The Role of Ethnic Enclosure in Leisure in the Economic Achievement of Korean Immigrants

By Stodolska, Monika; Marcinkowski, Matthew et al. | Journal of Leisure Research, First Quarter 2007 | Go to article overview

The Role of Ethnic Enclosure in Leisure in the Economic Achievement of Korean Immigrants


Stodolska, Monika, Marcinkowski, Matthew, Yi-Kook, Jouyeon, Journal of Leisure Research


Introduction

Ethnic and racial groups constitute a significant and constantly growing segment of the American population. They not only play a very important role in the nation's economy, but they also offer enormous contributions to its cultural and political spheres of life. The growing importance of minorities in the social, cultural, and economic life of the United States has been recognized by leisure researchers, who in the last 25 years focused on the issues of their leisure behavior with increasing frequency (Floyd & Gramann, 1993, 1995; Philipp, 1999; Shinew, Floyd, & McGuire, 1995; Stamps & Stamps, 1985; Washburne, 1978). The role of leisure activities as a venue for ethnic interactions and as a factor that can influence immigrants' economic achievement after immigration, however, has been, so far, largely overlooked in the leisure literature. At the same time, issues of retention of ethnicity, ethnic enclosure and its effect on immigrants' mobility have been the subject of a major theoretical debate and generated a significant volume of empirical research in the fields of sociology and ethnic studies (Boyd et al., 1985; Breton, Isajiw, Kalbach, & Reitz, 1990; Featherman, Jones, & Hauser, 1975; Herberg, 1990; Isajiw, 1990; Isajiw, Sev'er, & Driedger, 1993; Lautard & Guppy, 1990). The majority of this research focused on the relationships between ethnicity, spatial segregation, and the reliance on enclave economy and the economic advancement of immigrants, while the effects of leisure activities on people's adaptation and economic achievement have rarely been tackled. One can argue, however, that leisure activities in which immigrants participate and the ethnic composition of their leisure networks can have a profound impact on other aspects of immigrants' lives, including their economic success after arrival. In particular, the phenomenon of ethnic enclosure in leisure, a tendency of minorities to maintain social networks primarily within their ethnic group and to use ethnic community resources to facilitate their leisure, is likely to play an important role in the process of achievement of ethnic minority members.

Ethnic enclosure in leisure may act as a drawback to economic achievement by reducing the opportunities for social interactions that may be useful for achieving mainstream professional success. Since it is often through social, leisure-related interactions that one learns about job opportunities, ethnically enclosed immigrants who desire employment outside of their ethnic enclave might not have the networks necessary to pursue career opportunities within the mainstream society. Furthermore, ethnic enclosure can remove incentives and opportunities for immigrants to acquire the linguistic and social skills necessary for professional success (Sanders & Nee, 1987; Wiley, 1967). Finally, lack of free time association with mainstream co-workers may also decrease the chances for professional success of those immigrants who are already employed outside of their ethnic enclave (Jo, 1999).

On the other hand, ethnic enclosure in leisure can serve as an asset in the economic achievement of immigrants. Enclosure in the leisure sphere of life can strengthen solidarity within an ethnic group and may act as a stress-relieving mechanism for immigrants whose professional life is largely restricted to interactions with the mainstream (Portes & Zhou, 1992). It can also provide a coping mechanism for those who experience a significant level of discrimination in mainstream professional settings (Stodolska & Jackson, 1998). Furthermore, for individuals who are dependent on the enclave economy for employment, ethnic enclosure in leisure can help improve relationships with other members of the ethnic group, thus facilitating professional and social achievement within the community. This argument is consistent with a large body of literature that shows the importance of leisure in building social capital and thus improving people's and communities' well being and promoting their economic success (Glover, 2004; Hemingway, 1999). …

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