The effects of social capital on the integration of Zimbabwean immigrants into the United States
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Increasing diversity among contemporary immigrants to the United States calls for contextualized analyses of specific immigrant groups to gain an understanding of their integration needs, strengths and resources so that these may be used to inform social work practice. This study explores the processes through which Zimbabweans in the Atlanta metropolitan area draw on their social capital to enhance their integration outcomes, in particular, employment. Using a triangulation-convergence model mixed-methods design, this study examined the effects of social capital on fulltime employment and underemployment and investigated the types of social resources that Zimbabwean immigrants find useful as they settle in the new country. Adult Zimbabwean immigrants over 18 years of age (N = 103) completed a survey that assessed their social networks, participation in groups, employment status and demographic information. Twelve participants were selected from those who had completed the survey to participate in in-depth interviews that asked about their immigration to the United States, participation in social groups, and life experiences. Logistic regression was used to test the effects of three social capital variables, close friends, group memberships and the diversity of most important group on full-time employment and underemployment. Inductive analysis was used to identify the types of social resources that the participants in this study viewed as important to their integration. Quantitative results provide evidence that the diversity of most important group is a significant factor in reducing underemployment. Participants who participated in groups that had members from diverse educational, ethnic, religious, occupational backgrounds and gender diversity were less likely to be underemployed. Qualitative results enhanced quantitative findings by illustrating the specific social resources that Zimbabweans accessed form diverse networks, such as information, material goods, informal services, and social support. Thus possessing diverse networks is of paramount importance for new immigrants. Social workers can assist immigrants with the creation and strengthening of bridging and linking ties that can offer social resources that promote career development. Further research is needed to fully understand the effects of social capital on various employment outcomes and with diverse client groups. Implications for theory, social work practice and research are provided.