Academic journal article Development and Society

Immigrant Network Structure and Perceived Social Capital: A Study of the Korean Ethnic Enclave in Uzbekistan*

Academic journal article Development and Society

Immigrant Network Structure and Perceived Social Capital: A Study of the Korean Ethnic Enclave in Uzbekistan*

Article excerpt

The main purpose of this article is to investigate the relationship between (objective) network structures of individual immigrants and their (subjective) expectations regarding access to social capital. Based on a government funded original dataset collected on ethnic Koreans living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, this study probes into how the way in which an individual (i.e., ego) is tied with his or her close social contacts (i.e., alters) is associated with perceived social support from them. In highlighting this causal linkage, two network concepts are explored as possible mechanisms: closure (Coleman 1988) and brokerage (Burt 1992). The findings from empirical analyses lend support for the brokerage argument. Ceteris paribus, immigrants whose egocentric networks are characterized by openness and disconnectedness (i.e., filled with more 'structural holes' or nonredundant contacts) are more likely to believe that they can receive assistance from their close friends and relatives in times of need.

Keywords: Ethnic Enclave, Immigrant Social Capital, Network Structure, Koreans, Central Asia


In the economic sociology of immigration, a great deal of research interest has focused on the role of ethnic networks and social capital in boosting individual life chances as well as fostering immigrant communities in the host society (Nee and Sanders 2001; Portes and Mooney 2002; Portes and Sensenbrenner 1993). Over the years, a substantial literature has emerged highlighting the connection between ethnically bounded social network and various outcomes, especially in the context of migration decisions, labor market outcomes, and civic engagement. The concept of cumulative causation,' for example, pioneered by Douglas Massey and associates (Massey 1990; Massey and Espinosa 1997; Massey, Goldring and Durand 1994), suggests that prior contacts serve to lower the costs of transnational movement by providing tangible and intangible resources to would-be migrants, thereby facilitating and channeling cross-border migratory flows. The key causal factor here is network-mediated social capital that resides between the members of the immigrant community in the country of destination or the people with prior migratory experiences in the country of origin and those interested in moving abroad (see e.g., Creighton and Riosmena 2013; Curran, Garip, Chung and Tangchonlatip 2005; Garip 2008; Singer and Massey 1998).

Ethnic social capital is also theorized to have a significant impact on post-migration adaptation and consequences, both economically and politically. As Nee and Sanders (2001, p. 274-75) observe, 'immigrants typically turn to friends, acquaintances, and relatives in the immigrant community... Through these ties, new arrivals learn about job opportunities, find affordable housing, and master the informal and formal rules of the game as they adapt to the host society.' Previous research has shown that access to social capital indeed has critical labor market implications. According to Aguilera and Massey (2003), for instance, network ties play a valuable role in determining the earnings outcome for Mexican migrants by providing timely information about job openings. The authors also find that the economic benefits of social capital are greater for undocumented, as opposed to documented, migrants, who face greater challenges and difficulties in the labor market and thus stand to gain more from having the right social contacts. Other studies have produced similar results by emphasizing the dual functions of social capital (i.e., 'bonding' and 'bridging') in shaping the occupational and income attainment of immigrant workers (Kanas, Chiswick, van der Lippe and van Tubergen 2012; Lancee 2010, 2012).

Social capital is also seen as an indispensible variable in promoting successful ethnic entrepreneurship and immigrant community development (Light 1984; Light and Bonacich 1988; Min 1993; Portes 1998; Rauch 2001; Raijman and Tienda 2003; Waldinger 1996). …

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