Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Heather Dillaway


Migrating to the United States of American holds both great promises and challenges for prospective immigrants. This is true for Arab Americans who migrated to the United States in increasing numbers over the last several decades. One of the most important, yet simultaneously under-examined areas of research interest is that of Arab Americans’ occupational choices and occupational motivations. Occupational choices and motivations are correlated to social status, income earning potential, familial stability, and even health outcomes. This is true for the U.S. population as a whole and even more so for immigrant groups such as Arab Americans.

The present study employs quantitative methodology and a survey design to examine two key questions related to Arab Americans (1) Are there differences in occupational choices by gender, educational level, country of origin, and generational status among Arab American workers in Dearborn, MI?, and (2) What explains the occupational motivations among Arab Americans in Dearborn, and is there a mismatch between Arab Americans’ motivations and occupations? To answer these questions, 254 Arab American workers were sampled from eight different locations across Dearborn, Michigan using a convenience sample design. All participants completed a face-to-face survey that included questions about their current and last occupation, occupational motivations, and relevant demographic and cultural characteristics. The researcher asked survey questions orally of participants and recorded their responses.

The study found that gender, generational status and country of origin were significantly associated with the occupational choices of the individual. The study also determined that male respondents were three times more likely to have a job in education than the health care industry. Certain ethnic groups were also more likely to have occupations in business and finance sectors or healthcare sectors. In addition, different types of motivations (intrinsic, extrinsic, personal) produced differential effects on occupational choices. For instance, internal motivations significantly predicted non-participation in the transportation section whereas familial motivation significantly predicted non-participation in the education sector.

These and other findings suggest that the manner within which Arab American culture influences occupational choice and motivation is complex and differentiated, requiring further articulation. Additionally, the nature of the gender skew within the Arab American community may provide incentives for future gender research. Further research is also needed to reveal additional variables that may successfully predict participation in a wider swath of occupations. Future researchers would also benefit from the employment of qualitative methodology, which provides greater depth of understanding.

Included in

Sociology Commons