The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Race/Ethnicity Differences in the Relationships Between Human Capital and Social Capital, and Employment of Immigrants in the United States

Friday, January 17, 2014: 9:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102B Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Soo-Jung Byoun, MA, Doctoral Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Min Zhan, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Purpose: Despite immigrants’ significant roles in the labor market, they show high unemployment rates and low occupational status (OECD, 2008). Human capital and social capital are often considered in studies on labor market performance (Pfreffer & Parra, 2009). Recent research indicates the importance of race/ethnicity in the labor market outcomes (Thomas, 2010). However, there has been limited research on the moderating effect of race/ethnicity on the association between human and social capital, and immigrants’ employment status. We address whether human capital and social capital with employment status and occupational status of immigrants vary by race/ethnicity.

Method: Data were extracted from the New Immigrant Survey 2003 (N=8573) which includes immigrants with permanent residency status in the US (Jasso et al., 2005). For this study, we restrict our sample to working age adults, 18-64 years (N=7200). Employment status includes full sample (Asians=2322, Hispanics=2158, Blacks=956, Whites=1764), and occupational status includes working immigrants (N=4522; Asians=1405, Hispanics=1456, Blacks=475, Whites=1186).

Employment status measures whether the respondent was employed or unemployed, and occupational status is categorized into high, medium and low according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor, 2003). Human capital is measured by education, work experience, and occupational status in native countries and the U.S., as well as English proficiency and health. Social capital factors are measured by having a native spouse, family/relative/friend support, and social/religious group memberships. To test the moderating effects of race/ethnicity, subgroup analysis is conducted with binary logistic regression for employment status and multinomial logistic regressions for occupational status.

Results: Asians with work experiences, high English ability, and good/excellent health were more likely to be employed. Previous U.S. occupational status was positively related to Whites, but negatively related with Hispanics’ employment. Having foreign and U.S. work experiences were positively related to Hispanics. Blacks with more years of U.S. education were less likely to be employed. For social capital, more ethnic-tie contacts were negatively associated with Asians’ employment. Having U.S.-born spouses and social group memberships were negatively related to employment status for Hispanics and Blacks respectively.

Regarding occupational status, years of education in the U.S. and abroad, and previous U.S. occupational status were significant for all races/ethnicities. Foreign work experience was negatively related to Whites’, but foreign occupational status was positively related to Asians’ and Whites’ occupational status. Having U.S. work experiences was negatively associated with Hispanics, but English-language proficiency was positively associated with all groups’ occupational status except Blacks. For social capital, having support from family/relatives/friends and U.S.-born spouses were negatively related to Asians’ and Whites’ occupational status respectively. Social and religious group memberships were positively related to Whites’ occupational status. Participation numbers in religious groups were positively related to Blacks’, but negatively related to Whites’ occupational status.

Implications: To improve employment of immigrants, social workers need to consider culturally relevant policy and programs. English programs would assist Asians while job training/internship could facilitate Hispanics’ employment status. Social support groups could also enhance Whites’ occupational status, while programs teaching US-job related knowledge might improve Blacks’ and Hispanics’ occupational status.