Considering Cultural Integration in the United States

Empirical Essays on Immigrants' Arts Participation

by Jennifer L. Novak

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By 2065, a record-breaking high of 1 in 3 US residents is projected to be either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. How well immigrants and second-generation immigrants are settling into the US is of great importance to the well-being and vibrancy of the US as a whole. While economic, political, and social facets of immigration are regularly considered for policy-making, relatively little research has examined the cultural and artistic lives of immigrants. Through four empirical investigations, I explore arts participation as a means of broader civic and social engagement facilitating immigrants' integration into the US.

First, I consider how arts participation differs between current immigrant generations. Overall, I find immigrants participating at lower rates than US-born citizens, with the notable exception of Latin music activities. I also find second-generation immigrants participating in arts at higher rates than third+ generations in general. These results are consistent with the second-generation advantage theory for immigrant integration.

Second, I explore whether the length of time an immigrant has lived within the US affects their cultural integration with US-born citizens. I find first-generation immigrants residing in the US for longer periods have higher chances of going to see a live musical play or a live jazz performance. However, residence in the US for longer than five years decreases the chances of first-generation immigrants attending live Latin music events. These results align with classical assimilation theory, which posits that over time, first-generation immigrants adopt the practices of mainstream culture in place of their own.

Third, I examine arts participation by non-citizens' legal and undocumented statuses and consider the practical implementation of these statuses in survey data. I fail to find evidence of significant differences between non-citizen legal statuses. This finding empirically suggests that arts participation can serve as a non-threatening means to facilitate integration.

Fourth, I explore how well current survey tools measure arts participation by cognitively testing the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts with individuals in the Chinese immigrant community, providing a needed case study for investigating immigrants within the US more generally.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Context

  • Chapter Three

    Current Differences in How Immigrant Generations Participate in Art

  • Chapter Four

    An Exploratory Look at Immigrants' Length of Time in the US

  • Chapter Five

    Non-Citizen Immigrants' Legal Statuses

  • Chapter Six

    Minding the gap: elucidating the disconnect between arts participation metrics and arts engagement within immigrant communities

  • Chapter Seven

    Discussion of Implications

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in August 2016 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Gery Ryan (Chair), Julia Lowell, and Norman Bradburn.

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