Date of this Version
Connections between socioeconomic status, social capital, and social support have been quite prominent in sociological research. However, such research still largely ignores the experiences of recently arrived African immigrants, particularly those who arrive as refugees. Black immigrants who arrived in the United States since 1965 have included an increasing number of refugees from war-torn, sub-Saharan African countries, such as the recently independent South Sudan. The numbers of women in these refugee roles has steadily increased since 1990. Black refugee women, many with children, bring diverse forms of social capital that influence their social networks and economic mobility, distinguishing them from native-born black women with multiple generations of family in the U.S. Very little of the qualitative research on this particular “new immigrant” population has been expressly geared toward understanding economic mobility and social network practices. This study addresses the mechanisms of social support and socioeconomic mobility patterns for immigrant and native-born black women in one Midwestern state and one southern state. Using participant observation, informal and semi-formal interviews, and focus groups, this study identifies network support experiences of black women from their different perspectives, as participants explain network differences by their placement in a matrix of intersecting oppressions relating to race, class, immigration status, gender, family status, and geographical location. Findings show differences in emotional and appraisal support by class, ethnicity, and location, as well as differences in network structure for material support by location and ethnicity. Results show how appraisal support serves as a bridge between material and emotional support on one side, and informational support for economic mobility on the other side. Key factors in bridging such support are the management of stigmatic reflected appraisals and the establishment of trust.
Advisor: Helen A. Moore