UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Assimilating through social networks? The importance of networks in assimilation trajectories Le, Andrew Nguyen


The assimilation outcomes of second generation youths have been hotly debated amongst scholars (Alba et al. 2011, Haller et al. 2011). While the outcomes are contested, it is undeniable that ethnic organizations play a central role in the second generation’s assimilation trajectory. Zhou and Bankston (1998) suggest that participating in ethnic religious institutions promotes upward assimilation through instilling an ethnic identity onto youths. My research on the greater Seattle area Vietnamese Buddhist youth organizations uncovered similar mechanisms that led to Zhou and Bankston’s overall quantitative findings, but also uncover the importance of resource brokering and networks. Based on 43 in-depth interviews, I find that organization participation promotes upward and downward assimilation, and the friendships formed inside ethnic organizations play a crucial role in assimilation outcomes. My project shows that participation in Buddhist youth groups instills a Vietnamese-American identity on youths and, in turn, this ethnic identity can lead to upward assimilation only if the individual is part of a peer network that promotes normative values. Downward assimilation can be associated with youth group participation if the youths enter peer networks that promote deviant behaviors. These deviant peer networks can supersede the positive effects of the youth organization’s overall influence on the individual.

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