The Ethnic Enclave Debate Revisited: An Examination of Human Capital and Acculturation

Lulu Chen, U.S. Census Bureau

Much of the theoretical background that drives the ethnic enclave debate was formulated in a different immigrant, economic and geographic landscape. Changes in the socioeconomic composition of the immigrant pool, the maturation of the current service/knowledge economy, and the waning dominance of traditional port-of-entry cities warrant an updated and expanded investigation of the role of ethnic enclaves in the socioeconomic well-being of contemporary immigrants. This study revisits the ethnic enclave thesis and asks whether foreign-educated workers, because of their lack of US-specific skills, are better off in the ethnic enclave. The paper follows earlier typologies of the ethnic enclave by considering both place of work and place of residence, but it also expands on earlier works by offering an intermediary comparison group: the suburban ethnic enclave. This paper also adds to the literature by examining the differential effects of human capital and acculturation on enclave earnings.

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Presented in Session 14: Ethnic Enclaves, New Destinations and Migrant Economic Outcomes