Immigrant Youth Development: Using Qualitative Methods to Explore Barriers, Mechanisms and Variable Pathways
Today’s immigrants are diverse. Indeed, over 80 percent hail from Latin America and Asia, but a growing percentage is from Africa and other parts of the globe. They are also diverse in terms of the human capital they bring with them. Some are highly-skilled workers who are recruited by the tech sector, while many other immigrants are employed in low-wage jobs in various service industries. As with previous waves of immigrants, they primarily settle in traditional “gateway” cities such as New York and Los Angeles, but they are increasingly moving directly to new settlement areas. These are places such as the American southeast and suburban areas that have not been home to new immigrants for several generations.
Because of this enormous diversity, immigrant youth are coming of age with differing types of supports and in social and policy environments that are more or less welcoming to immigrant newcomers depending on factors such as legal status, English-language skills, gender, and skin color. Large surveys of immigrant youth have helped to identify these factors, and qualitative research is beginning to explore their variegated processes of development. Along the way, qualitative researchers are questioning assumptions about the concept of youth development and how it is conceptualized.
The papers in this symposium will build on this momentum through in-depth analysis of the barriers facing immigrant youth and the mechanisms that help them overcome these obstacles across a range of geographies, institutions, and policy contexts. The papers will also expand on—and reevaluate—our understanding of youth development. Each paper draws on a distinct (and unique) qualitative data set that captures essential elements of immigrant youth development at different time points in the arc of adolescence, from the transition to high school to the transition to college and the world of work. The papers will also assess processes of immigrant youth development in multiple settings—including schools, urban neighborhoods, and suburban communities—and as influenced by marginializing factors such as poverty, legal status, and racial discrimination.