A large literature in sociology concerns the implications of immigrants’ participation in ethnic enclaves for their economic and social well-being. The “enclave thesis” speculates that immigrants benefit from working in ethnic enclaves. Previous research concerning the effects of enclave participation on immigrants’ economic outcomes has come to mixed conclusions as to whether enclave effects are positive or negative. In this article, we seek to extend and improve upon past work by formulating testable hypotheses based on the enclave thesis and testing them with data from the 2003 New Immigrant Survey (NIS), employing both residence-based and workplace-based measures of the ethnic enclave. We compare the economic outcomes of immigrants working in ethnic enclaves with those of immigrants working in the mainstream economy. Our research yields minimal support for the enclave thesis. Our results further indicate that for some immigrant groups, ethnic enclave participation actually has a negative effect on economic outcomes.
KeywordsEthnic enclaves Immigrants Assimilation Earnings
The research is supported by a research grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (R01 HD044905). The second author acknowledges support from an NICHD training grant to the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan (T32 HD007339). We are grateful to Debra Hevenstone and Lisa Neidert for research assistance; and to Michael Hout, Robert Mare, and Alejandro Portes for comments on an earlier version of the article, which was presented at the 2009 annual meetings of the Population Association of America (April 30–May 2, in Detroit, MI).
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