Community Context and Civic Participation in Immigrant Communities
By Douglas Baer - MBC Working Paper Series 08-03
In this working paper from Metropolis BC, Douglas Baer examines how the levels of civic engagement among first-generation immigrants compare across immigrant groups. Past research has focused mostly on differences in voluntary association activity among different ethnic groups, using self-identification measures. This research looks directly at the question of first-generation immigrants to Canada, and works with a survey (GSS 2003) with a sufficiently large sample size to distinguish between major immigrant groups.
The author finds that immigrants who do not speak English or French at home are much less likely to get involved in voluntary organizations of all types. Even accounting for language use differences, levels of civic involvement are lower among immigrants from India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Poland and China/Hong Kong. Group density – the proportion of individuals in a community who are immigrants from the same country – matters in the case of immigrants from the U.K., Jamaica and China/Hong Kong. For the first two groups, immigrating into a community with a high group density leads to lower levels of civic engagement, while for Chinese immigrants, more civic engagement is expected if there is an existing Chinese community. The author claims that social integration takes different forms for different types of immigrant communities and policies devoted to the encouragement of civic participation need to take these into account.