The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Using Intergroup Relations Theory to Explain Predictors of Immigrant Experience

Saturday, January 19, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Kofi Danso, MSW, MPA, Doctoral Candidate, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Seok Won Jin, MSW, MA, Doctoral Student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Purpose: United States is the largest recipient of immigrants and refugees in the world. Approximately 38.1 million foreign-born individuals were living in the United States, accounting for 12.6% of the total population in 2007. These increases in migration both in the U.S. have evoked passionate debates about immigrants and refugees. These resentments are demonstrated in public opinion polls. However, very little is known about how immigrants perceive or their experience though their interaction with their American counterparts. The purpose of this study is to explore the factors that contribute to immigrant perception of Americans. The study uses Blumer's group position and Allport's intergroup contact theories. Methods: Using a survey data with a sample of 1,036 from four different immigrant groups, we examine the factors that influence immigrant experience through their interaction with Americans. A multistage random sampling method was used to collect data from Hispanic, Hmong, Russian, and Somali immigrants collected by the Wilder Research Center in 2000. The 2000 Census and school enrollment data were used to select neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrant households. Over 12,000 households from these neighborhoods were randomly selected and screened for eligibility. Among them, 4,415 immigrants were eligible for the survey and 1,512 were randomly selected to participate. 1,119 people were interviewed in their own language by phone and with 74 percent response rate. The study excluded 83 respondents who were not in any of the immigrant groups. Dependent variables for this study were the immigrants' self-reported treatment from non-immigrants such as unfriendly, hostile treatment and frequency hostile treatment. Independent variables include: immigrant group, community participation, work status, English ability, and cultural understanding. Logistic regression to examine the association between perceived unfriendly attitude and reported hostile treatment and the independent variables. Multinominal logit regression was used to examine the association between the frequency of hostile treatment and independent variables. Results: Logistic and multinomial regression results indicate that non-European immigrants were more likely to report negative experience with Americans. Among them, the odds of reporting negative interaction were lowest for African immigrants and highest for Hispanic immigrants. Immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or longer and immigrants involved in community activities were more likely to report negative interactions. Finally, immigrants who worked at the time of interview, those who perceived Americans as not understanding their culture including those with limited English ability were less likely to report negative interaction. Implications: Racial and ethnic tensions does no good for any society.  Therefore, understanding ethnic relationships among various immigrant groups is vital to building trust and ensuring peaceful coexistence among different groups. Negative attitudes toward any particular group are influenced by many factors. For practical purposes efforts at integrating immigrants into American communities should consider the promotion of employment. Above all intergroup dialogue can facilitate positive changes and prejudicial attitudes and behaviors.