About MicSem About MicSem

Micronesian Migration Since World War II

By Jay Dobbin and Francis X. Hezel, SJ

August 1996 (MC #19) Migration

The 1986 signing of the Compact of Free Association between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) gave FSM citizens free access to the U.S. and its territories.(1) This signing has been heralded as opening a "new and rather unique chapter in Pacific Islander migration" (Rubinstein 1991: 1). Certainly the resulting flood of migrants into the USA and its territories is different from previous migrations. But in a broader sense, the FSM migration since 1986 is replicating many of the social problems associated with migration across the globe.(2) The Micronesian problem is a global problem. Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, for example, has called for a wall between Mexico and the U.S.; the Guam Legislature, in an admittedly less forceful resolution, demanded controlled migration into Guam and amendment of the Compact's open entry policy (Guam Legislature 1995, Resolution 292). In Europe, Turkish guest-workers who were once brought by the trainload into Germany, are now told they are no longer welcome guests and are the victims of skin-head violence. Unemployed East Germans want their jobs. Micronesian who were once recruited for employment in Guam's burgeoning tourist industry may wonder, like the German-born Turks, who changed the agenda. Chamoru Nacion activist on Guam, David Sablan, in testimony before the Guam Legislature testified that the United States and the "Micronesian Nation" have "disregarded any effort of respect to the indigenous people of Guam," and vowed, "I will not neglect my children's needs for the sake of this compact/impact (Sablan 1995). California Governor Pete Wilson has introduced legislation to cut off social service benefits to illegal aliens; Guam Senator Mark Forbes has introduced Bill 246 to keep non-resident aliens and non-citizens from the FSM from receiving welfare benefits (Guam 23rd Legislature, 1995). Philippine Senator Tomas Conception vented his rage about the treatment of migrant Filipinos on Saipan calling the Chamorros there "cheaters . . . . and of lower cultural category" (Pacific Daily News). Rejoinders from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) raised the rhetoric a notch or two, with one local senator insisting that migrants pay for their childrens' education.

Indeed, what Don Rubinstein predicted in May of 1991 is upon these islands and atolls which some once called paradise: it seems likely that ethnic conflict between Micronesians and others will increase in Guam.... The Guam Chamorros have never associated themselves culturally and politically with the people they call (sometimes derogatorily) gupallao, 'the people of the south'--the Palauan and Yapese and other Carolinians.... In the current political struggles of the Chamorro people, the other Micronesian groups in Guam are not seen as political allies or ethnic kin. Their presence is seen as yet one more sign of the US government's disregard of Chamorro indigenous rights to control their island's destiny, land, and borders. As the numbers of Micronesians swell, Chamorro political responses will likely be more and more reflective of "us versus them" attitude (1991: 9).

The problem is not merely between the economically privileged countries (Guam, Hawaii, mainland U.S.) and countries with underdeveloped economies; migration within Micronesia(3) is also a social problem. Migration from the outer atolls of the Marshalls to the tiny islet of Ebeye in the Marshalls has produced one of the most densely populated places in the world.(4) Pohnpeians complain that "outer islanders" have overrun their island and influenced the voting patterns. Population pressure on tiny atolls has led to another cycle of out-migration--to other Micronesian islands where the newcomers are less than warmly embraced (see Alkire 1993).

The Selections for This Issue

We are fortunate that the literature on Micronesian migration is extensive and has historical depth. We have chosen two related focal points in selections for this issue. First, as a social problem where the rhetoric and political action are hottest, we focus on migration to Guam and the CMNI. Even here we concentrate on movement from the Freely Associated States (FAS)--Federated States of Micronesia [FSM], Republic of the Marshall Islands [RMI] and the Republic of Palau [RP]. Second, we look at the population dynamic of small FSM atolls to see the internal pressures which can lead to out-migration.

There have been migrations to Guam and Saipan long before the post-World War II period. The Carolinian population on Saipan, for example, dates to the early 19th century. But we are here concerned with the post-war sequence and that begins with Palauan migration to Guam. Part One of this issue presents the Palauan and FSM story of migration to Guam and the CNMI. We are pleased to offer the hitherto unpublished study of Palauan migration by DeVerne Smith. We know of no other study of Palau which so completely reviews earlier studies and in such detail brings the picture almost up to the present. Unfortunately Smith's work was completed just before Palau became a FAS and free migration to the U.S. became possible. A similarly comprehensive work does not exist for Guam or the CNMI, but we do have the latest statistics and an analysis of these by Hezel and Levin.

In Part Two of this issue we have edited a hitherto unpublished paper by Fr. Kenneth Hezel and a report by Kyle Smith. Both works attempt the risky business of recording Micronesian evaluation of their own migrations--their response to the question "are you better off now than you were in your home state?" K. Hezel and Smith give us a good glimpse of how the migrants feel, how they calculate the social costs and benefits of migration. We have finally added our own essay on the response to Guam response to FSM migration.

Part Three looks at why inhabitants from tiny atolls migrate and impact migration has on these atolls. The case study used here included Levin and Gorenflo's analysis of Eauripik demographics (1994).

In Part Four of this issue, we conclude with our own sample of reactions from Guam to the Micronesian residents.

The original versions of all the selections published here were considerably heftier in documentation, bibliography, and statistical tables. Readers with questions might do well to consult the originals. We have condensed these well documented studies in the hope of producing what the French call "haute vulgarization," a kind of high-level popularization in order to reach a larger readership.


Alkire, W.H. (1993). Madrich: Outer islanders on Yap. Pacific Studies 16: 31-66.

Gorenflo, L.J., and Levin, M.J. (1989). The demographic evolution of Ebeye. Pacific Studies 12: 91-128.

Gorenflo, L.J., and Levin, M.J. (1994). The evolution of regional demography in the Marshall Islands. Pacific Studies 17: 93-157.

Rubinstein, D.H. (1991). The future of Micronesian migration to Guam. XVII Pacific Science Congress, Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam.

Sablan, D. (1995). Testimony before Guam Legislature 1995. Holographic manuscript on file at Micronesian Seminar, Pohnpei, FSM.


DeVerne Reed Smith

DeVerne Reed Smith's Palauan field work spans two decades and thus gives her a good vantage point from which to see the changes in migration to Guam. Her 1983 Palauan Social Structure remains not only the definitive analysis of the complex web of Palauan kinship but also a classic anthropological analysis of kinship in general. The Palauan migration case is noteworthy because it is the first migration after World War II from Micronesia to Guam. That means, of course, that the Palauan community on Guam is significantly older than those from Chuuk, Pohnpei or Kosrae and may offer clues on the forms of community which these newer migrants may develop. On the other hand, the genesis of the Palauan Guam community may exemplify the uniqueness of each Micronesian group in adapting to the same environment (Guam) and so demonstrate the impossibility of generalizing on the "Micronesian" migrant experience. Whatever else the Palauan case offers, it is clearly not a reflection of the "melting pot" model of ethnicity and culture. This reading is from a previously unpublished paper on the Palauan community on Guam.

This paper is a brief ethnographic description of the 2,500-3,000 Palauans resident on Guam in 1992-93.(5) It builds on the work of those Pacific scholars who first noted the emigration of Palauans for educational or employment opportunities,(6) and it is of relevance to those currently involved in assessing Pacific/Asian population movements.


The Palau archipelago consists of over 200 islands, 550 miles east of the Philippines and 815 miles southwest of Guam. The Republic of Palau became an independent political entity in free association with the United States in late 1994. The 1990 U.S. Palau census lists 15,222 persons (12,575 Palauan, 2,801 Asian) within the archipelago, 63 percent residing in urban Koror and 37 percent in the outer areas. An estimated one of every five Palauans now resides outside of Palau, the majority having emigrated for employment, higher wages or an education.

Guam, on the other hand, has not been so isolated from western trade. Claimed by Spain in the late 16th century and utilized as a port of call by 17th century galleons sailing from Mexico to the Philippines, Guam became a U.S. Territory in 1899 and continues to reflect 300 years of colonialization. Its economic structure tends to be segmented by ethnic layers: a highly developed government bureaucracy, and a multi-ethnic population employed in construction, private business and tourism oriented to Japanese visitors. In 1992-93, many local Chamorros were seeking to renegotiate their own political status with the U.S. and to acquire some measure of control over immigration laws. The 1990 U.S. Guam census showed Chamorros had become a minority within their own island.(7) There is fear of Guam becoming a stepping-stone to the U.S. or growing to resemble Saipan (CNMI) where Chamorro/Carolinians account only for 34.4 percent of the population and Filipino 32.7 percent.(8).

The Guam Palauans were of interest to those dealing with the new FSM migrants because they represent a stable ethnic group with their own clubs and customs of "taking care of their own." Not unlike the Samoans in Hawaii, the first Palauans on Guam came as contract workers previously employed by the U.S. military in the cleanup of Palau at the end of World War II. They were permitted to bring their families to Guam, and others followed to continue educations interrupted by the war or to learn the newest language through which salaried employment was possible. When increased U.S. federal funds began in the late 1960s, primarily in response to U.N. Trusteeship Council criticisms of U.S. failure to develop the TTPI entities toward economic independence, more Palauans were able to travel, attend U.S. mainland colleges, or obtain employment throughout the TTPI. However, Guam's proximity to Palau continued to attract many because there were resident families to assist newcomers or ease the financial burden for students.

The Guam Palauans now constitute the second largest settlement of Palauans outside of Koror itself. When they combine with the estimated 2,000 Palauans on Saipan,(9) they form a constituency as significant as the number of residents on Babeldaob Island. The amount of diversity amongst Guam Palauans makes description difficult; I wish here to describe the Palauans in terms of: (1) how they organize themselves into clubs that express the centrality of the Palauan value of "mutual help" (klaingeseu); (2) the reified life cycle events ("custom," siukang) held on Guam; and (3) the new forms of households that have arisen since the late 1970s.

Palauan Migration Patterns

The only available employment in 1945-46 was with the U.S. military in Koror or Peleliu. Those who remained in Palau awaiting the familiar pattern of foreign economic development lived in a "rust territory" until the late 1960s. McGrath (1971) has written of a pervasive feeling of being left behind, unnoticed and forgotten, and of the development of the "two Palaus" that I observed in 1972-73.(10) The District Center of Koror was the locus of government offices, medical care, high schools, all federal programs, and sporadic electricity/running water, while Babeldaob was left without rudimentary infrastructure or access to any direct means of earning income other than fishing and gardening. Babeldaob families in 1972 already had adapted to this situation by sending their children abroad for an "American education" and taking care of grandchildren left in their care by Koror/Guam wage earners, by daughters marrying Americans, and by increased provision of goods/services to employed Koror-based kinsmen who housed high school village youths (Smith 1983: 22-25).

For those leaving Palau, the following patterns have been discerned: (1) 1972, an estimated 2,500 Palauans were resident abroad, and the emigration rate was estimated to be five percent per year. Seventy percent of those abroad remained within the TTPI where they predominated in filling administrative/managerial governmental positions (Nero and Rehuher 1993). In addition to Guam (TTPI headquarters until 1962) and Saipan (TTPI headquarters until the late 1970s when Micronesian entities moved toward separate political statuses), other Palauan settlements were on Yap, Pohnpei and Chuuk. (2) The "grand exodus" of Palauans took place between 1973-80 as increased U.S. funding enabled more students to attend U.S. colleges and as Micronesians filled TTPI posts vacated by Americans. However, there was no decline in the number emigrating to Guam. (3) A large number of Palauans from Guam/Saipan returned to Palau in the late 1970s to participate in the creation of their new constitution/government. The PCAA follow-up study found three of every four in their census population returned between 1980-90. They now constitute a well-entrenched segment of the government bureaucracy. Their number was offset by those continuing to leave. (4) In the 1980s, use of imported laborers and domestic helpers, primarily Filipino, grew from three percent of the resident population (1980) to ten percent in 1990.(11) Moreover, as more people could afford to travel, the Philippines became at least as important a destination as Guam for household shopping or medical purposes.

Guam does not directly serve as a stepping-stone to Hawaii or the U.S. Instead, three types of movements are involved: (1) flow relating to families established on Guam, many of whom are homeowners and plan to be buried on Guam but maintain ties to kinsmen in Palau; (2) flow of people/resources along different points in the Palau/Guam/Saipan circuit. Many of the late 1970s Palau returnees maintained properties in Saipan or Guam, and their movements are circular along this path; and (3) students and young adults working on Guam who may speak of returning to Palau but are primarily committed to economic opportunity rather than place.

Guam Palauan Demographic Profile

"Ten years ago we said 2,000 and today we say 2,000," was not an uncommon response to my inquiries about their number on Guam. It was a sensitive subject since many are there illegally, under other nationalities, or involved in economic ventures that conflict with Guam's laws, such as the importation of high quality marijuana grown in Palau. The 1990 U.S. Guam census is used here because it provides a valid comparative profile. A distinctive feature of Palauan emigration is that women outnumber their male counterparts and almost match them in educational attainment.


Guam schools provide better English speaking/reading skills but some couples, troubled by increasing ethnic gang violence in public schools, were considering sending their children to Palau. Since a common "horror story" is of a Guam-raised child unable to communicate with a Palauan grandmother, adults frequently send their children to Palau to visit or for the summer. Those who have spent most of their adult lives on Guam commonly express an inability to "think" in the same manner as Palauans in the archipelago or to speak in the valued indirect mode.

Whereas FSM women on Guam manifest a lower level of educational attainment than their male counterparts (Rubinstein and Levin 1992), Palauan women have a higher percentage of high school degree completion than Palauan males. A greater percentage of Guam Palauans have obtained high school degrees than have Palauans in the Republic, perhaps reflecting greater employment opportunity on Guam where available jobs do not require higher education. However, 73.3 percent of all on Guam, and 62.4 percent of those from the FSM, have attained high school diplomas.(12)

At the college degree level, more Palauans in the Republic (7.9 percent) have attained B.A. degrees or higher than on Guam (7.1 percent.)(13) Guam males slightly outnumber females in degree completion. Of 288 Palauans who came to Guam after 1985, 78.8 percent were high school graduates and 6.9 percent held B.A degrees or higher.(14) Work preferences of educated Palauans, the demand for higher wages, and lack of employment opportunity are factors commonly cited as leading to Palauan emigration; other factors to be considered are: (1) the mismatch of college degree majors to Republic labor requirements, with many degrees being in the social sciences/education, along with a decline in the number of Palauans obtaining professional degrees from the 1970s; (2) kin ties remain an important aspect of who finds employment within Palau; and (3) an expressed reluctance to return to the present pressures of Palauan "custom". (See Vitarelli 1981 and Rehuher 1989.)


Guam Palauans primarily work in the private sector (92.9 percent), employed in technical/sales/administrative support and service occupations). Women comprise almost half of all Palauans employed fulltime (47.7 percent by birth place), more than the number of women employed within the Republic (36.7 percent). More Guam Palauan women work in service occupations than do men on Guam or in Palau where low status positions are filled by imported laborers. Guam Palauan men are predominately employed in precision production, craft and repair (23.5 percent) and as operators, fabricators and laborers (23.2 percent), occupations that rank fifth (14.3 percent) and second (21.3 percent) amongst men in Palau where the greatest number of Palauan men and women are employed in managerial/professional specialty occupations. By contrast, Filipinos (1329, with 94.6 percent in the labor force) are considered cheaper labor not only because of contract terms but also because of greater productivity and willingness to extend work hours.(15)

Wage Income

The median income for Guam is $16,123 ($6,324 female), with FSM workers showing the lowest wage income ($6,691, $7,226 female) and Asians the highest median income. Palauans' median wage income is $10,575 ($6,453 female by birthplace), with a mean of $12,604 ($10,164 female).(16) Their salaries are lower than Palauans employed by the Republic's government and only slightly higher than median household/median family incomes. However, the Palauan dependency ratio on Guam is 19.0 (19 dependents for every 100 workers) contrasted to 78.0 in the Republic.(17)

Remittances per se do not appear to be significant sources of income within the Republic.

Public Fields of Action

In the early 1970s, Guam Palauans were especially valued by Palau-based kinsmen for their salaried positions and access to American goods. Families that had females married to Americans or males employed outside the archipelago were able to collect larger sums at their highly competitive exchanges. In 1992, they were no longer described as "rich". Instead, Palauans in the Republic stated the unique characteristics of the Guam group to be: (1) they had built a bai; (2) they held "customs" (siukang) on Guam and perhaps respected "tradition" even more than those within the archipelago; and (3) they assist one another where there is no relationship that carries with it a mutual or reciprocal obligation.

A Palau Association was formed that met monthly to pool information, share resources with newcomers or collect money to help another in need. Solenberger (1953: 8) perceived the Palau Association as doing "for the Palauan on Guam what the extended family does for immigrants with Chamorro connections" (e.g., assist in finding housing), and Shewman (1981: 31-32) similarly explained the pan-Palauan association in terms of gaps in kin positions required to meet family obligations.(18) State-based clubs developed in the mid-1960s, a form of organization more compatible with Palauan concepts of interaction and assistance. Should a Palauan need help on Guam, the state club would be turned to if there were insufficient family representatives on Guam; with the current density, it would be unusual for this to happen. Clubs meet monthly, and dues are collected that are reserved for an emergency or, when enough funds have been collected, a social. Clubs are less a source of news about Palau than in earlier days since communication is frequent and videotapes of events shared within families and between places.

The two most populous state clubs are the Peleliu Club and the Ngaraard club. Peleliu, the first state to erect a club building in Koror, has its own bai where elders gather on Sunday afternoons to talk and chew betelnut. Its women's club is especially strong. Although there are no explicit obligations between home state and clubs on Guam, the Guam Peleliu club makes a formal visit (klechedaol) to Peleliu every two years, at which time not only are gifts of food brought but materials/labor provided for a community improvement project, such as painting the elementary school. Peleliu reciprocates by coming to Guam the following year, a pattern that began in the mid-1970s as lawsuits against lands and titles became a major Palauan activity.

In 1978, a Palau Women's Club was chartered with the Government of Guam, and the Palau Association of Guam (PCAG) was similarly chartered shortly thereafter. When undeveloped government land near the Harmon clifflines overlooking Tumon Bay became available to chartered clubs, both the Harmon Bai and the Peleliu Bai were constructed. The Harmon Bai is maintained by the Palau Association of Guam, and funds for repairs/improvements often are contributed by the Palau Women's Club, for in Palauan tradition it is women who paid for a bai's construction. The Harmon Bai, decorated with 16 beams whereby each state has selected a legend depicted in storyboard fashion, is the public field of activity for pan-Palauan social, economic and political events. Bai events during my research year included numerous political meetings on the pending Compact referendum; Palauan presidential/senatorial campaign events, parties and election; Saturday softball games with families barbecuing nearby; an annual fundraising "Palau Night" by the Palau Women's Club whereby the funds collected are donated to a local charity and to the hospital in Palau for purchase of equipment; and a Christmas party. The Bai can be rented, and revenue from bar sales is guided by Palau Association bylaws. The Women's Club perhaps is more visible publicly; its fundraising activities appear in the local newspaper, along with their winning an annual competition held between all of Guam women's clubs and organizing a dance presentation at the annual Micronesian Fair that included a number of dancers from the archipelago.

Bylaws of the Palau Community Association of Guam, to which all 16 states belong, focus on regulations of fund-raising activities (klaingeseu) or ocheraol. In Palau, an ocheraol is an exchange event held to raise funds to pay for a house that calls into play numerous alliances and obligatory relationships, collecting as much as $75,000. On Guam, state clubs rotate turns in receivership, and each state club designates whose turn it is to be the receiver of the monies. The amount the recipient obtains is determined by how much he has given to other Palauans; amounts collected range from $5,000 to $17,000. The Guam ocheraol is not like the Palauan event where not to give terminates a relationship; it is described as "mutual assistance" or "a helping hand". Although careful records are kept, the pan Palauan club is prone to fission because: (1) reciprocity cannot be expected in the same degree as in Palau. People repeatedlystressed there was less of an obligation to give than exists in Palau because a person cannot be certain of receiving back what he has given; and (2) the ranked title system does not exist on Guam, for titles adhere to specific Palauans lands. Some men hold titles in Palau, but the title's authority and respect behaviors due the title do not operate on Guam. Thus, there is no authority beyond the family on Guam, and most people remain quiet on issues.

Both PCAG and the Women's Club have difficulty maintaining membership, 20 younger Palauans working during the week or reluctant to donate their time/money/food. Students are not encouraged to participate in adult affairs except for sports or when dancers are needed for public presentations. Those who have spent their adult lives on Guam stress the need for the Bai as a place to teach central Palauan values such as "community first, then family" and "respect" behaviors for otherwise, young Palauans "would be deleb, like ghosts, neither Palauan nor American". Their adult children, raised on Guam, maintain a Palau-orientation but many expressed mixed feelings about a parent's obligations to his/her siblings when they watch, for example, a father give money to his younger brother "who is perfectly capable of earning it". Most thought the system of customary obligations would die out with their own children or grandchildren.

Of religious institutions, two are specifically Palauan: the Palau Evangelical Church and Modekngei. Each has purchased its own meeting place. The Catholic Campus Ministry offers a monthly mass in Palauan, and Palauan Catholics tend to turn to a Palauan priest who visits from Koror for their religious needs.

"Custom" on Guam

Guam "customs" are based on Palauan traditions but the reified rituals no longer relate to sibling or affinal obligations that work to strengthen rights to land and property. They do not bring together different categories of people who work for days to prepare the large amounts of food required for "serious" events in Palau. Instead, they are described as being held to express the beauty of a ritual, to provide a sense of identity, or "for money." The three types of "custom" held are: (1) "house parties,- a means of collecting funds, (2) ngasech or "first-child" ceremony, and (3) giving money at the funeral (kemeldiil) of any other Palauan on Guam.

House Parties House parties arose in Palau in the late 1970s as more Palauans entered the wage labor force. They commonly are given by young couples to raise money to pay for a house and who are not yet eligible for an ocheraol, the latter requiring power or years of service to build up intricate networks of obligation. Written invitations are widely given to kin, friends and office workers, and those who attend the dinner (frequently held at a Koror restaurant or in a Babeldaob home) give a small sum. On Guam, house parties collect between $3,000-$5,000.

Ngasech (First-Child Ceremony). In 1972-73, parents of youths attending the University of Guam were just starting to hold public ceremonies to mark a woman's new status after the birth of her first child. The public presentation (ngasech) followed several days of medicinal baths, the new mother appearing on the stone platform before her family's home in traditional skirts, skin tinted with tumeric and coconut oil, and wearing a Palauan valuable. (See Smith 1983: 163-202). With the renewed interest in Palauan traditions that arose in the 1980s, ngasech in both places are public presentations to which a variety of guests and friends are invited. Elders state a wide variety of guests are invited "to make money", for since the late 1970s guests give money at the event.

Death A death in Palau sets in motion a complex series of "serious" customs that not only involve burial but also the meeting of the two sides (cheldecheduch) that were linked in affinal/parental exchange relationships through the deceased. In 1972, the decision of where to bury a person was important because location signified a valued and continuing exchange relationship or the value of the deceased to his maternal kinswomen. It was imperative that those who died abroad be returned to Palau.

Although Guam Palauans spoke of having a bai or holding "customs" as their unique characteristics, that burials now take place on Guam seemed to me one of the greatest changes in the maturity of the Guam Palauan community. Of the 6 deaths in 1991, 5 of the Palauans were buried on Guam. I was told that if the deceased does not carry a title in Palau or act as trustee for lands in Palau, and if he is of sufficient maturity to have established a marriage and meet his adult obligations, he may be buried on Guam. Although most of the older families with whom I worked spoke of retiring to Palau, only one couple moved back during the research period; most had purchased burial lots on Guam where their children/grandchildren lived. Burial notices in Guam's newspaper commonly show a dispersal of siblings and children throughout the U.S. or in armed forces abroad.

Rosary is said in the homes of Catholics, and prayer meetings held at the Palauan Evangelical Church in Tamuning and in Palau. When "Last Respects" are held before the funeral, any Palauan on Guam who wishes to be recognized by the Palauan community is expected to attend with a small gift of money or to send an envelope if unable to attend. It is critical to do this to signify being a Palauan. Monies collected ($5,000 being a minimal amount and $10,000 a usual amount) help cover burial expenses, and this collection takes place for any Palauan, even one who did not participate in Palauan affairs. Although informants stressed giving to non-related Palauans to be one of their most unusual aspect, Kubary (1900: 4) observed that both friends and enemies once sent mats (badek) to the family of any deceased and received a "gift" in return.

The exchanges that balance obligations and terminate a tie between two sides (cheldecheduch) take place in Palau. The frequency of trips home commonly depends on the number of deaths, for a person must attend the funeral/cheldecheduch for primary kin. It was difficult for people to estimate how much they spent on "custom" because, if there are many deaths in each side, the amount may be well over $5,000 while, in other years, life cycle events required less. For other types of "customs" in Palau, or when the event is not one held by primary kinsmen, money is sentalong with the explanation the person is able to give more by saving on airfare.

Sibling Set Orientations

The Palau-based institutions provide the matrix from which the migrants and their versions of the institutions come. Final authority in telungalek/kebliil-based (family structural units similar to lineages and groups of lineages allied to a particular descent-based lineage through multiple and historically particularistic means) resides in Palau, as that is where the senior family members live. Interaction with these institutions via the migrant versions or as the result of individual obligation is important in the maintenance of ties of mutual obligation.

The self perception of most Ngerchelongese people is that they will return to Palau. Land and friendly relatives are necessary for this to become a reality and both are dependent upon continued ties of obligation. (Shewman 1981: 45). In 1991-93, younger Palauans similarly described their Guam elders' institutions and clubs in terms of economic necessity in a place where "they saw they didn't fit" and that "they think they're just here temporarily." Guam Palauans commonly describe returning to Palau as "like a completely different ballgame" or "a completely different mentality". Households in both places have changed, perhaps more so in Palau with theincrease in the number of women as wage-earners, use of domestic helpers within the home, and a shift toward individual land ownership.

There are tensions as well between the two places: Guam Palauans are thought to be in a better position to accumulate capital and under fewer demands to give money or contribute their labor on weekend "customs". When they return and try to assert authority, they face those who stayed behind and tended land, "custom" and elders. Rather than shared rights to land still being a unifying factor, each group now faces the other with the knowledge that ultimately it all may go to whomever can pay the attorneys' fees to contest/defend the land parcel.

Yet the Guam airport before the early morning flight from Koror is as busy as T-dock (dock between Koror and Babeldaob) once was with ice chests and people moving back and forth. In addition to the types of families I have sought to describe here, Guam Palauans range from couples both of whom are employed professionally to young individuals reluctant to return to Palau and unable to support themselves. Although I am reluctant to generalize, I provide below composites of two types of economic families (based on sibling sets) simply to illustrate the maximizing options that some within this group are pursuing:

Tadeo came to Guam in the early 1950s and lived with an American family for whom he worked while he attended high school. He joined the U.S. military at the outbreak of the Korean War, as did several others of his Palauan classmates. He next returned to Palau and taught for several years. His wife is Palauan, and their seven children were born on Guam. Three remain on Guam, the rest dispersed to Palau, Hawaii, the Mainland and Europe. Tadeo was designated trustee for land in Palau by his father; he thus has "authority" in decisions relating to this land over his siblings. He speaks of retiring to Palau but only after a road to connect Babeldaob with Koror has been built. A married sister lives in Koror. Her children were in the generation of Palauans in the early 1970s who attended U.S. colleges, were active in the Congress of Micronesia, and returned to Palau in the late 1970s. Two have held elective offices or secured traditional titles since their return; a daughter married an American, a marriage described as having the best of both worlds"--an employed husband who places primary value on the affinal relationship. Such marriages constitute at least one quarter of the Guam sample. In-marrying males often are in the U.S. military, professionals or businessmen. Although women commonly tell their Palauan families they are not able to participate in "custom" while married to an American, the affines constitute an influential network for Palauans. Her daughter has been educated in the Mainland and on Guam; young cousins of college age freely move between Koror, the Guam apartment and Saipan. When they talk of future employment, it is in terms of what Palauans they know in Washington, Texas or California as well as within the Republic.

Another Guam extended family is oriented as follows: Samuel moved to Guam in the 1960s and found employment with the airlines. He helped his sisters in Palau by providing for his parents, sending foods that were too expensive for normal consumption in Palau, and housing a sister's child while she attended a Guam college. This woman now is employed in Palau, and her children attend Hawaii colleges. Her brother, with a degree from the University of Hawaii, is employed in Saipan. When he brings his American wife to Palau, she is expected to fit within the "wives of the men" (buch el sechal) category of workers, a cultural requirement that has led to the dissolution of some marriages. Since he plans to return to Palau, he goes there at least twice a year to provide labor to his parents or to his father's side, of high rank in a place where rank is still important. The composition of his Babeldaob state has changed since the 1970s, from one reflecting a high rate of emigration to a younger population, Palauans in their twenties or thirties who work for the state government, teach, work in fisheries cooperatives, or simply live there in anticipation of the developments that will come when Compact funds facilitate a road or local development. They feel that their continued residence/participation will be recognized when greater employment opportunities are available.


Bank of Hawaii (1994). An Economic assessment of the Republic of Palau.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (1993). Economic development strategy. A prospectus for guiding growth. 2nd revised edition fiscal year 1992-93. Saipan: Office of Planning and Budget, Executive Office of the Governor, Saipan.

Connell, John (1983a). Guam. Country Report No. 6: Migration, employment and development in the Pacific. Noumea: South Pacific Commission.

Connell, John (1983b). Palau. Country Report No. 13: Migration, employment and development in the Pacific. Noumea: South Pacific Commission.

Government of Guam (1992). Annual statistical report, 1991. Agana, Guam: Office of Vital Statistics, Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Government of Guam (1993). Annual statistical report. 1992. Agana, Guam: Office of Vital Statistics, Department of Public Health and SocialServices.

Hezel, Francis X. and Michael Levin J. Levin (1989). Micronesian emigration: The brain drain in Palau, Marshalls, and the Federated States. In Migration and development in the South Pacific. Canberra: National Centre for Developmental Studies, Research School of Pacific Studies, ed. John Connell (Canberra: Australian National University), 42-60.

Hezel, Francis X. and Thomas B. McGrath, SJ (1989). The great flight northward: FSM migration to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Pacific Studies 13(1): 57-64.

Johanek, Michael C. (1984). Palauan out-migration. Pohnpei, Micronesian Seminar. Unpublished paper.

Kubary, Jan Stanislaus (1900). Todtenbestattung auf den Palauinseln. In Die Mikronesischen Kolonien aus ethnologischen Gesichtspunkten, A. Bastian (ed.). Supplement, pp. 37-48. Berlin: Asher. (Translation in Cross-Cultural Survey files.)

McGrath, W. A. (1971). Population-demographic structure in rural areas and the effect of urban drift on rural societies in the Palau District of Micronesia. Unpublished paper.

Nero, Karen L. (1985). Census of the Republic of Palau, 1979-1980. Koror: Palau Community Action Agency.

Nero, Karen L. and Faustina Rehuher (1993). Workers and servants: the internationalization of Palauan households. Unpublished paper.

Rehuher, Faustina (1993). Pursuing the dream: Historial perspectives on Micronesian movement patterns. In A world perspective on Pacific Islands migration: Australia, New Zealand and the USA, Grant McCall and John Connell (eds.), Centre for South Pacific Studies, University of New South Wales, Research in Pacific Studies Monograph No. 6.

Peacock, Daniel J. (1954). Survey of Palauan students studying on the island of Guam. Manuscript on File at the Asia/Pacific Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Rehuher, Faustina (1989). Daughters for the return home: Palauan women in transition in Hawaii colleges and universities. Unpublished M.A. thesis. Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Schwalbenberg, Henry (1984). Micronesians on the move: Guam or Hawaii? Truk: Micronesian Seminar, Memorandum No. 12.

Shewman, Richard D. (1979). Melukl mora Guam: A study of the Palauans as an ethnic group on Guam. Unpublished M.A. Thesis. Mangilao: University of Guam.

Shewman, Richard D. (1981). Ethnic institutions and identity: Palauan migrants on Guam. Micronesica 17: 1-2.

Shewman, Richard D. (1983). Palauan Social Structure. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Solenberger, R. R. (1953). The social and cultural position of Micronesian minorities on Guam. Noumea: South Pacific Commission Technical Paper No. 49.

Tkel-Sbal, Debbie S. (1992). The Palauan child. A teacher's resource. (Ngalek er a Belau. Ngeso el mo er a sensei.). Mangilao, Guam: The BEAM Center, University of Guam.

Udui, Feliciano E. (1982). Country Statement: Republic of Palau. ESCAP/SPC Conference Seminar on Population Problems of Small Island Countries of the ESCAP/SPC Region.

U.S. Bureau of Census (1990). 1990 Census of population and housing, social, economic, and housing characteristics: Republic of Palau. CPH-6-P

Vitarelli, Margo (1981). A Pacific islands migration study: Palauans in Hawaii. Unpublished paper.



by Francis X. hezel, SJ, Michael J. Levin

Critical to any discussion of the impact of migration to Guam are the facts: How many islanders are here; how many are coming annually? If the Government of Guam is to be compensated by the federal government for the financial costs of services to the Compact migrants, the precise statistics are even more critical. Even the casual reader will be puzzled by the conflicting claims, figures and statistics. F.X.Hezel and Michael Levin here present the latest statistics and their trend analysis. This article is condensed from the original which appeared in Pacific Studies, Vol. 19, March 1996.


The first significant emigration from the Federated States of Micronesia began in the years following the implementation of the Compact of Free Association in 1986, as hundreds of FSM citizens left for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands [CNMI].(19) Micronesians had settled in Hawaii and the mainland US even before the implementation of the Compact, but always sporadically and in small numbers.

The explanation of the outflow, at least in its earliest years, is simple. Citizens of FSM, disappointed at the lack of employment at home, left in search of the many jobs available on Guam and CNMI. These islands were enjoying an economic boom fueled by a surge in Japanese tourism. Guam was the preferred destination of migrants, but some moved to Saipan to join relatives and take work in the expanding garment industry. The proximity of Guam and Saipan to FSM allowed migrants to visit their home islands frequently. Some of the migrant laborers maintained such close social bonds with their families and communities that they were virtually commuters (Rubinstein & Levin 1992: 351). Those who left had the freedom to return home permanently, with little or no rupture of kinship ties, if personal circumstances demanded. The Compact of Free Association, which permitted Micronesians free entry into the US and its territories, removed the last immigration barricade. At the same time, the Compact signalled the beginning of the reduction of the large US subsidies to which Micronesia had become accustomed since the 1960s. So it was that island peoples who had never in recent memory experienced a sizable outflow of population, peoples once described as possessing a "homing instinct," initiated their tentative, purposeful migration northward (Hezel & Levin 1989: 43).

Increase in Migration

Surveys show that 4,954 FSM citizens were residing on Guam in 1992 and 2,261 were living in the Northern Marianas in 1993.(20)

The FSM population on Guam, already about 1,700 two years after the Compact of Free Association was implemented, numbered 4,954 by 1992 and was estimated at about 6,330 in 1994 (See Table 1). In the Northern Marianas the FSM-born population increased by 29 percent, from 1,754 to 2,261, between 1990 and 1993 and was estimated at 2,420 in 1994. Growth of the migrant community there has been much slower than on Guam. Table 1 shows the projected size of the migrant population from each state on Guam and CNMI in 1994.

Table 1: Estimated FSM-born Population in Guam and the CNMI by State of Origin, 1994

  FSM Chuuk Pohnpei Yap Kosrae
Total 8,750 5,900 1,800 750 300
Guam 6,330 4,770 1,000 320 240
CNMI 2,420 1,130 800 430 60

Source: Authors' projections.

The growth of FSM migration to Guam by state between 1988 and 1992 is graphed in Figure 1. Migrants from Chuuk State, who have outnumbered the other three states (Pohnpei, Kosrae and Yap) combined, constituted 72 percent of the total FSM population on Guam in the fall of 1992. As the graph indicates, the flow of Chuukese migrants to Guam has been linear, with the Chuukese population there growing by almost 600 a year.

The Pohnpeian community's growth, unlike that of the Chuukese, has not been steady and progressive. While Pohnpeians have continued migrating to Guam year by year, the number moving there each year did not increase between 1990 and 1992. There were roughly 180 Pohnpeians a year who first entered Guam during this period. The data are not robust enough to determine a reliable growth rate, but it appears that migration from Pohnpei has slowed down during the first six years following the Compact. We can only make a crude estimate that in 1994 the Pohnpeian population on Guam must have been a little more than 1000.

Figure 1: Emigration from the Federated States of Micronesia to Guam by state of origin, 1988-1992.

migration graph

The size of the Yapese migrant population on Guam has hovered at a little more than 300 between 1990 and 1992). The number of Yapese arrivals in more recent years has remained steady at 50-60 a year, with many of the new migrants presumably offset by those returning to their home islands. The Yapese community on Guam has shown no signs of expansion in the 1990's.

The Kosraean population on Guam is growing slowly, but the data do not furnish a basis for reliable prediction of future growth, however.

Table 2 shows the resident population of each state of FSM, as recorded in the 1994 census, alongside the total estimated size of its migrant population on Guam and in CNMI. The table also shows the percentage of the total population that has emigrated to the northern islands since the Compact and the approximate annual migration rate.

* * * * * * * * * *

Table 2: FSM Resident Population and Migrant Population (in Guam and the CNMI)in 1994, with Migrants as Percentage of Total FSM-born Population and Yearly Migration Rate.

FSM Total 105,146 8,750 113,896 7.7 1.0
Chuuk 53,292 5,900 59,192 10.0 1.2
Pohnpei 33,372 1,800 35,172 5.1 0.6
Yap 11,128 750 11,878 6.3 0.8
Kosrae 7,354 300 7,654  3.9 0.5

Sources: FSM 1995; Table 2

A full ten percent of the entire Chuuk-born population was living in Guam and the Northern Marianas in 1994, and there is every reason to believe that the 1.2 percent annual emigration rate will continue in the years to come. The preliminary 1994 FSM Census figures show no evidence of a decline in the fertility rate in Chuuk, and Chuuk's economy is unlikely to take an upswing. The annual growth rate of the resident population in Chuuk for the intercensal period of 1989-1994 was 2.3 percent despite the fact that its migration rate of 1.2 percent was the highest in FSM.

The annual net out-migration rates from the other states were lower, ranging from 0.5 percent for Kosrae and 0.6 percent for Pohnpei to 0.8 percent for Yap. These figures reflect the lower annual growth rates of the population in these states, and perhaps the slightly better economic conditions there as well.

An estimated 8,750 FSM citizens resided on Guam and CNMI in 1994 (see Table 1), representing 7.7 percent of the entire FSM-born population. The emigration rate for FSM between 1986 and 1994 was about one percent a year.

Composition of Migrant Populations

The earliest FSM migrants to Guam were predominantly young males in search of jobs. Many of the original households were inherently unstable, composed as they were of several young men in their 20s or 30s working at low-paying jobs and pooling their income to cover rent and other expenses (Hezel & McGrath 1989: 58-60). In the absence of a viable authority structure and generational depth, such "peer-group households," as Rubinstein terms them, were continually "dissolving and reforming, with new arrivals coming moving in, others moving out" (Rubinstein 1993: 260). Rubinstein went on to note the gradual evolution of this fragile type of household into more typically Micronesian forms. In the second stage of the pattern Rubinstein identified on Guam, two-generation households emerged around a nuclear family, but they contained a potpourri of loosely related kin and friends. In the final stages, the members of the household were selected according to the kinship principles normative back home, and grandparents or other older people were added, giving the household important generational depth (Rubinstein 1993: 260-261).

Guam has had a broad range of migrant households, extending from "peer-group households" to the much more stable types that mirror social organization in the migrants' home islands. Gender and age distribution of migrants on Guam and CNMI offer strong hints about how far households in each place have advanced on Rubinstein's spectrum.

The overall ratio of males to females among FSM migrants on Guam is 132:100. Thus, in 1992 there were about four FSM males for every three females. Surprisingly, the preponderance of males on Guam increased since 1990, when the ratio was 121 males per hundred females (Rubinstein & Levin 1992: 354). Males outnumbered females on Guam among the migrants from every state, but the imbalance was greatest for Yap and Kosrae, which approached a ratio of two males for each female. For Chuuk and Pohnpei, the ratio was highest for the outer islands of both places and for Faichuk.

In the CNMI, on the other hand, the ratio was reversed and women outnumbered men. Only among Kosraeans and Yapese were males more numerous, and even among them the ratio was much lower than on Guam. While the higher percentage of women in the Northern Marianas might be attributed in part to employment that the garment industry offers women, it could also indicate the relatively high degree of normality found in composition of the migrant households there. The data on age distribution in the Marianas, as we shall see, supports the latter interpretation. Our assumption, of course, is that equal numbers by sex and a broader age spread reflect a normal demographic pattern and suggest that migrant households are beginning to resemble households back home.

Age distribution is a further index of the stability of migrant households, since the presence of children and older persons to fill out the normal family unit usually indicates readiness to settle into their new homeland for a long duration. By this index, migrants in CNMI show a much greater degree of stability than those on Guam.

To gauge the extent to which migrant communities on Guam and CNMI have been normalized, we can look at the changes in the age distribution in both places between 1990 and 1992/1993. On Guam no appreciable reduction occurred in the relative size of the 15-29 age cohort, the largest among migrant communities inasmuch as it comprised the workers. This age cohort, which represented 51 percent of all migrants on Guam in 1990, still contained 50 percent in 1992. During the same two years, the size of the elderly population on Guam remained the same, while the percentage of children on Guam fell slightly--from 22 to 20 percent.

In the CNMI, on the other hand, the size of the 15-29 age cohort dropped from 44 percent to 34 percent over the three-year period 1990-1993. During the same period, the percentage of children rose sharply from 20 to 30 percent, and the over-60 age bracket showed a slight increase (5 to 8 percent).

Probably the most striking measure of the contrast between Guam and CNMI is in the dependency ratio--that is, the number of dependents (children and elderly) per hundred workers. While Guam's dependency ratio dropped slightly, from 31 dependents for every 100 workers to 27, the ratio in CNMI nearly doubled. It rose from 33 to nearly 62 in three years, indicating a substantial increase in the number of non-working members of FSM households. The data convincingly show that the FSM migrant community in CNMI was being rapidly transformed during these years, while the FSM community on Guam showed little evidence of parallel changes. It would appear that migrant households in CNMI are much further along the road of normalization and stabilization than are Guam's.


The average education of the migrant from FSM was substantially poorer than that of the general population in CNMI and Guam in 1990. While 73 percent of the Guam population over the age of 24 had a high school diploma, only 62 percent of the FSM citizens on Guam did. The gap was slightly greater in CNMI, where 66 percent of the general population had finished high school, compared with only 47 percent of FSM citizens. The difference in the college-educated was even greater: the percentage of the FSM born with college degrees was only about one-third that of the general population in both places. This relatively low level of educational attainment explains why FSM migrants have usually held entry level jobs (eg, security guards, chambermaids, seamstresses, waiters and cooks), even after several years abroad.

The comparison between the educational level of migrants and the resident FSM population is more illuminating. Since the older age cohorts, under-represented in the migrant communities, have had fewer opportunities for schooling inasmuch as many were raised during Japanese times, we selected only a mid-range age group (25-44) in an effort to make the comparison more valid. Migrant communities in CNMI and Guam had a significantly greater percentage of those who had obtained their high school diplomas. Fully 53 percent of all FSM citizens on Guam and nearly 59 percent in CNMI had finished high school, compared with less than 40 percent of the FSM resident population in 1994. As we progress up the educational ladder, however, the figures lean in the other direction. The percentage of those who had some college but did not finish their degree was roughly the same in all three populations, while the rate of college degree holders in the FSM was much higher than in either of the migrant communities abroad. Nearly 12 percent of all FSM residents aged 25-44 had either Associate or Bachelor degrees, whereas only 4 percent of FSM migrants on Guam and about 3 percent of those in CNMI had such degrees.

These data reveal that the outflow of migrants to Guam and CNMI cannot be called a "brain drain" in the usual sense of that term. They also confirm the authors' suspicion that those Micronesians with the best degrees, and thus the brightest prospects for employment, will remain in the FSM and take the best jobs (Hezel & McGrath 1989: 62). Those who have left home characteristically have been those with a high school diploma, or perhaps a year or two of college, who would be entering the labor pool in the FSM without the kind of credentials that would have given them the competitive edge in the battle for employment.


Figures from 1990 indicate that Micronesian participation in the labor force on Guam was comparable to that of the general population on the island. Close to 70 percent of all FSM-born migrants were either working or seeking employment at the time, whatever their original reason may have been for moving to Guam. In CNMI there was an appreciable difference in participation in the labor force: 64 percent of FSM migrants versus 82 percent of the general population. The Micronesian participation in the labor force in CNMI was lower than for Guam because of the higher ratio of dependents in CNMI, as we have already seen, while the very high rate of participation of the general population there can be explained by the great number of foreign-born workers on the island.

Unemployment was higher among FSM migrants who entered the labor force than among the general Guam and CNMI population. Eight to 10 percent of FSM-born seeking employment were unemployed, compared to under 4 percent of the Guam labor force and 2 percent of the CNMI labor force. Inasmuch as Micronesians were new arrivals and many were still looking for work or were between jobs, the higher unemployment rate is not surprising.

The common perception in the past year or two is that fewer FSM migrants now come to Guam to work; many simply wish to educate their children in Guam's schools or take advantage of the munificent welfare benefits that the island offers. The data would seem to offer some support for this perception, although we should recall that the early 1990's was a slack economic period for Guam because of the Japanese recession, several serious typhoons and a downturn in tourism. The percentage of adult Micronesians on Guam who were employed decreased from 62 percent to 56 percent between 1990 and 1992. It is unlikely that this drop in employment among migrants can be ascribed mainly to Guam's economic troubles, since total island employment rose by 24 percent during this same two-year period (Territory of Guam 1993).

The decrease of employed FSM migrants in CNMI during roughly the same period has been much smaller; the percentage of employed adults was down from 58 to 56 percent. We can expect this downward trend in employment to continue as migrants reconstitute their households and bring in an increasingly large number of housewives and older people who will not enter the labor force.


The 2,185 FSM-born persons working on Guam in 1992 were making an average of $6.43 an hour, a figure that was $2.18 above the minimum wage at the time but significantly lower than the $8.61 average hourly wage of Guam private sector employees and the $16.91 average of those employed by the government (Territory of Guam 1993). Although the salaries of migrants were low, their cumulative earnings were significant and could have considerable impact on the FSM economy. If we assume that all were working full time (that is, 2,000 hours a year), the total annual wages earned by FSM migrants would have come to about $28 million.

There were 825 FSM citizens working in CNMI in 1993 for an average hourly wage of $6.30. If they averaged about 2000 work hours during the year, their annual earnings would total more than $10 million.

Five or six dollars an hour can seem like a regal salary to the islander who has just arrived from a place where the minimum wage may be little more than a dollar an hour. In fact, the high salaries to be made on Guam and in the Northern Marianas are one of the main attractions of these places. Nonetheless, the average Micronesian salary is small by Guam or Saipan standards, and most migrants find themselves hard pressed to stretch their take home pay enough to provide all the necessities, especially in view of the high cost of housing, the need to buy all their food, and the outlay they are required to make for suitable clothes in the work place. Indeed, the 1990 US Census revealed that about 59 percent of the migrants in CNMI and 51 percent of those on Guam were classified as living at or below the US poverty level. We may safely assume that these figures did not change much in the past two or three years.


With the new jobs on Guam and in CNMI has come a substantial amount of additional income for FSM citizens. We need only recall that in 1992 FSM-born migrants earned an estimated $28 million on Guam and in 1993 another $10 million in CNMI. The remittances that economic planners have been anticipating since the beginning of the outflow have been slow in coming due to the migrants' set-up needs on Guam and in CNMI. Hitherto, the major benefits those at home received from their relatives abroad were the cases of frozen chicken and boxes of secondhand clothing that were being shipped back regularly.

Finally, after several years of population outflow, we have begun to see the first clear sign of monetary remittances. The 1994 FSM Census has provided us with our first measure of the magnitude of remittances to Micronesia. In FSM as a whole, 3,290 households, or 14.7 percent of all households in the nation, reported receiving remittances. The income from remittances reported everywhere in FSM totaled $1,260,000. Remittances constituted nearly 15 percent of the total income of the households reporting them, according to the 1994 FSM Census. It appears that remittances have become a significant source of income for families remaining in FSM.

In Chuuk, a populous state with a depressed economy, few jobs and a plethora of its people abroad, remittances have had a particularly great impact. About 29 percent of the households, or twice that of the FSM as a whole, reported receiving remittances. The total dollar figure put on the remittances Chuukese received in 1994 was about $950,000, more than three-quarters of the total reported remittances for FSM (FSM Census 1995).


The migration rate from FSM, which has been rather steady since 1986, shows no signs of falling off in the immediate future. The outflow from Pohnpei and Kosrae has slowed down between 1990 and 1992, and the Yapese stream was diverted to the Northern Marianas, but emigration from Chuuk, which supplies about two-thirds of the migrant pool, has continued unabated. In view of the high total fertility rate (over 6 children) recorded for Chuuk in the recent FSM Census, we can expect Chuukese emigration either to maintain its present level or to increase, unless the governments of Guam and CNMI intervene.

Over the first six years of the Compact period (1986-1992), the average annual migrant outflow was about a thousand persons, or one percent of the FSM resident population per year. In all likelihood, this rate will not be reduced significantly in the near future. By the year 2000, at the present rate, there will be 10,000 FSM people on Guam, including more than 8,000 Chuukese.

We know from census items that the traffic to Guam and CNMI is not one-way; considerable back migration occurs, that is, return of former emigrants to their original home. Indeed, much of the appeal of Guam and CNMI, in contrast to Hawaii or mainland US, is the ease and inexpensiveness of a return trip to one's home island in FSM. The extent of back migration has yet to be adequately measured, however.

The data for 1992-1993 reviewed in this article reveal some pronounced differences between the FSM migrant communities on Guam and in the Northern Marianas. The households in CNMI were rapidly filling out with dependents--women, children and the elderly--and were evidently well on the way to full reconstitution as normal Micronesian households. Although no strong evidence exists that this was happening on Guam, the data provide hints of the ways in which the Micronesian community there was being transformed between 1990 and 1992. The drop in employment rate among Guam migrants suggests that more migrants are choosing not to enter the labor force. We can expect that in future years the size and pattern of the households of FSM born will continue to develop along the lines of the model elucidated by Rubinstein.

A comparison of the educational achievement of migrants with the resident FSM population explodes the myth of a "brain drain" from FSM since the implementation of the Compact. Contrary to what we read in the academic and popular press, FSM is not being deprived of its most valuable human resources through migration. The best educated of FSM citizens, those with college degrees, generally stayed home to take their pick of jobs on their own island. Meanwhile, the unemployed high school graduates without the skills or educational attainment to compete for jobs at home left to take advantage of the job market on Guam and CNMI. By and large, they took jobs having little appeal for local people and lack the background to advance beyond these entry-level occupations. Far from being a "brain drain," out-migration is a spillway for excess bodies in the labor pool--that is, those who would be unemployable at home.

The total income earned by migrants on Guam and CNMI is estimated at more than $38 million a year during the period studied and ought to be well over $40 million by now. This represents a substantial sum of money, given the present feeble condition of FSM's economy. The remittances that were recorded in 1994 for the first time signal a change in direction of the dollar tide; the money has at last begun to flow inward rather than outward and the remittances of $1.26 million last year should increase in years to come.

The data on the short period between the 1990 census and the surveys on Guam and CNMI a few years later are less significant for the numbers they record than the trends they reveal. Not only are the extent and rate of the FSM population outflow more precisely defined, but the changing patterns of household composition and other features of life in the migrants' destinations are taking clearer shape. In a word, the survey data offer us a surer base from which to project migration and its attendant consequences on FSM and the destinations to the north in years to come.


Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (1994). Survey of Micronesians in the CNMI. Report from CNMI Central Statistics Division.

Connell, John (1991). The New Micronesia: Pitfalls and problems of dependent development. Pacific Studies 14(2): 87-120.

[FSM] Federated States of Micronesia, National Census Office (1995). 1994 FSM Census of Population and Housing: Preliminary Counts. Office of Planning and Statistics, FSM, Pohnpei.

Hezel, Francis X., and Michael J. Levin (1989). Micronesian Emigration: The Brain Drain in Palau, Marshalls, and the Federated States. In Migration and Development in the South Pacific, ed. John Connell (Canberra: Australian National University), 42-60.

Hezel, Francis X., and Thomas B. McGrath (1989). The Great Flight Northward: FSM Migration to Guam. Pacific Studies 13(1): 47-64.

Rubinstein, Donald H. (1990). Coming to America: Micronesian Newcomers in Guam. Paper presented at the College of Arts and Sciences Research Conference, University of Guam, March 5.

Rubinstein, Donald H. (1991). The Future of Micronesian Migration to Guam. Paper prepared for the XVII Pacific Science Congress, 27 May to 2 June, session on The Future of Migration in the Pacific and Asia. Unpublished.

Rubinstein, Donald H. (1993). Movements in Micronesia: Post-Compact (1987) Micronesian Migrants to Guam and Saipan. In A World Perspective on Pacific Islander Migration: Australia, New Zealand and the USA, ed. Grant McCall and John Connell (Centre for South Pacific Studies, University of New South Wales), 259-263.

Rubinstein, Donald H., and Michael J. Levin (1992). Micronesian Migration to Guam: Social and Economic Characteristics. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 1(2): 350-385.

Smith, Kyle D. (1994). A Survey of Micronesian Immigrants to Guam: Predictors of Coping and Access to Life Essentials. Micronesian Language Institute, University of Guam.

Territory of Guam, Department of Labor (1993). Current Employment Report: December 1992. Prepared by Gary A. Hiles. Guam.

University of Guam (1992). Micronesian Census: Guam 1992. Produced by University of Guam in cooperation with Government of Guam Bureau of Planning. Unpublished.


Mac Marshall

This study was originally presented at the 1996 annual ASAO meetings (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania). Marshall has traced the histories of the Namoluk migrants since his field work on Namoluk in early 1970s and so offers us both the longitudinal, historical depth and the focus on a single atoll community. More narrowly focused than either the studies of Ken Hezel or Kyle Smith, Marshall's work complements their work and fills in that detail which only a community study can offer.


When the Compact of Free Association between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM was implemented in November 1986, it provided among other things for FSM citizens to enter the USA and its possessions without visas and to live and work there indefinitely. The Territory of Guam is only a little over an hour's flight from Chuuk by jet, and Guam's economy has boomed over most of the past decade: "The number of private sector jobs in Guam increased nearly 62 percent between 1987 and 1991, from 24,000 to 43,077" (Eastly 1995: 44-45). This combination of proximity and wage employment has made Guam an especially attractive destination for FSM citizens, particularly those from Chuuk State who make up almost 75 percent of the migrants (Hezel and Levin 1996: 95).

Over the past decade Guam has been a destination of choice for many FSM nationals, especially those from Chuuk State, which itself comprised half of the total 1994 FSM population of 105,506. During approximately 2 months from March to May 1995 I conducted short-term fieldwork in the FSM. One part of this research extended my work with the people of Namoluk Atoll begun in 1969 and which has continued off and on over the past 27 years. I completed a full census of the Namoluk population, including the location of each individual in April 1995. This census showed a significant new development from my last Namoluk census in 1985, approximately a year before the Compact took effect: 16 percent of the total Namoluk ethnic population(21) was on Guam--the third largest concentration of Namoluk people anywhere. In this paper I refer to these Namoluk people on Guam as chon Guamoluk. I did not have an opportunity to interview all of them during the 8 days I was in Guam in May 1995, but have been able to construct a reasonably thorough portrait of this population.

The Pros and Cons of Guam for FSM Migrants

There are multiple reasons why Guam is a desirable migrant destination for people from the FSM, including chon Guamoluk. Foremost among these is that Guam offers many employment opportunities, including jobs for persons without a great deal of education. While a few Chon Guamoluk are schoolteachers or hold other white-collar positions, most of them work in the tourist hotels (as cooks, chambermaids and security guards), in fast-food restaurants, or for construction or landscaping firms. These jobs pay at least the U.S. minimum wage (and most pay more), which is nearly four times as much as could be earned on Weene for similar private sector work. Thus, while the cost of living on Guam is higher than in Chuuk, wages are significantly higher and extended family living with at least some shared expenses makes Guam economically attractive.

Another reason Guam attracts FSM citizens, especially those from Chuuk State, is its proximity. The flight from Weno to Guam is just over an hour, and there are weekly discounted fares on Continental Air Micronesia that make it possible to return for periodic visits or to participate in life crisis events.

A third reason that FSM nationals migrate to Guam is that it is on a smaller scale and presents a more familiar physical environment than Hawaii or, especially, the U.S. mainland. Persons from Chuuk, Pohnpei or Yap find many others from their home areas on Guam and people on Guam know where these places in the FSM are (unlike Americans on the mainland). Also, Guam's climate and ocean are similar to the other parts of Micronesia from which FSM migrants come.

Finally, Guam represents "the modern world" to people from the FSM in a very real sense. More than any of the urban centers of the FSM, Guam has miles of paved roads. Guam has K-Mart and large shopping malls, fast food franchises ranging from McDonalds to the Sizzler to Little Caesar's Pizza, a large and growing tourist sector with numerous fancy, high-rise hotels and golf courses. Guam also has a regional university, and public schools that are seen by migrants as much better than those back in the FSM. Dozens of commercial flights wing in and out of Guam's still-growing international airport, even as the number of U.S. military flights has declined in recent years. FSM children raised on Guam grow up watching American television, talking with their friends on the telephone, using computers at school, speaking English most of the time, and developing a worldly social sophistication in a diverse ethnic situation very like that found in Hawaii.

By comparison with these perceived advantages, Guam's drawbacks are few, although they are significant nonetheless. Probably the chief drawback at present is the political fuss that has been made by some politicians on Guam over the Compact impact. As part of their effort to wrest more funds from the U.S. federal government (as was promised when the Compact was signed), these politicians have threatened to cut off various kinds of social services to FSM immigrants. Were these threats to be actually carried out they would affect chon Guamoluk most seriously in their access to Guam's public schools and in the availability of services to the medically indigent at Guam Memorial hospital.

A second drawback, somewhat related to the first, is the prejudice surrounding the stereotype of the "Micronesian" that has developed on Guam in the post-Compact years.(22) Reminiscent of negative stereotypes that have bedeviled recent immigrants to other parts of the world, that of "Micronesian" on Guam is similar to the stereotype Samoans have had to endure in New Zealand and Hawaii (Shankman 1993).

Another disadvantage of Guam is that it is very expensive, even by first-world standards. Consequently, despite earning higher wages than in the FSM, and even though they share many costs and live in households with multiple wage earners, many FSMers find it hard to make ends meet on Guam, let alone get ahead. Like first generation migrants the world over, however, they dream of a better future for their children in their new "promised land."

Finally, Guam is not the most pleasant of physical environments, and this is particularly so in comparison to such places as Pohnpei or Yap (not to mention the outer islands). Guam is hotter and more humid than the FSM, its infrastructure often breaks down particularly the electrical system), it is noisy, crowded and dusty. Crime is a greater problem than in the FSM, and traffic often reaches gridlock on Marine Drive. When faced with such things daily, chon Guamoluk often talk longingly of home. But most, of them only talk, and few of them return home permanently.


As part of a major movement of FSM citizens to Guam during the decade since the Compact of Free Association was implemented in late 1986, chon Guamoluk have grown into the largest overseas concentration of Namoluk people outside of Chuuk State. Moreover, there are compelling reasons to think that their numbers will continue to increase as the economic situation in Chuuk further deteriorates, and if the economic boom on Guam is sustained. Chon Guamoluk have created an ethnic community on Guam, although it seems less clearly defined than the overseas communities formed by Samoans in New Zealand and the USA about which so much has been written (e.g., Shankman 1993).

My prediction is that as more Guamoluk take non-Chuuk spouses on Guam, such nontraditional marriages will raise the likelihood of permanent residence there. The limited data I have suggest that such a process has begun, but at least another 5 years will be required before it can be determined if this pattern will be the wave of the future for chon Guamoluk.


Eastly, Michael (1995). Guam--Maturing visitor industry brings reorientation. Tourism in the Pacific Islands: Where is it now? Where is it going? Special Report-Part 2. Pacific Magazine 20(5): 43-46.

Hezel, Francis X. and Michael J. Levin (1996). New Trends in Micronesian migration: FSM migration to Guam and the Marianas, 1990-1993. Pacific Studies 19(1): 91-114.

Marshall, Mac (1975). Changing patterns of marriage and migration on Namoluk Atoll. In Pacific Atoll populations, ed. Vern Carroll. ASAO Monograph No. 3: 160-211. Honolulu: University Press

Shankman, Paul (1993). The Samoan Exodus. In Contemporary Pacific Society: Studies in Development and Change, edited by V. Lockwood, T. Harding & B.J. Wallace, 156-170. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


The Editors

Kyle D. Smith is Associate of Psychology at the University of Guam and in 1994 published, under grant from the Department of Interior, "A survey of Micronesian immigrants to Guam: Predictors of coping and access to life essentials." The results of this highly statistical survey were used by Father Kenneth Hezel, S.J., the Catholic Chaplain at the University's Campus Ministry, as the basis of a broader, less statistically oriented convenience survey. Father Hezel is fluent in Chuukese with a quarter of a century of experience living and working in the Chuuk Lagoon and on Ulithi. He has become the de facto Catholic chaplain for the large Caroline-speaking population on Guam. We find it significant that the two surveys from two radically different sources so complement one another. We have gleaned here only a fraction of the information contained in the two surveys.

In 1992-1993, Smith surveyed 235 recent immigrants to Guam from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), using structured interviews to identify their needs and the resources available to meet those needs. When asked to list their unresolved problems, the immigrants most often indicated lack of affordable housing and high prices in general as the most serious problem. Crowded living conditions and transportation problems were ranked third and fourth in severity in this spontaneous listing by the respondents. Table 1 ranks the severity assigned to the 18 top problems.

Table 1: Ranking of Severity of Potential Problems

Problem                                 Percent Mentioning

Finding affordable housing 43.78 
Not enough money or prices too high 20.69
Crowded living conditions 20.35
Transportation 19.13
Not able to find or keep a job 18.61
Getting a driver's license 15.09
Not able to speak English well enough 13.42
Not knowing Guam's laws 12.07
Enrolling in Fed. asst. programs 11.74
Inadequate treatment for med.problems 11.69
Trouble getting education 7.86
Unsanitary/unsafe living conditions 7.79
Loss of feeling of community 5.63
Harassment by other ethnic groups 5.63
Automobile accidents 5.19
Damage from typhoons 3.90
Separation from friends or family 3.04
Victimization by crime 2.60

Source: Smith 1994: 8

Not unexpectedly, men and women ranked the severity of the problems differently. Men rated affordable housing, crowed living conditions and not enough money as more serious than women did. Women regularly rated one problem as more serious than the men did: getting an education for oneself or one's children (Smith 1994: 20).

It is interesting that long-time residents of Guam (of whatever ethnicity) listed many of the same concerns as the difficulties faced by the immigrants themselves: housing problems, living conditions, culture shock, prejudice, finding and keeping a job, language barriers, financial problems, understanding the legal system, lack of education, and transportation (Turk Smith 1994: 10). Local residents are certainly aware of the problems facing the migrants.

Smith's survey next proceeds to have the migrant interviewees evaluate the perceived problems. Two questions dealing with jobs and money are particularly indicative of migrants' feelings about their new conditions. In response to Question #18, "Overall, would you say that your income relative to the cost of living is better on Guam than in . . . . , worse or about the same?", a majority (56.36%) answered better or much better. 22.22% said "the same," and 21.26% said worse or much worse (Smith 1994: Appendix A, no page). Fewer migrants admitted that the Guam job market met their expectations: 40.28% thought the outlook was better than expected; 38.39% thought the outlook for job-seekers was about the same as their expectations (Ibid.).

Hezel, on the other hand, broadened Smith's income related question and asked his convenience sample of Chuuk migrants, "Overall, would you say that the welfare of you and your family is better on Guam than in your home state, or worse or about the same?" (K Hezel 1994: 1) A clear majority indicated that their welfare was better on Guam. However, when asked "Are you better off overall here than in your home state?" 80% said they were worse off--mostly because of the difficulty of keeping up with the cost of living. On the other hand, when Hezel's respondent were asked "Do you expect to return home after 1, 3, 5, 10 years?" only one said after one year and several said after 5 or 10 years (1994: 23-24). Despite the apparent contradiction in the answers given Hezel, the ultimate test of satisfaction on Guam is staying or returning. Or, as Hezel puts it, "People will vote with their feet" (1994: 24).

So, the surveys from the scientist and the chaplain really do agree that despite the severity of the problems encountered on Guam, most migrants find themselves sufficiently financially better off to stay on Guam.


Hezel, Kenneth (1994). Impact of Guam and Saipan on Micronesian Migrants. Unpublished paper. On file at Micronesian Seminar, Pohnpei, FSM.

Turk Smith, Sedya (1993). Attitudes of long-term residents of Guam toward the immigrants from the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Mangilao, Guam: Micronesian Language Institute, University of Guam.

Smith, Kyle D. (1994). A survey of Micronesian immigrants to Guam: Predictors of coping and access to life essentials. Mangilao, Guam: Micronesian Language Institute, University of Guam.


Michael J. Levin & L. J. Gorenflo

With this article we shift the migration focus from the impact on the new home and island to the impact on the migrant's place of origin. Eauripik represents one of the most geographically and historically isolated atolls in Micronesia. As such it becomes, as Levin and Gorenflo state, an extremely useful laboratory for studying the cumulative effects of individual decisions in maintaining and changing a nearly closed socioeconomic system. This article is also different from all others in this issue because Levin and Gorenflo situate migration within the total island ecosystem of natural resources, imported goods, and off-island education. The article is important because it answers how one small atoll maintains or does not maintain its population stability, resources and cultural integrity. The original field work for this study began in 1973 and was originally presented in a paper at the American Anthropological Association meetings in 1982. Reprinted here is only a portion of a much expanded version published in Isla in 1994. The contents of this article reflect that long-term perspective on Micronesia characteristic of all the other contributions in this issue. The ideas have had time to gestate, mature and meet the test of criticism.

In this article we explore cultural adaptation on Eauripik, a small coralline atoll in the eastern portion of Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Like many places in Micronesia, Eauripik is located far from the nearest inhabited island. Moreover, Eauripik is an atoll, a geological setting characterized by extremely limited land area and similarly limited terrestrial resources. Finally, like most of the Outer Islands in Yap State, Eauripik has stubbornly maintained much of its traditional way of life; outside culture has managed to make inroads on the atoll only recently, and then in a very limited way. Because of its relative geographical and cultural isolation for most of its history, Eauripik has been free of many of the complexities found elsewhere, enabling a clearer examination of adaptive strategies and associated mechanisms of population control.

The Natural and Historical Setting

The limited productivity of atolls in general presents major challenges to human adaptation. Eauripik Atoll supports even fewer plant and animal species than most atolls because of a combination of the above factors and the lack of protection from salinity (especially salt spray) due to the small size of its islets. Nevertheless, several plants on Eauripik Atoll provide food for human consumption. The most economically important plant on Eauripik is the coconut palm, supplemented by banana plants, breadfruit trees, Crataeva speciosa trees (called apuch on Eauripik and yafuch elsewhere in the Carolines), and giant swamp taro.

Terrestrial fauna on Eauripik provide little food for atoll residents. Although Islanders consume pigs, chickens, dogs, and birds found on the atoll, the small land area limits their numbers.

As did atoll dwellers throughout Micronesia, the inhabitants of Eauripik oriented much of their lives in the past, including their subsistence activities, toward the ocean. Today atoll residents collect shellfish, octopus, and lobster from the lagoon; however, the dominant subsistence resource from the sea is fish, from both the lagoon and the open ocean. Islanders consume dozens of different types. Certain species of fish are seasonal. Skipjack and yellowfin tuna, for instance, usually are not present in large numbers during summer months. But atoll residents exploit other types of fish and other marine life to compensate for the reduced presence of a particular species at a certain time of the year.

Europeans knew of Eauripik by 1728 through others' accounts about Pacific Islanders (Cantova 1728: 211), but non-Micronesians did not actually sight the atoll until 1791 (Riesenberg 1974). Interaction with non-Micronesians, which in other parts of the region caused substantial demographic change, occurred relatively late on Eauripik. Atoll residents saw little of non-Micronesians for nearly two centuries following Eauripik's first contact with the West, despite being officially claimed (as a consequence of its location in the Caroline Islands) by a succession of nations from beyond Oceania.

Oral histories indicate that people abandoned Eauripik Atoll during the 1850s following a devastating typhoon. Only after atoll vegetation began to regenerate did repopulation occur, with three individuals initiating the subsequent colonization. By 1907 there were 82 persons living on Eauripik. The atoll population continued to increase until the late 1960s, after which, in contrast to much of the Pacific during this period, it declined (Taeuber 1963: 227).

Demographic Processes and Adaptation to an Atoll Environment

Marriage practices contribute a great deal to reduced fertility on Eauripik Atoll. Young atoll dwellers delay marriage, in part because of the Catholic church's insistence that Outer Islanders do not marry persons genealogically closer than third cousins and in part because of changes in cultural behavior among young adults. The delayed age at marriage is the most important factor in decreasing the birth rates of young Eauripik females.

Young men from Eauripik also delay marriage. During earlier times young men spent years learning and participating in such activities as canoe building, navigation, and healing. Most of these activities required sexual abstinence for long periods and did not provide opportunities to marry, thus inadvertently serving as a means of birth control. In addition, in the past many young men took a trip as part of the transition to manhood. This practice continues today, and many young men join the crews of passing ships to fish or haul cargo for several years before they return to Eauripik to marry, start a family, and join the adult community. Most males eventually take a wife. In contrast to females born during the 1940s and 1950s, only three males born during these years had not married by 1980 (US Bureau of the Census 1983a).

One particularly important cultural practice that influences Eauripik demography is migration. Although practiced during earlier eras as well, emigration increased substantially under the US administration, with the introduction of modern technology for travel over water and the ships that passed between various islands in Yap State greatly facilitating interisland travel. In addition to the trips taken by young men, mentioned above, emigration often occurred for purposes of marriage to persons from neighboring atolls. Emigration continues to play an important role as people relocate for marriage and for schooling, employment, and homesteading. Frequently migration is gradual in that individuals or families leave Eauripik for a time, return, leave for a longer time, and finally become members of another atoll or island community.

Alternative Subsistence and Migration

Until now we have focused mainly on the aboriginal social conditions of Eauripik Atoll. Residents lived on limited resources and adapted as necessary to short-term environmental fluctuations. In recent years islands throughout Micronesia have experienced many changes as they have become less isolated from the rest of the world. This decreasing isolation has important implications for the balance between socioeconomic systems and island environments as constraints on the balance between population and productivity are relaxed and the nature of their interrelationship modified. As alluded to above, such developments are becoming increasingly evident on Eauripik Atoll.

The Japanese introduced imported food to Eauripik earlier this century. By 1973 rice had become quite important in the atoll diet. Over the past two decades the use of imported food has continued on Eauripik Atoll. The atoll population relies more on rice now than ever before because of its taste, nutritional value, and ease of storage and preparation. Eauripik residents also import sugar, flour, and some canned foods (mostly meat). Ships deliver these goods on reasonably reliable schedules. Imported food is purchased by atoll residents who earn wages (primarily as school teachers and health aides, copra production having declined substantially in recent years) and by former atoll residents who now live elsewhere, earn wages, and send food or remittances back to Eauripik. This increased access to additional food sources relaxes traditional constraints on Eauripik population size. Obviously the atoll could support many more people through the use of imported foods than by relying solely on locally available sources, although recent data indicate that its population is not increasing (Gorenflo & Levin 1991: 106).

Cultural behavior affecting fertility or mortality on Eauripik has remained relatively unchanged over the past two decades. For example, most atoll dwellers still delay marriage, thereby maintaining low-to-moderate fertility levels.

Over the past 20 years, emigration has emerged as an increasingly important means of population control on Eauripik. This is still another example of the changing mobility patterns that affect much of Micronesia--in many cases involving migration which is growing both in frequency and duration--largely as a consequence of changes in laws, improved travel connections, improved finances, and increased opportunities for education and employment in other places (see Connell 1990: 2-3; Gorenflo & Levin 1992, 1993; Hezel & Levin 1990). As discussed above, frequent migration occurred on the atoll during earlier times and in the recent past. Data on mobility of Eauripik Atoll residents collected in 1982 and 1991 indicate increased emigration. In each of those two years, Eauripik Islanders reported where all Eauripik-born adult males were living at the time, their level of education, and their vocations. In 1982 the 60 males born on Eauripik between 1935 and 1964 were dispersed geographically and only 19 were living on the atoll. Data from 1991 indicate that this tendency continued--only 17 of this group remained on the atoll. Recent historical data show that the number of adult men residing on Eauripik has dropped consistently since 1968.

The introduction of foreign institutions to selected population centers in the Pacific, including a Western school system, health facilities, and government employment, has caused prolonged absences from Eauripik and in the process reduced atoll population. Probably the most important factor in emigration is the additional education available to Micronesians, education that is based on the American system and fostered in its early years by the Peace Corps. In modern Micronesia nearly every male attends school, which on Eauripik means that boys must leave the island for high school (see Connell 1992: 182). The educational levels of the Eauripik-born males are exceptionally high. In 1982, more than 80 percent of the adult males had graduated from high school and more than half of these individuals pursued further education in some type of technical school or two- or four-year college (Levin 1982). This strong commitment to education persisted into 1991 despite several recent graduates not having the opportunity to continue their schooling as long as they would like.

Current education trends on Eauripik have two important effects on atoll demography. One concerns the place of residence of educated individuals. Only 14 of all Eauripik-born male high school graduates (26.9 percent) resided on Eauripik Atoll in 1982 (Levin 1982). Education therefore seems to affect residence at the time of schooling and after schooling is completed. As individuals obtain more Western education they can become less comfortable living on Eauripik, many finding it difficult to resume their former lives due to a lack of interest or the absence of necessary skills. The second important demographic impact of education concerns occupation. Eauripik-born males increasingly turn away from subsistence and toward some form of wage labor. Although most of the wage labor occurs in places other than Eauripik itself, men living on the atoll continue to work in activities other than subsistence. Because men are responsible for providing most of the fish for the atoll population, recent changes in mobility and economic behavior have important implications for subsistence. The long-term effects of present mobility patterns appear to be mixed. On Eauripik Atoll itself, increased emigration reduces total atoll nutritional requirements. Although many of the individuals who relocate are working age males--thus reducing the number of island residents providing fish--a larger number of former atoll residents engaged in wage labor increases the amount of imported food that they may purchase for people still residing on the atoll (see Connell 1986: 46-47; Lambert 1975: 220-221). Greater insurance against subsistence shortfalls thus appears as one important result of increased mobility of Eauripik people--offset, ironically, by suppressed atoll subsistence productivity and fertility caused by the same migration patterns.

Another important impact of increased emigration of persons from Eauripik Atoll is growing pressure on their destinations (e.g., Connell 1986:. 51). Many people from Eauripik move to other parts of Yap State. To complicate matters, the emigration of young adults also represents the export of fertility, which in turn potentially adds to the demographic impacts on destinations. Because the population densities on other Outer Islands of Yap State generally have remained high in recent years, eventually there will be a time when these atolls can no longer accept immigrants. The 1980 census indicated that fertility on many of the Outer Islands was high and mortality comparatively low, a situation that will generate natural increase in population. Such growth occurred throughout the Yap State Outer Islands between 1980 and 1987 (Gorenflo & Levin 1991: 125-127), which suggests that continued emigration to certain islands by Eauripik people will become increasingly difficult. These constraints also apply to Yap: Madrich, the Outer Islander village on the southern edge of the state capital of Colonia, is already crowded and frequently contains many more than the number of persons for which it was designed (Alkire 1993). Moreover, although certain economic opportunities on Yap still exist for Outer Islanders, economic recessions and the continued status differences between Yapese and Outer Islanders intensify an already tenuous employment situation. Ultimately, migration as a means of controlling population on Eauripik Atoll will have to turn toward destinations other than those traditionally considered, particularly the United States. As the distance between emigrants and Eauripik grows, so too will the difficulty in maintaining ties with the atoll's culture and society.

Because Eauripik Atoll is small and geographically isolated, major economic changes such as those affecting other atolls (see Connell 1992) are unlikely. As long as an adequate supply of fish exists and the sea level does not rise appreciably, Eauripik residents should be able to maintain a viable community. Although people living on the atoll would like to see a continuation of the government ships that bring imported food and other supplies, they could survive without these goods. However, if diminishing fish supplies accompany a reduction in imported food, large-scale emigration almost certainly would occur. In its present situation, Eauripik society probably will persist at least through the next generation largely in its current form. But as computer simulations of Eauripik demography indicate, an atoll population is sensitive to combinations of demographic controls. Increased emigration and continued low fertility, combined with persisting constraints on marriage based on kinship, would threaten population stability--a stability necessary for the society to continue as a functioning system beyond the immediate future.


Alkire, W. H. (1993). Madrich: Outer Islanders on Yap. Pacific Studies, 16 (2): 31-66.

Cantova, J. A. (1728). Lettres edifantes et curieuses, 18: 188-246. Paris: Nicolas le Clerc.

Connell, l. (1986). Population, migration, and problems of atoll development in the South Pacific. Pacific Studies, 9 (2): 41-58.

Connell, J. (1990). Modernity and its discontents: Migration and change in the South Pacific. In J. Connell (Ed.), Migration and development in the South Pacific (pp. 1-28; Pacific Research Monograph No. 24). Canberra: Australian National University, National Centre for Development Studies.

Connell, J. (1992). The back door of bureaucracy: Employment and development in Yap State and Woleai Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia. In R. Baker (Ed.), Public administration in small and island states, 174-192. West Hartford: Kumarian Press.

Gorenflo, L., & Levin, M. J. (1991). Regional demographic change in Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia. Pacific Studies, 14 (3): 97-145.

Gorenflo, L., & Levin, M. J. (1992). Regional demographic change in Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia. Pacific Studies, 15 (1): 149.

Lambert, B. (1975). Makin and the outside world. In V. Carrol (Ed.), Pacific atoll populations, 212-285). Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.

Levin, M. J. (1976). Eauripik population structure. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan.

Levin, M. J. (1982). Pressure cooking on Eauripik Atoll, Micronesia. Paper presented at the 81st annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC.

Riesenberg, S. (1974). Six Pacific Island discoveries. The American Neptune, 34: 249-257.

Taeuber, I. B. (1963). Demographic Instability in Island Ecosystems. In Man's Place in the Island Ecosystem, edited by F.R. Fosber, 226-251.

US Bureau of Census (1983). 1980 Census of Population. Volume 1, Characteristics of the Population, part 57B, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Excluding the Northern Mariana Islalnds. Washington, D.C.


The EditorsReaction against migrants, especially FSM migrants on Guam is running very high in 1995-1996. The adverse reaction Don Rubinstein predicted in 1991 (p.1.) Is well in action and the main issue is money. This is a quick turn-wround from 1989 when the construction companies and hotels, for example, came recruiting at Micronesian community colleges and high schools. We conclude this migration issue with a review of the responses coming from the people of Guam. We emphasize that we are not trying to assess blame but only register what the man on the street, the legislators, the church leaders and the nationalist activists have to say. As such, this concluding essay is only a sample of the range of reactions.

The focus of dissatisfaction with Micronesian migration is the cost in social and education services. The next two questions are, of course, "What is the cost?" and "Who is paying for it?" Regarding the cost of social services, there is some agreement among island leaders, as we shall see later in this essay. But regarding "Who is paying," there is, we propose, no clear-cut picture of whose pocket book is being fleeced. The problem arise from the somewhat unique tax structure of Guam. Federal tax returns filed on Guam are returned to the Government of Guam. Thus a sizable chunk of the Guam revenue comes from federal tax filings. Second, a number of the social services and welfare programs are funded in part or in whole by the federal government. Third, the Department of Education receives an annual allotment to defray the costs of educating military dependents. These federal sources alone makes it difficult to say precisely what is coming out of the Guam taxpayers' pockets or out of the GovGuam budget. Add to this fact that employed Micronesians are also taxpayers on Guam. But no one, and we insist no one, has an accurate count on how much the Micronesian migrants themselves contribute in tax dollars to social and educational services on Guam.

How much are the migrants costing? The Government of Guam has given a bill to the United States for 70 million for the cost of meeting the social and educational needs of citizens from the FAS (Freely Association States) since 1986 (Bureau of Planning 1995). In 1994 alone, the estimated cost of FAS citizens to GovGuam was 21 million.

To put these figures in perspective, the estimated cost of welfare to FAS migrants in 1994 was $2,884,790 out of $17,796,000 spent for all Guam clients. As of this writing, the U.S. Government has paid only $3 million of the 79 million the Government of Guam claims it is owed (Office of the Governor 1995). The federal government quibbles about the bill and drags heels about paying, although the law clearly mandates payment for Compact migrant expenses (Ibid.). Curiously, one reads very little in the press about why the federal government is not paying, other than the general statement that they contest the accounting procedures of GovGuam.

The cost was not a problem in 1990 when GovGuam was flush with cash and able to give an automatic $1000 rebate to anyone who filed a federal tax return on Guam. Nor was the cost of welfare to the Micronesians so great then. In 1990 GovGuam paid only $265,000 in welfare to Micronesians, but, as noted above, almost $3 million in 1994 (Office of the Governor 1995).

1994 and 1995 appear to be the watershed years when public opinion came down against Micronesian migration and the resulting cost to the public coffers. When Seyda Turk Smith conducted her 1993 survey of the attitudes of long-term residents towards FAS immigrants, her 503 respondents were not highly negative. Respondents were well aware of many problems which the migrants themselves had expressed about life on Guam (1993: 10). 82% of Turk Smith's respondents expressed positive attitudes regarding their experiences with immigrants. In their messages to GovGuam, the long-time residents saw the need for control over immigration, but only 5% expressed negative responses: e.g., "Send back to home" or "Don't do anything for the Micronesians; take care of the people of Guam first" (1993: 20-21).

In obvious contrast to the accommodating tone of the long-term residents surveyed (the closest measure we have of what the "common person" is thinking), is testimony from the nationalists, the "Chamoru Nacion." In testifying before the Guam legislature, David Sablan charged that the $70 of cost of FAS citizens on Guam is taking money from Chamorros: "I will not neglect my children's needs for the sake of this compact/impact" (Sablan 1995). Elsewhere he asserted that "I cannot see myself or Guam for that matter, spending another penny for the both of you. [both = "United States and the Micronisian (sic) Nation"]. Sablan fits nicely into the 5% category of negative responses noted in the Turk Smith survey.

In the political forum, Mark Forbes, a Guam Senator, has proposed a bill drastically cutting the welfare benefits offered to "non-citizens and non-alien residents" of Guam (Bill No. 246, 23rd Guam Legislature 1995). In effect, this bill would deny welfare benefits funded in part or in whole by GovGuam. It is supported by other new senators (e.g., Hope Cristobal, Angel Santos, Carlotta Leon-Guerrero). Despite the legal challenges and debates surrounding the bill, the intent of the bill is clear:

In taking the action, the Legislature clearly states that it does not oppose access to Guam by residents and citizens of the Freely Associated States for the purpose of employment or education. Further, we recognize that all taxpayers in Guam, regardless of origin, deserve basic services from the government of Guam. That does not mean, however, that Guam has an obligation to provide indefinite welfare to indigent FAS citizens and that, in fact, Guam's continuing payment of such welfare constitutes harm to the people of Guam, unless either the federal government, or the governments of the Freely Associated States, reimburse Guam for these costs. Since neither the federal government nor the FAS governments seem willing to do this, in defense of the rights of our own people, we must cease spending the local funds of Guam, which belong to the people of Guam, in this fashion. (Ibid.)

The logic in the bill is patently contradictory (all taxpayers, a fortiori Micronesians, have a right to the services of GovGuam but local funds belong to the people of Guam), but the rhetoric of both the nationalists and the Forbes bill are telltale thermometers of the intensity of feeling generated by public figures. In the light of welfare reform legislation recently passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Clinton, the local discussion of welfare to non-citizens may be a moot point.

Not surprisingly the Guam Legislature prepared eight resolutions for the summit meeting of Micronesian leaders held on Guam in 1996. Resolutions included direct contributions to GovGuam from the compact nations for education FAS children, help from FAS governments in seeking U.S. reimbursement to Guam for costs of compact immigration and a call for FAS governments to support an amendment to the Compact to exempt Guam from free entry of FAS citizens. Also not surprisingly, the final communique of the summit leaders read: "All parties agree that, to the extent feasible, these issues should be resolved cooperatively among the parties, in the spirit of mutual respect that is distinctive to the island cultures of Micronesia" (Office of the Governor 1995). By and large, the Micronesian response has been silence, although a series of guest editorials by a Chuukese housewife have appeared in the Pacific Daily News urging FSM migrants to greater self-reliance. (see Engichy 1996).

The Catholic bishops of Guam, CNMI, RMI and FSM appealed to the parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man. They reminded their congregations that all are called on to share in the resources of the planet (Apuron 1995).

And so the debate continues. The Forbes bill probably will not pass the legislature, but the negative feelings are still there. Perhaps the immigrant FAS citizens on Guam are but pawns in a ploy to win recognition for Guam's financial problems which would have occurred even without the influx of FAS citizens. We find some evidence for the "pawn" interpretation beneath the figures and statistics submitted to the Legislature as the FAS costs to the taxpayer. For example, it is claimed that the per capita cost of educating FAS students is greater than that for other students because so many Micronesians are in the LOTE Program (Language Other Than English) or remedial English tutoring. But only 9.86% of the LOTE student are from FAS; 52.82$ are Chamorro and 14.79 are Filipino (Coulter 1993: 3-10). We suspect that a painstakingly thorough analysis of the financial impact facts, of the federal government's contribution to welfare and education and of the Micronesian contribution to taxes would seriously damage the claim that the U.S. owes GovGuam $70 million. After all, why hasn't the federal government paid what is mandated by law? We suggest that a formal debate between two sharp statisticians would either quickly confuse the apparently clear-cut issue of "you-owe-us" or at least reveal the pawn or scape-goat nature of the debate.


Apuron, A., et al (1995). Study document for the Micronesian Bishops' Pastoral Letter. Agana, Guam: Chancery Office of the Archdiocese of Agana.

Coulter, P.M. (1993). Impacts of migration from the compact of free association states on public and selected private agencies of Guam. Mangilao, Guam: Micronesian Language Institute. University of Guam.

Engichy, A. (1996). Don't judge people base on the way they speak English. Pacific Daily News, July 28, 1996.

Office of the Governor (1995a). The joint communique of the Pacific legislative-executive summit of 1995. Agana, Guam.

Office of the Governor (1995b). Impact of P.L. 99-239 on the Territory of Guam. Agana, Guam.

Sablan, D. (1995). Testimony before 23rd Legislature. Territory of Guam. Agana, Guam. Holographic manuscript on file at Micronesian Seminar, Pohnpei, FSM.

Turk, Smith S. (1993). Attitudes of long-term residents of Guam toward the immigrants from the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Mangilao, Guam: Micronesian Language Institute, University of Guam.

Twenty-Third Guam Legislature (1995). Bill No. 246: An act to protect the fiscal integrity of Guam's welfare system...Agana, Guam.

Twenty-Third Guam Legislature, Committee on Federal & Foreign Affairs. Digest of Testimony of the Oversight Hearing on the Impact of the Immigration of Citizens from the Freely Associated States to Guam. April 20, 1995. Agana, Guam.

1. After World War II most of the Japanese Mandated islands of the "South Seas" became a strategic trust of the U.S., the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) with the proviso that the islands would eventually achieve self-determination. Guam, although occupied during WWII, was a territory of the U.S. and not a part of the TTPI. First the Northern Marianas broke off from the TTPI and formed the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI), followed by Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap which formed the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in 1986. Most recently Palau, now the Republic of Palau (RP) has joined the ranks of states freely associated with the U.S. These freely associated states are often lumped together as Freely Associated States (FAS).

2. We adopt a broad definition for a social problem, namely any problem perceived by large numbers of the population or by significant groups as being (1) a problem, and (2) one for which a solution must be found.

3. As noted before, Guam Chamorro do not consider themselves "Micronesian." Ethnically and culturally they are related to the other small islands of the Western Pacific, but early and intense colonization by the Spanish does indeed set them apart. Roughly speaking, Micronesia includes the islands and atolls of the US Trust Territory of the Pacific--FSM, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), CNMI, and Republic of Palau (RP)--in addition to Kiribati (Gilberts) and Nauru. It is probably misleading even to lump together all these island groups because they speak between 10 and 20 different languages.

4. Ebeye is home to the Marshallese working on the U.S. missile tracking facilities at Kwajalein. Ebeye is only 0.12 square miles but has a population of over 9000. The population is supported mostly by the workers who daily commute to the U.S. Army facilities on Kwajalein atoll (Gorenflo and Levin 1989 and 1994).

5. This estimate is higher than the U.S. Guam census figure which misses a number of Palauans on Guam against immigration restrictions or who have entered under other nationalities.

6. The Palauan community on Guam has been studied by Connell (1983a), Peacock (1954), Shewman (1979, 1981), and Solenberger (1953). Tkel-Sbal (1992) has written on Palau for Guam teachers. Connell (1983b), Hezel and Levin (1990), and Hezel and McGrath (1989), Johanek (1984), McGrath (1971), Nero (1985), and Udui (1982) have studied Palauan emigration. Vitarelli (1981) and Rehuher (1989) have written on the Palauans in Hawaii; Nero and Rehuher (1993) and Schwalbenberg (1984) compare Palauan and Marshallese emigration patterns. Also see Nero and Rehuher (1993) on the influx of foreign workers in Palau.

7. There are an approximate 49,000 Guamanians in the U.S., primarily concentrated in California.

8. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands 1993.

9. The 1990 U.S. census for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands shows 1,620 Palauans present, 3.74 percent of the total population and a figure which has increased by 885 since 1980. Both the 1980/1990 figures may be an undercount but the Guam Palauan community is presumed by Palauans to be larger than the number on Saipan.

10. Field research was conducted on Babeldaob Island in 1972-73 (social structure) and 1981-84 (land tenure and mixed legal systems); in addition I have worked in Palau on historic preservation methods (1989-90) and the creation of local histories (1990-91).

11. The U.S. Palau Census lists 1,477 Filipinos in Palau; other sources (e.g., U.S. State Department Reports estimate 2,000 or more.)

12. Government of Guam (1992): Tables 3.6 and 3.10.

13. Government of Guam (1993): Table 4.8.

14. Government of Guam (1992): Table 1.29.>

15. Bank of Hawaii (1994).

16. US Bureau of Census (1990): Table 85.

17. The dependency ratio shows the number of dependents to workers, calculated by examining the number of dependents (15 years/under and 60 years/over) in relation to the number of potential workers. See Rubinstein and Levin (1992): Table 10.

18. Most Palauans in Vitarelli's sample (1981) did not belong to Palauan clubs on Oahu. Palauans were scattered or busy with families and jobs. Only 17 of 46 belonged, primarily women married to Americans.

19. This emigration was first described in an article appearing three years after Compact implementation (Hezel & McGrath 1989). In subsequent years a growing body of literature was produced to document the migration (eg. Rubinstein 1990, 1991, 1993; Rubinstein & Levin 1992; Connell 1991; Smith 1994)

20. For this study we draw mainly on two sources. The first is a 1992 census of Micronesians residing on Guam, supervised by Donald Rubinstein (University of Guam 1992). The second is a 1993 survey of FSM-born residing in the CNMI (CNMI 1994).

21. The Namoluk ethnic population consists of all 'Namoluk citizens' as defined by various local criteria (see Marshall 1975)

22. Ironically, the term "Micronesian" is applied to FSM migrants by Chamorros (themselves Micronesian) and others on Guam in a pejorative sense. As noted above, nearly 80 percent of the migrants are from Chuuk, and the "Micronesian" label seems to have been constructed particularly around a stereotype of Chuukese as fearsome folk: violent, prone to drunkenness, likely to damage property (whether out of willfulness or ignorance), and poor financial risks as well



No comments have been posted. Be the first! SIGN UP, or LOG IN to the MicSem Forum Discussion here.

Sign up for the MicSem e-mail list to be notified of new MicSem publications:






  • Public Schools
  • Diabetes Awareness
  • Beachcombers
  • History of Micronesia
  • Catolic Church Micro.
  • MicSem by Category

About MicSem

Micronesian Seminar, Post Office Box 160, Pohnpei, FM 96941 | tel. 691.320.4067 | fax. 691.320.6668 | email. micsem@micsem.org | ©2010 all rights reserved.

Sign up for the MicSem e-mail list to the right.
Want print copies via postal mail? Click here.