Religious, nonreligious organizations may have similar impact on immigrants

Apr 08, 2013

Religious and nonreligious organizations may have a similar impact on the ability of immigrants to acclimate to life in the U.S., despite the organizations' different motivations for providing charitable services, according to new research from Rice University.

"There's been a lot of discussion as to whether offer some special or unique benefit to that will help them better adapt to American society," said the study's lead author, Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice's Religion and PublicLife Program. "We wanted to see at the organizational level whether there was any practical difference between these two groups."

The study examined the behavior of two Mexican-American organizations, one religious and one nonreligious. The two groups identified different motivations for providing job placement, language and financial services to immigrants: The religious organization said its necessitated service to the local community, whereas the nonreligious organization cited its commitment to at-risk groups. However, the study showed that there was was little difference in the impact of the two organizations – both sought to provide outreach and services to theirrespective communities.

The study's co-author, Michael Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology and Kinder Institute co-director, noted that although there is little difference between the organizations at the present time, that may change in the future.

"There may be significant changes as these organizations deal with second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans," Emerson said. "These individuals might have different concerns, so the mission and services provided by these organizations very well may change."

Ecklund said that given the significant impact of Latin Americans in the U.S. and within the , Latinos are an excellent case for assessing the connection between religion and civic engagement for new U.S. immigrants.

"The Latino population of the U.S. has grown at a substantial rate, and census data projects that Latinos will comprise 30 percent of the U.S. population by the year 2050," Ecklund said. "And Latin Americans are changing the face of the Catholic Church: For the first time ever, the church has a pope from this region. And the impact of Latin Americans – especially Mexican-Americans – on the Catholic Church is more profound than that of any other ethnic group on a religious organization in the U.S."

"Such a large and growing population group has the potential to dramatically impact American religious and civic life in the near future," Emerson said. "It really behooves us to know more about how Mexican-Americans operate within these organizations."

The study involved two organizations – a Mexican Catholic church and a nonreligious Mexican ethnic organization located in a large city in the southwestern United States. Both organizations had a similar location and resources and provided various services to immigrants, including job placement, language classes and assistance with navigating fiscal issues and the Internal Revenue Service. Data on both organizations was collected through personal interviews with members and leaders involved in each organization (a total of 16) and a year of participant observation in each organization.

The interviews varied in length from 20 minutes to almost two hours and included questions about the organization's vision and mission, messaging, social and racial makeup and organizational challenges. The participant observations in the religious organization included religious services, the Spanish young adult group and the job assistance program, among other events. Observations in the ethnic organization included events such as adult literacy classes, a tour of the facilities and a young-adult conference hosted by the organization.

The article, "Motivating Civic Engagement: In-Group Versus Out-Group Service Orientations Among Mexican-Americans in Religious and Nonreligious Organizations," was co-authored by Rice alumni Celina Davis and Samuel Kye, who is a graduate student at Indiana University, and Esther Chan, a postbaccalaureate fellow in sociology at Rice.

Explore further: Soccer's key role in helping migrants to adjust

More information: socrel.oxfordjournals.org/cont… crel.srt012.abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

States file suit over Obama's birth control plan

Feb 24, 2012

Seven US states have filed a lawsuit challenging a requirement in President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law that religious organizations provide insurance covering birth control.

World survey links religion and happiness -- for some

Aug 09, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- There may be a few atheists in foxholes, but a new study suggests that in societies under stress, those who are religious outnumber – and are happier than – their nonreligious counterparts. ...

Are Americans losing faith in religious leaders?

Aug 22, 2011

Americans have significantly less confidence in their religious leaders than they did a generation ago and more than two-thirds would prefer they not dabble in politics, according to a new book by a Duke University professor.

Recommended for you

Soccer's key role in helping migrants to adjust

24 minutes ago

New research from the University of Adelaide has for the first time detailed the important role the sport of soccer has played in helping migrants to adjust to their new lives in Australia.

Congressional rift over environment influences public

Jul 31, 2014

American citizens are increasingly divided over the issue of environmental protection and seem to be taking their cue primarily from Congress, finds new research led by a Michigan State University scholar.

Decoding ethnic labels

Jul 30, 2014

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

User comments : 0