Going Political: Integration Policies, Group Resources and the Opportunities for Immigrants' Political Voice
This study examines the political integration of immigrants in the two advanced democracies of North America: Canada and the United States. Literature shows that immigrants tend to participate more and feel more politically efficacious in countries, such as Canada, characterized by multiculturalism policies that proactively support the integration of immigrants. The literature, however, leaves unexplained the mechanisms through which multiculturalism policies influence immigrants at the individual level, where political attitudes crystallize and behavior is carried out. This inattention to mechanisms poses a serious inferential problem. As we cannot determine how multiculturalism policies influence immigrants’ integration, we cannot establish whether integration outcomes are actually a result of multiculturalism policies or rather, as critics of multiculturalism argue, of the selective immigration criteria in multiculturalism countries, which privilege highly-skilled immigrants who are arguably better able to integrate, regardless of integration policies. Using an original data set I built through a survey with immigrants from India and El Salvador in the Greater Toronto Area (Canada) and the Santa Clara County (United States), I examine the processes through which multiculturalism policies influence the likelihood that immigrants will engage in politics and feel politically competent. I also address questions that remain empirically under-investigated in the literature, such as whether multiculturalism policies incentivize immigrants to develop ties within the immigrant community, to the detriment of wider social integration, and the relative influence of in-group and out-group connections for immigrants’ political participation. The findings in the study shows that multicultural policies – through their effects on ethno-specific civic organizations-, redistribute social resources that are helpful for political incorporation in favor of more socioeconomically disadvantaged immigrant groups, while equalizing the distribution of such resources within better off immigrant groups. The findings also show that in-group and out-group connections are positively related in both Canada and the United States. This study challenges the arguments of critics of multiculturalism who argue that these policies are inconsequential, or harmful to integration, or more beneficial to already better off immigrant groups. It shows instead that they matter particularly for more disadvantaged immigrant communities.