Immigrants’ Social Networks at the Workplace: Development, Characteristics, and Outcomes from a Comparative Perspective

Research question/goal: 

Despite the common interest in immigrants’ pathways of upward mobility in the host country, existing immigration literature from the social network perspective has dominantly confined its focus to the job entry stage, and left the integration trajectory afterwards largely unexamined. To fill this research gap, this project aims to systematically study the development, characteristics, and outcomes of immigrants’ social networks at the workplace. It focuses on the research question: how and to what extent do social networks matter in an immigrant’s upward mobility after her/his job entry into the host-country labour market? By situating immigrants’ networking behaviour in contextual constraints, the innovative contribution of this study is to emphasize how the answer to the question varies among immigrants with different networking tendencies as well as across working contexts. The project will first show the extent to which immigrant workers are integrated into the work organization by examining ties formed among all employees within the entire workplace, which is called a “whole network” approach. Second, from a sequential approach, it will reveal how immigrants’ egocentric networks evolve and how network development after job entry differs among immigrants with different networking tendencies. Third, it will examine outcomes of immigrants’ networking behaviour at the workplace at both the individual and organizational levels. A comparative perspective between Germany and Canada will be applied in the investigations of the three objectives. Similarities and differences in immigration histories and policies as well as in structural and cultural attributes of the labour market between the two countries will provide robust evidence in order to pinpoint the extent to which immigrants’ pathways of upward mobility in the host country are contextually constrained and to which they can be shaped by individuals’ strategic networking behaviour.

This project requires two parts of data. One part will be collected through a web survey conducted in selected firms in Germany and Canada. A whole network questionnaire will be asked among all employees to identify their intra-organizational networks of discussion, advice, support, influence, and friendship. Immigrant employees will be asked to fill out an additional questionnaire about their job changes, with a focus on how the development of their social capital and human capital is related to each step of their job changes. The other part comes from secondary data sources, including administrative databases (Employer-Employee-Linked Database of the German Institute for Employment Research and the Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics Database) and longitudinal survey data sets in the two countries. Network analysis, longitudinal analysis and computational methods will be adopted.

Current stage: 

[This project has been discontinued at the MZES.]

Fact sheet

2019 to 2021
continued elsewhere
Data Sources: 
IAB Employer-Employer-Linked Database; Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics Database; firm survey
Geographic Space: 
Germany and Canada