Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Geography

Collaborative Specialization

Migration and Ethnic Relations

Supervisor

Arku, Godwin

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the integration of recent immigrants in receiving societies by analyzing their personal networks' contribution to this process. Although migration studies have stressed the importance of relationships or im/migrant networks in different spatial contexts, gaps exist in understanding this phenomenon. Specifically, studies on immigrants' networks' structure and composition that indicate their integration level in the host society is missing within the literature. This research, therefore, contributes to our understanding of personal networks. It considers the structure of immigrants’ network by examining the role of their migration project and context of reception towards developing ties in the host society. Likewise, the application of methodological approaches that shifts the analysis from the individual immigrant to both the immigrant and network members is limited and concentrated in a few countries. Therefore, this dissertation adds to the literature by adopting Social Network Analysis to understand the specific role played by an immigrant's personal network. It adopts an anatomical approach before examining support provision within the network. For support provision, the study adds to the literature by examining the directionality of support among recent immigrants, which has often been overlooked.

The dissertation employs a mixed-methods approach drawing on quantitative data from an egocentric network survey among Ghanaian immigrants in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (TCMA) and qualitative data from in-depth interviews among Ghanaian immigrants in the TCMA. The egocentric data allowed for investigating the structure and composition of Ghanaian immigrants' networks', taking into account evolution and changes in the network. It also examined the dimension of support provided within the network. Descriptive and multilevel multinomial regression modelling techniques were employed in quantitative data analysis, while thematic coding was adopted in the qualitative data analysis.

Results from quantitative data analysis show that Ghanaian immigrants' structure consists predominantly of co-ethnics, few native-borns, and few ties with other international immigrants. Many co-ethnic ties are facilitated by activities conducted by ethnic, religious organizations, and township/national associations in the TCMA. It is also based on the assistance from such ties towards making Canada their second home. Similarly, findings show that Ghanaian immigrants overtime in Canada do maintain ties with Ghanaians in Ghana and may not substitute such ties with new ties in Canada.

In terms of support exchanged between immigrants and their network members, quantitative results suggest that a small proportion of emotional, instrumental, and information support is received, provided, and reciprocated. Multilevel multinomial regression reveals that the immigrant and network characteristics do not guarantee the exchange of the three types of support. Instead, network members' characteristics, such as the degree of importance and the nature of the relationship between them (frequency of communication), result in exchanging all three forms of support within the network. Results from in-depth interviews support the argument that co-ethnics are essential in their integration process in Canada but often provide intangible support such as emotional support or companionship. However, accessing co-ethnic ties to obtain such support is hindered by mistrust issues and skepticism on the part of network members while native-born networks are challenging to access due to lack of common interest.

Overall, the findings demonstrate that personal networks contribute towards immigrants’ integration in Canada. On the one hand, findings align with existing literature that suggests that relational attributes are the most important predictors of support within the network. For another, findings contradict some prior studies that argue that co-ethnics ties and their support may be somewhat unbeneficial to the immigrant's integration. Regardless of these findings, specific nuances emerged from the study. For example, only a small number of individuals within the network offer support despite qualitative evidence that suggests that they receive emotional support from their networks. This nuance from exploratory investigations calls for further studies, especially among other immigrant groups, to ascertain these findings' veracity. In terms of policy implication, given the small number of native-born ties in the network of immigrants, specific programs should be targeted to help build and maintain strong networks with the native-born since evidence points to their essential contribution in the integration process of immigrants.

Summary for Lay Audience

Social networks, which represents an individual’s friends, family, neighbours, acquaintances and the relationship that exists between them, plays an important role in the individuals’ life. With respect to immigrants, these network members provide relevant information and financial support to facilitate their migration and provide diverse forms of assistance when immigrants arrive in the destination country. Despite these positive attributes of social networks, they also tend to hinder the occupational mobility of the immigrant and are fraught with other challenges.

In migrant receiving societies like Canada, research finds that immigrants with social networks tend to fare better in their settlement than those without any form of networks. This notwithstanding, studies investigating immigrants' social networks have been few. Specifically, studies detailing how immigrants access networks, the exchange of support within their networks and the structure and composition of their networks are missing from the accounts of immigrants in Canada. The current study therefore examined the networks of immigrants in Canada focusing on their role in the integration process. The study utilized a mixed method approach involving quantitative and qualitative methods to provide a better and nuanced understanding of networks using the case study of Ghanaian immigrants in the Toronto census metropolitan area (TCMA).

Results from quantitative analysis shows that Ghanaian immigrants’ network comprises many Ghanaians in Canada, a few Canadian born contacts and a small number of other international immigrants in Canada and abroad. The large presence of Ghanaians in their network is linked to the presence of ethnic religious and township/national associations in the TCMA. Quantitative analysis equally reveals that immigrants exchange informational, emotional and practical support with members of their network who they consider important and have frequent communication. Qualitative accounts, however, indicate that accessing Ghanaian networks to obtain support is hindered by cliques within larger networks as well as mistrust and envy on the part of some members of the network. With respect to Canadian networks, lack of common interest and cultural differences makes it difficult for Ghanaians to access them. The study calls for alternate ways for immigrants to access Canadian-born networks.

Available for download on Thursday, June 30, 2022

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