quantitative information is represented in a major daily newspaper, the Arizona Republic. The essay first describes how estimates of unauthorized migration are generated and summarizes recent changes in the unauthorized migrant population in Arizona and the United States between 1990 and 2010. It then undertakes a qualitative examination of how newspaper reporters use and frame estimates of unauthorized migrants produced by the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization. Although some features of the newspaper coverage are encouraging, particularly the accurate reporting of specific Pew estimates, the analysis also uncovers evidence of nonneutral usage and framing of the data. These results point to both progress and continued challenges in contemporary media representations of unauthorized migrant populations in a highly charged social, political, and economic context.


McConnell, Eileen Díaz. 2014. “Good News and Bad News:  Numeracy and Framing in Newspaper Reporting of Unauthorized Migration Estimates in Arizona.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. 39(1): 41-70.

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