Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Glanville, Jennifer

Second Advisor

Paik, Anthony

First Committee Member

Bills, David

Second Committee Member

Bruch, Sarah

Third Committee Member

Cort, David

Fourth Committee Member

Leicht, Kevin


This dissertation presents three empirical studies on the distribution and role of social capital among immigrants in the United States. Using data from two national datasets – the New Immigrant Survey (NIS 2003, 2007) and the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (SCCBS 2000) – it examines the implications of social capital for immigrants’ social and economic integration. In doing so, it addresses several key limitations within migration research.

The first limitation it addresses is the focus of prior research on migrants’ co-ethnic (bonding) social capital and the limited research on immigrants’ “bridging” social capital and distributional inequities across immigrant groups. Second, while most research has focused on role of social capital in economic integration, relatively little is known about the short-run and long-term implications of immigrants’ social capital for their health and well-being. Third, prior research has generally focused on specific immigrant groups, particularly Hispanic and Asian immigrants, and it is unclear if prior findings are generalizable to immigrants overall or if they are simply capturing group and/or context-specific effects of social capital. This dissertation includes three studies that provide pieces of evidence that address these limitations and contribute to the migration literature.

In the first study, I explore the link between race, immigration status and social network diversity. Using data on personal network characteristics from the SCCBS (2000), I examine the role of race and immigration status in the distribution of ethnicity and status-bridging social capital. Findings confirm the double disadvantage of minority and outsider status for minority immigrants when it comes to access to network diversity, which is to say group (i.e. race) differences in native-immigrant gaps in access to ethnicity-bridging social capital. The findings also show that this double disadvantage is explained away by group differences in network ethnic diversity, and that race and immigrant status are a factor in determining the return from network ethnic diversity in terms of network quality, which is reflective of the extant socioeconomic stratification system in the United States.

In the second study, I use a nationally representative data of immigrants from the NIS (2003), to examine the link between reliance of new immigrants on “bonding” social capital for job search and two indicators of labor market performance: earnings and occupational prestige. I find that while using a “relative” to find a job generally has a negative effect on both earnings and occupational prestige, this effect is not shared across all immigrants, which explains inconsistent findings in prior studies of the role of co-ethnic social capital in the labor market outcomes of Hispanic and Asian immigrants.

In the third study, I turn my attention to the immigrant health literature, which has largely focused on the acculturation-health relationship and largely ignored the significance of network processes, particularly the interethnic integration of new immigrants, for the short-term and long-term health outcomes of immigrants. I use longitudinal data from the NIS (2003, 2007), which includes various measures of health status and behaviors, and examine the contemporaneous and longitudinal associations between interethnic social capital and health. I find positive cross-sectional associations with negative health behaviors (smoking, drinking and dietary change), on the one hand, and positive long-term (lagged) effects on health status (self-rated health and the incidence of chronic diseases), on the other. These results find evidence for the time-dependent health implications of interethnic network integration for the health status of immigrants in the United States.


Health, Immigrants, Labor Markets, Migration, Social Capital


x, 118 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 108-118).


Copyright © 2016 Mesay Andualem Tegegne

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