Network Disadvantages of Immigrants: Social Capital as a Source of Immigrant Disadvantages in the Labor Market
Social capital has so far been suggested to enhance the career outcomes of disadvantaged immigrants by compensating for their lack of human capital. Contrastingly, by examining labor market outcomes by immigrant groups, my dissertation argues that social capital can actually serve as a source of disadvantages for immigrants in the labor market, especially for a socially disadvantaged immigrant group like Mexican immigrants. Specifically, the dissertation proposes three kinds of social capital processes through which social status and network processes interplay to disadvantage disproportionately a low-status immigrant group in the job attainment process: access, activation, and return deficit of social capital. Using data from the 2005 U.S. Social Capital-USA survey, I examine these three kinds of social capital deficit across three ethnic immigrant groups: Mexican, non-Mexican Hispanic, and non-Hispanic immigrants. The first chapter explores the inequality of social capital across immigrant groups. The result shows that among the three immigrant groups, Mexican immigrants are the only immigrant group who have smaller, less diverse networks than the native-born. This access deficit of social capital for Mexican immigrants is driven primarily by their relative lack of human capital compared with other immigrant groups. The second chapter investigates whether ethnic enclaves constrain the access to social capital of enclave immigrants. The result shows that the constraining effect of ethnic enclaves on the social capital building of enclave immigrants is found only for the ethnic enclave of Mexican immigrants. This is because the ethnic enclaves of disadvantaged immigrants facilitate social connections to other coethnic enclave immigrants with similar socioeconomic traits, while constraining them from extending their networks beyond the enclaves. The access deficit of social capital for Mexican immigrants will eventually aggravate their job prospects because they cannot mobilize social capital for their job finding as much as other immigrant groups do. The third chapter examines the activation and mobilization of social capital in the job attainment process across immigrant groups. The result shows that Mexican immigrants activate and reap the benefit from mobilizing social capital for their job finding in ways that are different from those of the native-born as well as the high-status immigrant group. Due to their access deficit of social capital and negative stereotypes about them, Mexican immigrants are obliged to use a less rewarding job search method (i.e., using information passed from job contacts) rather than use a more rewarding job search method (i.e., using invitations from job contacts). Although Mexican immigrants benefit to some degrees from using information passed from job contacts in getting low-tier occupations, their heavy reliance on such a job search method can also prevent them from attaining middle- or top-tier occupations. By illuminating these serial processes of social capital in the job attainment for disadvantaged immigrants, my dissertation, therefore, sheds light on a new role of social capital as a source of immigrant disadvantages in the labor market.
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