Integration and volunteering: the case of first-generation immigrants to Canada

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  • 1 School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, , USA
  • | 2 School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University, , USA
  • | 3 School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, , USA
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This study investigates the association between the integration of first-generation immigrants and their volunteering. Using data from a Canadian national survey, we examine three dimensions of immigrant integration: professional, psychosocial and political. General volunteering is not significantly related to integration; however, there exists a relationship between the different dimensions of integration and where immigrants choose to volunteer. Thus, the relationship between the type and degree of immigrant integration and volunteering is nuanced; it matters where volunteering occurs.

Abstract

This study investigates the association between the integration of first-generation immigrants and their volunteering. Using data from a Canadian national survey, we examine three dimensions of immigrant integration: professional, psychosocial and political. General volunteering is not significantly related to integration; however, there exists a relationship between the different dimensions of integration and where immigrants choose to volunteer. Thus, the relationship between the type and degree of immigrant integration and volunteering is nuanced; it matters where volunteering occurs.

Introduction

In 2016, the proportion of Canada’s foreign-born population surged to 21.9 per cent, amounting to about 3.85 million residents. In response to growing underemployment among immigrants in Canada during the 2000s, the government implemented policies to enhance their integration (AMSSA, 2017; Allan, 2019). One such policy initiative promoted volunteering in non-profit organisations to gain ‘Canadian experience’, the lack of which posed a significant barrier to immigrant integration, especially in the labour market (Government of Canada, 2012; Allan, 2019). This article investigates whether volunteering promoted the integration of first-generation immigrants into Canadian society.

Harder et al (2018) defined integration as immigrants’ specific knowledge and capacity to build a successful life in the host society. Per their definition, knowledge consists of fluency in the host country’s language and an ability to navigate the host country’s social institutions, political system and labour market. Capacity consists of local social capital, such as social networks, that immigrants acquire. Scholars argue that immigrants can increase their knowledge and social capital by engaging in civic participation, such as volunteering (Handy and Greenspan, 2009; Wang and Handy, 2014).

In the context of this article, volunteering is defined as unpaid activities undertaken by individuals and conducted for people or organisations in need, without the expectation of reward (Handy et al, 2000; Musick and Wilson, 2008; Wilson, 2012). Extant literature suggests volunteering benefits the volunteer in multiple ways. For example, it enhances human and social capital – both of which are vital to immigrant integration (Handy and Greenspan, 2009; Wang and Handy, 2014). In addition, for immigrants, volunteering provides opportunities for them to (a) gain language and employment-related skills, (b) increase intercultural competencies, (c) learn about community-based services, (d) build professional and social networks and (e) strengthen their sense of belonging (Tomlinson, 2010; AMSSA, 2017). Recent studies find that integration consists of different dimensions (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Committee on Population, 2016; Harder et al, 2018). However, examination of immigrant integration through these dimensions is scant (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Committee on Population, 2016; Harder et al, 2018). A few existing studies on immigrant integration focus on immigrants who volunteer in religious versus secular organisations (Handy and Greenspan, 2009; Wang and Handy, 2014; Qvist, 2018) rather than volunteering in different settings.

The present study asks whether and to what extent volunteering by first-generation immigrants to Canada is associated with integration. We contribute to the literature by differentiating integration into its different dimensions and examining whether it matters where the volunteering takes place (youth, cultural and help-related groups). The article proceeds as follows. First, we review previous studies on immigrant integration and volunteering and include the theoretical constructs underlying our investigation. We conclude this section with our research hypotheses. Next, we discuss our data and the methods we used to answer our research questions, followed by our findings. We end with the limitations of the study and offer suggestions for future research.

Literature review and theoretical framework

Integration and volunteering

With a growing immigrant population, the Canadian government remains interested in understanding and measuring immigrant integration (Wang and Handy, 2014; Allan, 2016; Bilodeau and White, 2016). Harder et al (2018), using data from the United States (US), Germany and Switzerland, developed an Immigrant Integration Index (IPL24) based on a 24-question measure that strongly correlated to well-established, international integration predictors. The IPL24 index suggests that integration occurs along six dimensions: (a) psychological, (b) linguistic, (c) economic, (d) political, (e) social and (f) navigational.

Immigrants often encounter cultural differences and discriminatory barriers as they seek to settle in their host country (Teixeira et al, 2007; Bendel, 2014). In turn, these barriers limit opportunities to create and maintain social networks that enable integration into the host society (AMSSA, 2017). Studies suggest that immigrant volunteering provides opportunities for newcomers to accumulate the resources and capital necessary for integration (Sinha et al, 2011; Wang and Handy, 2014; Baert and Vujic, 2016).

Immigrant volunteering refers to volunteer activities conducted by groups of people with a migrant background, without the expectation of reward (Finkelstein and Brannick, 2007; Sinha et al, 2011; Ruiz Sportmann and Greenspan, 2019). In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of studies of the social benefits of volunteering, for those wishing to integrate into society (Lee and Brudney, 2009; Wilson, 2012; Wong and Tézli, 2013). For example, immigrant volunteering has been studied as both job market preparation and self-improvement (Yap et al, 2011; Raza et al, 2013; AMSSA, 2017). Volunteering also cultivates mutual trust between immigrants and non-immigrants (Handy and Greenspan, 2009; Sinha et al, 2011).

From the demand side, research suggests that volunteer-seeking organisations have yet to recognise the untapped potential of talented and resourceful would-be volunteers within immigrant populations (Carabain and Bekkers, 2011; Sinha et al, 2011; Ruiz Sportmann and Greenspan, 2019). In terms of the supply side, the explanation for volunteering has included immigrants’ desire to adapt to life in the host country, increase social connections and gain improved access to the job market (Handy and Greenspan, 2009; AMSSA, 2017; Greenspan et al, 2018). The literature on immigrants in Canada finds that social capital is most useful when integrating into the host country (Lamba and Krahn, 2003; Government of Canada, 2012; Nakhaie and Karemipur, 2013). Additionally, as Canadian policies promote multiculturalism, volunteering often enables immigrants to create social capital while maintaining their cultural identity (Sinha et al, 2011; Government of Canada, 2012; AMSSA, 2017).

Apart from the motivations just mentioned, immigrants who volunteer tend to have specific characteristics, suggesting that demographics may contribute to volunteer proclivity (Hall, 2009; Taylor et al, 2012; Koutruou and Pappous, 2016). Research shows that certain sociodemographic factors actively influence individual willingness to volunteer (Taylor et al, 2012; Koutrou and Downward, 2016; Koutruou and Pappous, 2016). For instance, immigrants without employment are less present in the volunteer force, implying that volunteers tend to be financially stable. Additionally, education and health level are consistent predictors of the inclination to volunteer (Li and Ferraro, 2006; Taylor et al, 2012). Social resources (for example, marital status, employment and so on), personal resources (for example, income) and age are also positively associated with the likelihood to volunteer (Wilson, 2000; Hall, 2009).

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework for this study is social-capital theory. Bourdieu defined social capital as obligations between groups, such as social exchanges (Bourdieu, 2001; Granovetter and Swedberg, 2001). Coleman offers a more nuanced definition, describing social capital as a composite of phenomena that occur in social networks: (a) trust, (b) dependency, (c) consultation, (d) mutual obligations and (e) access to information (Coleman, 1988; Bankston, 2004). The theories offered by Bourdieu and Coleman explain the relationship between volunteering and integration. For instance, volunteering is a social exchange that builds trust and provides immigrants with connections sustained through personal investment, reciprocity and continuous maintenance (Kunz and Sykes, 2007; Handy and Greenspan, 2009; Government of Canada, 2012).

Furthermore, as suggested by Bourdieu, the networks and social capital derived from volunteering are most valuable to those in the lower parts of the social hierarchy, such as immigrants, who face the loss of financial, social and professional capital in the process of dislocation through migration (Bourdieu, 2001; Granovetter and Swedberg, 2001). Coleman argues that social structures such as volunteering networks facilitate trust as a form of social capital (Coleman, 1988; Bankston, 2004; Rogošić and Baranović, 2016). By expanding networks to include non-familial people, immigrants become active agents in receiving, applying and showcasing their social capital (Lamba and Krahn, 2003; Raza et al, 2013; Harder et al, 2018). Social capital provides immigrants with the integration-related benefits (for example, feelings of belonging) necessary for a fulfilling and successful life in the host country (Bankston, 2004; Rogošić and Baranović, 2016; Harder et al, 2018). The social-capital theory thus explains how volunteering may influence integration, offering immigrants opportunities to accrue the social capital necessary for a successful and fulfilling life in the host country (Handy and Greenspan, 2009; Raza et al, 2013; Wong and Tézli, 2013; Harder et al, 2018). Our study explores whether volunteering in specific settings is related to integration among first-generation immigrants

Research hypotheses

Based on the above-reviewed literature and our theoretical framework, our two research hypotheses are:

  1. H1:There is a positive relationship between immigrant volunteering and integration.
  2. H2:Volunteering in certain types of organisations is significantly related to specific dimensions of integration.

Methods

This article is a secondary data analysis of Wave 2 of the Canadian Equality, Security, and Community Survey (ESCS), conducted in 2003 by the Institute for Social Research at York University in Canada (Johnston, 2003).1 We apply an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and an ordinary least square (OLS) regression to examine how volunteering is linked to first-generation immigrant integration. The survey selected 5,654 respondents aged 18 years and older at random for a telephone interview. Of these, 4,202 respondents were representative of Canada’s population, and the remaining observations were an oversample of the urban population. In total, 1,367 first-generation immigrants, or individuals not born in Canada, responded to the survey. Most immigrants in the sample had emigrated from Central Asia, England and the US. Despite its age, the ESCS dataset is appropriate for an exploratory study, as it (a) consists of cross-sectional data, (b) contains a large proportion (24%) of foreign-born individuals, (c) captures variables relevant to immigrant integration and (d) offers data differentiated by type of volunteer organisation.

Independent variables: volunteering and control variables

We used four separate variables to measure immigrants’ involvement in volunteering. General volunteering was coded as 1 if a respondent had volunteered at least one hour in the last 12 months and 0 otherwise. Volunteering in youth organisations, volunteering in cultural organisations and volunteering in help-related organisations were also coded as 1 if a respondent had volunteered for them within the last 12 months and 0 if not. Gender was a binary variable, with 0 standing for males and 1 standing for females. We coded marital status as 1 if the respondent lived with a partner or was married and 0 otherwise. Education level was captured as the highest educational degree completed by the respondent. Employment status was coded as a binary variable, with 1 being ‘employed’ or ‘self-employed’ and 0 otherwise. Age was a continuous variable that ranged from 19 to 72. The number of children in the household was measured by how many children under 18 resided in the respondent’s household. Family income represented 2002 annual household income before deduction and taxes in thousands of Canadian dollars. Years in Canada was captured by how many years the respondent had lived in Canada, whereas age at the time of immigration reflected the age at which the respondent resettled. Finally, overall health was measured by the respondent’s self-reported health status, which ranged from 1 for ‘poor health’ to 5 for ‘excellent health’.

Dependent variables: integration variables

While the dataset does not constitute a comprehensive collection of integration-related variables, it presents a range of measures related to integration. We developed this study’s integration measures with the following three steps. First, we identified a set of survey questions relevant to integration. Then, we ran an EFA to identify underlying integration dimensions based on these questions. Finally, we used the average score of responses to questions under each dimension as our integration measure (that is, professional, psychosocial and political integration).

Since immigrant professional integration is related to workplace experiences, we identified three survey items associated with this dimension: the respondent’s job satisfaction rating at their workplace; employee–employer relations; and trust in management. Each of these ratings was based on a 10-point scale. For instance: ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means very poor, and 10 means very good, on average, how would you rate employee–employer relations at your workplace?’ and ‘Using the same scale, how would you rate the level of trust that workers have in management at your workplace?’

Immigrant psychosocial integration is associated with the diversity of class and ethnicity within social circles and feelings of belonging. Therefore, we selected three membership variables to capture social diversity in respondent networks. The questions asked how many participants in the group shared the respondent’s social class or income bracket, how many members shared the respondent’s native language, and how many members shared the respondent’s ethnicity. All items were measured using five-point Likert scales, with 1 being ‘all’, suggesting low diversity, and 5 being ‘none’, suggesting high diversity. Additionally, we isolated three questions about national belonging, about: pride in being Canadian; the importance of being Canadian; and the sense of belonging in Canada. We also isolated questions on local belonging, asking whether respondents felt a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood and province, how often respondents spoke with neighbours and how respondents rated people in the neighbourhood.

Responses to the first question on national belonging used a Likert scale with seven points (1 being ‘not at all proud’ and 7 representing ‘very proud’). The second question used a four-point scale, with 1 being ‘not important at all’ and 4 being ‘very important’. Responses to the third question used a ten-point Likert scale, where 1 stands for ‘do not feel a sense of belonging’ and 10 stands for ‘feel a sense of complete belonging’. The first two questions on local belonging used a ten-point Likert scale, with 1 being ‘do not belong’ and 10 being ‘belong completely’. The third variable was measured on a scale from 1 (‘less often’) to 6 (‘every day’), and the rating of people in the neighbourhood was measured on a scale from 1–100, with the first 50 points being an ‘unfavourable rating’ and 50 plus standing for a ‘favourable rating’.

Considering that immigrants’ political integration is connected to experiences with and opinion of the host country’s government, we identified six items that captured perceptions of the Canadian government. Three measures used a 100-point Likert scale: 0–50 reflecting an ‘unfavourable rating’ and 50–100 reflecting a ‘favourable rating’. These items asked respondents to rate the federal government, the provincial government and Canada itself. The remaining three items asked respondents how much they trust their federal and provincial governments, on a scale from 1 (‘almost never’) to 4 (‘almost always’), as well as how many days a week respondents read the newspaper.

Dependent variables: factor analysis

After identifying the questions related to integration, we applied an EFA to examine each integration dimension’s underlying factors using the psych package in R. We started the analysis with 1,367 first-generation immigrants in the dataset. We screened data for a series of multivariate assumptions (normality, linearity, homogeneity and homoscedasticity) and met all assumptions with slight heteroscedasticity. We also systematically replaced missing data across the variables using the mice (Multiple Impute Data Points) packages. We then used the Mahalanobis distance method to detect outliers (Preacher and MacCallum, 2003). A total of 27 multivariate outliers (χ2(18) = 42.3124) were found that were consequently removed, thereby reducing the sample to 1,340 observations. We conducted the following EFA steps using guidelines outlined by Preacher and MacCallum (2003): Bartlett’s test indicated strong correlation adequacy (χ2(1,340) = 6927.783, p < .001) and the Kaiser-Meyer-Olim (KMO) test resulted in sampling adequacy (MSA = 0.71), which is appropriate for an EFA (Preacher and MacCallum, 2003).

Theory on integration dimensions, a parallel analysis and scree plot examinations suggest an average of three to four integration-related factors, which explains why we ultimately tested a three-factor model. Due to the expected factor correlation, we applied a maximum likelihood estimation with direct oblimin rotation (Preacher and MacCallum, 2003). Considering retained factors should have at least three items with > .40 loadings (Samuels, 2017), we deleted seven of the 18 items due to their low loading: (a) ‘About how many members of [your] group come from the same language group as you?’, (b) ‘About how many members of [your] group are of the same ethnicity as you?’, (c) ‘About how many members of [your] group are from the same social class or income bracket as you?’, (d) ‘How often do you talk to your neighbour?’, (e) ‘How would you rate your neighbourhood?’, (f) ‘How important is it to you to be Canadian?’ and (g) ‘How many days a week do you read the newspaper?’.

Each factor, consisting of several scale items, must have a strong internal consistency to be considered reliable. In other words, the reliability of a factor is the extent to which it is a consistent measure of a concept. We used Cronbach’s alpha of greater than 0.7 to assess this consistency’s strength (Preacher and MacCallum, 2003). After examining each factor’s Cronbach’s alpha, we dropped ‘How much do you trust the federal government?’ to increase the third factor’s alpha and improve the model’s overall goodness of fit (see Table 1).

Table 1:

Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of integration (n = 1,340)

Constructs/itemsPrIPsIPoIMSDαVari.
Professional integration (PrI)0.8220%
On a scale of 1 to 10, on average, how would you rate job satisfaction for workers at your workplace? (1 = very poor, 10 = very good)0.757.12.0
Using the same scale, on average, how would you rate employee–employer relations at your workplace?0.957.22.1
Using the same scale, how would you rate the level of trust that workers have in management at your workplace?0.666.92.1
Psychosocial integration (PsI)0.7620%
On a scale of 1 to 10, what number best describes how you feel about Canada? (1 = feel like you do not belong at all, 10 = feel like you belong completely)0.848.31.9
Using the same scale, what number best represents how you feel about your province?0.848.12.0
What about your neighbourhood?0.607.82.2
How proud are you to be Canadian? (7 = very proud, 5 = quite proud, 3 = not very proud, 1 = not at all proud)0.46.21.2
Political integration (PoI)0.7215%
On a scale of 0 to 100, how would you rate the federal government? (Ratings between 0 and 50 suggest you view the federal government unfavourably. Ratings between 50 and 100 suggest you view it favourably.)0.875821
Using the same scale from 0 to 100, how would you rate your provincial government?0.685522
Using the same scale from 0 to 100, how would you rate Canada?0.487618
Total variance explained55%

As noted, the model achieves a simple structure where each item loads onto one of the three factors. The model has an excellent fit with the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA), indicating a perfect fit at .074, with 90 per cent confidence intervals CI [.063, .085] and a Standardised Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR) of .03 (Preacher and MacCallum, 2003). The Comparative Fit Index (CFI) at .97 and the Tucker Lewis Index of factoring reliability (TLI) at .93 indicate a relatively reliable fit (Preacher and MacCallum, 2003). The reliability of all four factors is strong with .82, .76 and .72 for factors 1, 2 and 3, respectively. Having implemented all improvements, the three-factor model presents these factor loadings (see Table 1):

Dimensions of integration

Professional. Factor 1 includes three items that measure professional integration with questions about job satisfaction and trust in management. These measures correspond with those used by Harder et al (2018), wherein economic integration is measured by how satisfied immigrants are with their employment situation. Indeed, research suggests that immigrants who successfully assimilate show higher levels of job satisfaction (Lu et al, 2012; Wang and Jing, 2018). In addition, trust between employees and management positively influences job satisfaction, and immigrants who integrate well tend to be in jobs that maintain open relationships between workers and management (Aziri, 2011; Lu et al, 2012; Wang and Jing, 2018). We used the average score of these three items to measure professional integration.

Psychosocial. Factor 2 consists of items that assess psychosocial integration by capturing participants’ sense of belonging, interactions with non-immigrants and perceptions of Canada. Literature suggests that integrated immigrants have a higher opinion of Canada than Canadian-born individuals (Schellenberg and Maheux, 2007; Houle and Schellenberg, 2010). Additionally, Wong and Tézli (2013) state that integration depends on how deeply immigrants feel they belong to their province. The average score of these items was used to measure psychosocial integration.

Political. Factor 3 includes three questions that assess political integration with items that allow immigrants to rate their host government. Research suggests that immigrants who have lived in a host society for an extended period are more likely to rate the country favourably due to the difficulties they might have faced in their country of origin (Houle and Schellenberg, 2010; Wang and Jing, 2018). Literature also suggests that local governments are rated more favourably than federal governments due to a greater, daily visibility of local government (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Committee on Population, 2016). We used the average score of these questions to measure political integration.

Findings and discussion

Descriptive statistics

The sample of respondents includes slightly more males than females (50.7 per cent and 49.3 per cent, respectively). Of the sample, 59 per cent are married, and about two thirds have a college, bachelor or master’s degree. Also, 59.8 per cent of the respondents are employed or self-employed, and the mean age is 45. The average respondent has two children and a family income of 67.23K Canadian dollars, which is close to the average of 66K for families of two or more people during the year 2002 (Canadian Council on Social Development, 2004). Research states that in the 2000s, about 70 per cent of foreign-born immigrants had lived in Canada for ten years or longer (Lebrun, 2012). Canadian data categorise immigrants who have been in the country for more than ten years as established immigrants. The average respondent in our sample immigrated at the age of 26 and has spent about 19 years in Canada. Additionally, most first-generation immigrants describe their overall health as fair (2).

On average, respondents scored 7.1 out of 10 for professional integration, 7.6 out of 10 for psychosocial integration and 63 out of 100 for political integration. About 91.6 per cent of the sample volunteered. Of the sample, 17.9 per cent volunteered in youth-related organisations. Similarly, 16.0 per cent of immigrants volunteered in cultural organisations. At 25.1 per cent, the highest percentage of volunteers worked in help-related organisations (see Table 2).

Table 2:

Descriptive statistics for first-generation immigrants in Canada

VariablesTotal sample (N = 1,340): mean or percentage
Dependent variables
Professional integration7.1
Psychosocial integration7.6
Political integration63
Independent variables
YesNo
General volunteering91.6%8.4%
Volunteering in youth organisations17.9%22.1%
Volunteering in cultural organisations16.0%84.0%
Volunteering in help-related organisations25.1%74.9%
GenderMaleFemale
50.7%49.3%
Marital statusUnmarriedMarried
41%59%
Employment *employed, self-employed **retired, disabled, homemaker, student, unemployedEmployed* 59.8%Unemployed** 40.2%
Highest level of educationElementaryHigh schoolCollege
9.6%17.6%34.1%
BachelorMasterDoctorate
24.9%9.9%3.9%
MinimumMaximumMean
Age in years189744.8
Children in household0122
2002 family income in 1,000s080067.23
Years living in Canada08319.1
Age at the time of immigration to Canada07826.1
Overall health152.2

The association with volunteering

When examining the relationship between volunteering and integration, we uncover that, in general, volunteering is not significantly related to any integration dimensions specified in this study (factors 1–3). In other words, an immigrant who engages in volunteering does not experience a significant difference in specific types of integration compared with non-volunteers. However, there are some significant associations between the different dimensions of integration and volunteering in specific types of organisations. For example, we find that volunteering in youth services is significantly associated with psychosocial integration; while volunteering in organisations of cultural services (museums, festivals and so on) is related to professional integration. In other words, when immigrants volunteer in a specific organisation, they are more likely to experience a type of integration that is uniquely associated with the organisation’s category of voluntary work. See Table 3 for the OLS regression results.

Table 3:

Results of OLS regression method for each integration dimension

ItemProfessional integrationPsychosocial integrationPolitical integration
Volunteering in youth organisations0.9730.0001***0.619
Volunteering in cultural organisations0.0710.2580.515
Volunteering in help-related organisations0.1240.8250.443
Age0.0980.3000.282
Gender0.016*0.5480.021*
Income0.2730.2340.875
Marital status0.9490.1660.976
Religious attendance0.3720.7100.282
Children in household0.2270.9030.287
Employment0.0990.0007***0.010*
Overall health0.044*1.51e-10***0.153
Highest level of education0.005**5.28e-05***0.889
Years living in Canada0.3610.0001***0.002**
Age at the time of immigration to Canada0.1620.6330.038*
N1,3401,3401,340
Adjusted R20.01370.12880.0181

Note: p < 0.1, * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.

Psychosocial integration

The results show that psychosocial integration is significantly associated with volunteering in youth organisations (β = 0.0001, p < .001), meaning that immigrants volunteering with children or teenagers are more likely to report psychosocial integration into the host society. Canadian literature on volunteering reveals that individuals who volunteer in youth-oriented organisations (for example, Girl Guides, minor ice hockey and so on) often do so with a desire to invest in the host society’s future and based on their own children’s involvement with the organisation (Shier et al, 2020). Along with these aims, volunteering with youth is also connected to how immigrants relate with their sociogeographic environment. Wong and Tézli (2013) studied Canadian data and found that integration is dependent on how much immigrants feel they belong to a province. The longer an immigrant lives in the country, the higher the sense of belonging to the host society (National Academies of Sciences Engineering, and Medicine and Committee on Population, 2016; Harder et al, 2018). Integration can also be measured by how much immigrants feel they belong to their neighbourhood (Wong and Tézli, 2013; Liu et al, 2018).

Considering these insights from existing studies, we suggest that first-generation immigrants may volunteer in youth-oriented organisations because their children are enrolled in the clubs that they provide. Second, by assisting organisations where their children and other non-immigrant children participate, first-generation immigrants may find opportunities to connect to people in their neighbourhoods and communities. Additionally, immigrant parents may find that their volunteer work in secular organisations contributes to the wellbeing of their communities and their pride in their host country, thereby increasing their psychosocial sense of belonging.

Other items with a significant association to psychosocial integration were immigrants’ overall state of health (p < .001), level of education (p < .001), employment (p < .001) and number of years in Canada (p < .001). In other words, immigrants who have good health, a higher education, a job or have lived in Canada for a longer period of time experience a higher degree of psychosocial integration.

Professional integration

Professional integration is associated with volunteering in cultural organisations (for example, museums, music festivals and so on) (β = 0.0713, p < .1), suggesting that immigrants volunteering in cultural settings are more likely to report a higher level of professional integration than those who do not. According to our OLS regression, other significant items for professional integration are being older (p < .1), employment (p < .1), being female (p < .05), the respondent’s overall health status (p < .05) and their highest level of education (p < .01).

These findings are in line with the literature, which finds that immigrants who experience a higher level of integration are also better connected in their workplace, more aware of relations between supervisors and employees (Aziri, 2011; Lu et al, 2012; Wang and Jing, 2018) and more satisfied with their employment situation (Harder et al, 2018). In addition, informal learning from volunteer work placements in cultural settings improves communication skills, networking skills, knowledge of workplace practices, understanding of Canadian culture and self-confidence (Government of Canada, 2012). While the association between volunteering in cultural organisations and professional integration is not remarkably strong, the informal learning that takes place in these settings might explain the positive relationship.

Political integration

Volunteering for political advocacy leads to immigrant acculturation (Nesbit, 2017), and immigrants who rate their host country’s government favourably are more likely to be politically involved (Barreto and Muños, 2003). Unfortunately, our dataset does not provide us with data on volunteering in political associations, hence it is not surprising that we found no significant association for political integration and volunteering in youth, cultural or help-related organisations. However, our findings do show an association between political integration and the number of years an immigrant has lived in Canada (p < .01), followed by employment (p < .05), gender (p < .05) and age at the time of immigration (p < .05), suggesting that the longer an immigrant lives in the host country, the higher the likelihood of political integration (Wang and Jing, 2018).

Implications and limitations

Our contribution to the literature lies in that we present in this article a more nuanced picture of volunteering and immigrant integration. We add to the literature on immigrant volunteering in religious organisations (Greenspan and Handy, 2009), by examining volunteering in secular organisations. We find that immigrant volunteering in various types of secular organisation is associated with different dimensions of integration. We included several demographic controls that allowed us to determine whether the effects were robust and to consider potential alternative explanations.

While we find no overall association between general volunteering and integration, our findings suggest that the association, when it exists, is nuanced. In other words, it matters where immigrants volunteer and the mission of the organisation. As such, these findings lead to implications for volunteer managers and policy makers. Volunteer managers may use these insights when marketing their volunteer positions to immigrants by listing the benefits that come with volunteering (Apinunmahakul and Devlin, 2008; Gazley and Brudney, 2014; Russell et al, 2020). The results also suggest that policy makers should refrain from promoting general volunteering and should instead promote volunteering in certain types of organisation as a way towards integration. When seeking to foster specific types of integration – psychosocial integration, for example – policy makers might strategically encourage newcomers to participate in youth-related volunteer work.

Policy makers could also encourage and incentivise immigration service providers to reach out to networks that immigrants are attracted to when they first settle – where institutional discrimination is less likely to occur (Teixeira et al, 2007; Tomlinson, 2010; Baert and Vujic, 2016). For instance, what community-based initiatives do immigrants engage in to create social capital networks that promote integration (Apinunmahakul and Devlin, 2008)? Once identified, policy makers could partner with such organisations in creating integration-promoting policies; for example, ethnic congregations, which are a welcoming gateway for many immigrants seeking community networks (Handy and Greenspan, 2009; Bendel, 2014). Finally, policy makers could use these insights to analyse how volunteering affects integration across generations and helps immigrants acclimatise to their host society.

Due to data limitations, this study does not capture the entire range of integration dimensions and volunteer organisations. For instance, the survey does not measure volunteering in political organisations, which could be significantly related to political integration. Additionally, the survey does not ask respondents whether they volunteer in professional associations, where volunteering often remains unrecognised as such (Gazley and Brudney, 2014). Finally, we must note that the study is limited to a Canadian sample; thus, the construct’s cross-cultural validity is limited.

As with all correlational studies, several limitations of this study should be considered. First, we could only identify associations between variables; we cannot thoroughly explain why these associations exist, although our theoretical frameworks suggest some explanations. While the associations do not imply causation, we encourage future studies to examine causal relations by following immigrants’ volunteering over time and analyse longitudinal changes in immigrant integration. This would explain how and when integration happens, and to what extent it is related to specific types of volunteering. Future research should disaggregate volunteer organisations into further categories (for example, educational, health-related and so on), as well as looking at what the volunteering entails (fundraising, office work, mentoring and so on), to explore even more nuanced relationships between immigration and integration. Furthermore, future surveys should be conducted in additional immigrant languages to include newcomers who are not fluent in the official languages of the host country. Finally, a study of relationships between informal volunteering (volunteering outside of an organisation’s auspices) and immigrant integration would deepen our understanding of immigrant integration.

Although this study’s EFA assists in systematically categorising integration and volunteer work, future research should employ qualitative methods to explore nuances of how volunteering in different types of organisation influences the integration dimensions. Furthermore, we recommend exploring whether integration experiences are different for minority versus non-minority immigrants who know the language of the host country (Harder et al, 2018).

Conclusion

Our findings identify recommendations for researchers, policy makers and practitioners in volunteer work who seek to improve immigrant integration. Our focus on the nuances of integration and volunteering calls for research and policy implications that recognise that voluntary settings present unique venues for the development of social capital between immigrants and non-immigrants. While research on holistic measures of immigrant integration is increasing (Harder et al, 2018), the application of informed, integration-improving practices remains underexplored. More comprehensive studies that disaggregate the concept of integration and recognise that voluntary organisations are not homogenous may best support practices for achieving higher levels of immigrant integration into neighbourhoods, communities and nations.

Note

1

The ESCS combines a Montreal–Vancouver–Toronto metropolitan sample taken from telephone exchanges that overrepresent visible minorities with a national probability sample of non-citizens and residents aged 18 and over. No weighting is necessary since all groups were respectively over- or under-sampled. The ESCS dataset is a telephone survey conducted in French and English, which ultimately may bias the immigrant sample towards those who are partially integrated into Canadian society (Soroka et al, 2006). Between 2001 and 2005, 80 per cent of male and 68 per cent of female immigrants reported speaking French or English with good or growing proficiency within their first six months in Canada (Ng et al, 2011); this suggests that our sample presents little bias regarding language proficiency.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

References

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    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Koutrou, N. and Pappous, A.S. (2016) Towards an Olympic volunteering legacy: motivating volunteers to serve and remain—a case study of London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers, Voluntary Sector Review, 7(3): 26991. doi: 10.1332/096278916X14767760874050

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    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lee, Y.J. and Brudney, J.L. (2009) Rational volunteering: a benefit‐cost approach, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 29(9/10): 51230. doi: 10.1108/01443330910986298

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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  • Allan, K. (2019) Volunteering as hope labor: the potential value of unpaid work experience for the un- and under-employed, Culture, Theory, and Critique, 60(1): 6683. doi: 10.1080/14735784.2018.1548300

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    • Export Citation
  • AMSSA (2017) Newcomers as volunteers, Migration Matters, (42): 12.

  • Apinunmahakul, A. and Devlin, R.A. (2008) Social networks and private philanthropy, Journal of Public Economics, 92(1–2): 30928. doi: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2007.07.005

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aziri, B. (2011) Job satisfaction: a literature review, Management Research & Practice, 3(4): 7786.

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    • Export Citation
  • Bankston III, C.L. (2004) Social capital, cultural values, immigration, and academic achievement: the host country context and contradictory consequences, Sociology of Education, 77(2): 17679. doi: 10.1177/003804070407700205

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barreto, M.A. and Muñoz, J.A. (2003) Reexamining the ‘politics of in-between’: political participation among Mexican immigrants in the United States, Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 25(4): 42747. doi: 10.1177/0739986303258599

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bendel, P. (2014) Coordinating Immigrant Integration in Germany: Mainstreaming at the Federal and Local Levels, Brussels: Migration Policy Institute Europe.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bilodeau, A. and White, S. (2016) Trust among recent immigrants in Canada: levels, roots and implications for immigrant integration, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42(8): 131733. doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2015.1093411

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bourdieu, P. (2001) The forms of capital, in M. Granovetter and R. Swedberg (eds) The Sociology of Economic Life, 2nd edn, Boulder, CO: Westview, pp 96111.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Canadian Council on Social Development (2004) Economic security: income (CCSD’s Stats & Facts) [Fact Sheet].

  • Carabain, C.L. and Bekkers, R. (2011) Religious and secular volunteering: a comparison between immigrants and nonimmigrants in the Netherlands, Voluntary Sector Review, 2(1): 2341. doi: 10.1332/204080511X560602

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Coleman, J.S. (1988) Social capital in the creation of human capital, American Journal of Sociology, 94: S95S120. doi: 10.1086/229033

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Finkelstein, M.A. and Brannick, M.T. (2007) Applying theories of institutional helping to informal volunteering: motives, role identity, and prosocial personality, Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 35(1): 10114. doi: 10.2224/sbp.2007.35.1.101

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gazley, B. and Brudney, J.L. (2014) The extent and nature of informal volunteering in professional associations, Voluntary Sector Review, 5(3): 31329. doi: 10.1332/204080514X14122532956736

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Government of Canada (2012) Volunteer lead learn, https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/esdc-edsc/documents/corporate/seniors/forum/volunteer-benevolat.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Granovetter, M.S. and Swedberg, R. (2001) The Sociology of Economic Life, New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Greenspan, I., Walk, M. and Handy, F. (2018) Immigrant integration through volunteering: the importance of contextual factors, Journal of Social Policy, 47(4): 80325. doi: 10.1017/S0047279418000211

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hall, M.H. (2009) Caring Canadians, involved Canadians: Highlights from the 2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, Statistics Canada, 71(542), Statistics Canada.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Handy, F. and Greenspan, I. (2009) Immigrant volunteering: a stepping stone to integration?, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(6): 95682. doi: 10.1177/0899764008324455

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Handy, F., Cnaan, R.A., Brudney, J.L., Ascoli, U., Meijs, L.C. and Ranade, S. (2000) Public perception of ‘who is a volunteer’: an examination of the net-cost approach from a cross-cultural perspective, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 11(1): 4565. doi: 10.1023/A:1008903032393

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harder, N., Figueroa, L., Gillum, R.M., Hangartner, D., Laitin, D.D. and Hainmueller, J. (2018) Multidimensional measure of immigrant integration, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(45): 1148388. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1808793115

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Houle, R. and Schellenberg, G. (2010) New Immigrants’ Assessments of their Life in Canada, Statistics Canada Analytical Branch Studies Working Paper (322), Ottowa: Statistics Canada.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johnston, R. (2003) Equality, security and community (ESC), wave 1, 2000-2001, Map and Data Library, https://mdl.library.utoronto.ca/collections/numeric-data/equality-security-and-community-esc-wave-1-2000-2001.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Koutrou, N. and Downward, P. (2016) Event and club volunteer potential: the case of women’s rugby in England, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 8(2): 20730. doi: 10.1080/19406940.2015.1102756

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Koutrou, N. and Pappous, A.S. (2016) Towards an Olympic volunteering legacy: motivating volunteers to serve and remain—a case study of London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers, Voluntary Sector Review, 7(3): 26991. doi: 10.1332/096278916X14767760874050

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kunz, J.L. and Sykes, S. (2007) From Mosaic to Harmony: Multicultural Canada in the 21st Century, Ottawa, ON: Policy Research Initiative.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lamba, N.K. and Krahn, H. (2003) Social capital and refugee resettlement: the social networks of refugees in Canada, Revue de L’integration et de la Migration International [Journal of International Migration and Integration], 4(3): 33560.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lebrun, L.A. (2012) Effects of length of stay and language proficiency on health care experiences among immigrants in Canada and the United States, Social Science & Medicine, 74(7): 106272. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.031

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lee, Y.J. and Brudney, J.L. (2009) Rational volunteering: a benefit‐cost approach, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 29(9/10): 51230. doi: 10.1108/01443330910986298

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Li, Y. and Ferraro, K.F. (2006) Volunteering in middle and later life: Is health a benefit, barrier or both?, Social Forces, 85(1): 497519. doi: 10.1353/sof.2006.0132

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Liu, W., Son, M., Wenzel, A., An, Z., Zhao Martin, N., Nah, S. and Ball-Rokeach, S. (2018) Bridging mechanisms in multiethnic communities: Place-based communication, neighborhood belonging, and intergroup relations, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 11(1): 5880. doi: 10.1080/17513057.2017.1384506

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lu, Y., Samaratunge, R. and Härtel, C.E. (2012) The relationship between acculturation strategy and job satisfaction for professional Chinese immigrants in the Australian workplace, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 36(5): 66981. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.04.003

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Musick, M.A. and Wilson, J. (2008) Volunteers: A Social Profile, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

  • Nakhaie, M.R. and Kazemipur, A. (2013) Social capital, employment and occupational status of the new immigrants in Canada, Journal of International Migration and Integration, 14(3): 41937.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and Committee on Population (2016) The Integration of Immigrants into American Society, Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nesbit, R. (2017) Advocacy recruits: demographic predictors of volunteering for Advocacy-related organizations, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(3): 95887. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9855-z

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ng, E., Pottie, K. and Spitzer, D. (2011) Official language proficiency and Self-reported health among immigrants to Canada (Health Report No. 82-003–X; Component of Statistics Canada Catalogue).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Preacher, K.J. and MacCallum, R.C. (2003) Repairing Tom Swift’s electric factor analysis machine, Understanding Statistics: Statistical Issues in Psychology, Education, and the Social Sciences, 2(1): 1343.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Qvist, H.P.Y. (2018) Secular and religious volunteering among immigrants and natives in Denmark, Acta Sociologica, 61(2): 20218, . doi: 10.1177/0001699317717320

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Raza, M., Beaujot, R. and Woldemicael, G. (2013) Social capital and economic integration of visible minority immigrants in Canada, Journal of International Migration and Integration, 14(2): 26385.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rogošić, S. and Baranović, B. (2016) Social capital and educational achievements: Coleman vs. Bourdieu, Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 6(2): 81100.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ruiz Sportmann, A.S. and Greenspan, I. (2019) Relational interactions between immigrant and native-born volunteers: trust-building and integration or suspicion and conflict?, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 30(5): 93246. doi: 10.1007/s11266-019-00108-5

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Russell, A.R., Kim, E., Handy, F. and Gellis, Z. (2020) Formal versus informal volunteering and wellbeing: does volunteering type matter for older adults?, Voluntary Sector Review, 11(3): 31736. doi: 10.1332/204080520X15874538219286

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Samuels, P. (2017) Advice on exploratory factor analysis, Technical Report. ResearchGate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319165677_Advice_on_Exploratory_Factor_Analysis.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schellenberg, G. and Maheux, H. (2007) Immigrants’ Perspectives on their First Four Years in Canada: Highlights from Three Waves of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada, Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shier, M.L., Larsen-Halikowski, J. and Gouthro, S. (2020) Characteristics of volunteer motivation to mentor youth, Children and Youth Services Review, 111: 104885. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.104885

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  • 1 School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, , USA
  • | 2 School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University, , USA
  • | 3 School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, , USA

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