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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

1-1-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Anna M. Santiago

Abstract

This study employs acculturation and civic engagement theories to explain the incorporation and engagement of Latino immigrants in American society by examining how demographic characteristics, socioeconomic factors, and characteristics of the immigrant experience, as moderated by acculturation and trust in government influence their civic engagement.

The core component of the study is a secondary data analysis of the 2006 Latino National Survey (Fraga et al., 2008). The study shows that some of the strongest predictors of civic engagement in the Latino immigrant community are citizenship, length of residence in the United States, level of education, household income, age, country of origin, gender, homeownership, and marital status. Several factors, such as low levels of education, low household income, brown skin color, Mexican ancestry, and coming to the United States for economic reasons are found to be barriers to civic engagement. However, this research also shows that acculturation can reduce the effects of these barriers and can increase the engagement that is associated with facilitators such as being married and female.

A sequential qualitative study was also is conducted with two pilot focus groups and two core focus groups on a small purposive sample of Latino immigrants in the metropolitan Detroit area. The focus group discussions illuminated experiences with a strong anti-immigrant sentiment in the area and the country, which acts as an obstacle in their integration and engagement in American society and leads them to mistrust of the U.S. government. As community organizers, local leaders in the Latino immigrant community, and the polity address the barriers to engagement brought to light in this study, they may help the Latino immigrant community become a more integral part of society and to have their interests more accurately reflected in future policy.