«Jill Witmer Sinha Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Itay Greenspan and Femida Handy University of Pennsylvania jilsinha ...»
Research Site The research was carried out in ethnic congregations in the City of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA). Philadelphia was a popular immigrant gateway to the US in the early 20th century, experienced a significant decline in popularity since the 1950s, but is showing signs of regaining its popularity as a destination to immigrants (Singer, 2004). The number of foreign-born in the city has been on the rise (30% increase between 1990 and 2000) while the overall population has declined by 4.3% in the same period of time (Ceffalio & Patusky, 2006). A recent census of congregations in Philadelphia revealed an impressive surge in the number of ethnic congregations (Cnaan, Boddie, McGrew & Kang, 2006). The inflow of immigrants and prevalence of ethnic congregations, combined with reasons of convenience and funding, suggested Philadelphia as a viable research site.
Sampling Frame of Ethnic Immigrant Congregations A sample of ethnic immigrant congregations was drawn from an existing census of Philadelphia congregations, which contained 1,415 cases (Cnaan, Boddie, McGrew & Kang, 2006). To identify ethnically homogenous, immigrant congregations from this census, three selection criteria were defined: 1) 75% or more of the congregation members are immigrants; 2) the congregation is at least 75% ethnically homogenous; 3) the congregation had seating for at least 100 members. These criteria yielded a sampling frame of n=192 congregations, from which we generated a stratified random sample of 34 potential congregations to survey. Some of these congregations did not meet our eligibility criteria, were not accessible, or declined their participation; hence other ethnic congregations were randomly selected and approached. A total of 65 congregations were contacted, of which 23 congregations agreed to participate. The surveyed congregations represent different ethnic backgrounds, including Asian, Latino, European, and African ethnicities (see Table 1); they reflect eight of the 13 most prevalent immigrant populations in Philadelphia (Ceffalio & Patusky, 2006).
Data Collection Phone calls to the clergy of congregations were made to verify ethnic and immigrant composition according to our selection criteria. In some cases, the research team also paid a preliminary visit to some of the congregations in order to ascertain their approval. We scheduled visits around the congregation‟s weekly worship service to conduct paper-and-pencil anonymous surveys among all adults present at the time of the visit. To supplement the on-site visits, a link to a web-based survey was provided to congregation members who preferred to complete it online. The survey was translated from English into Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese to accommodate immigrants who were not comfortable with English. The final sample size is n=495 with 90% paper-and-pencil (n=448) and 10% on-line surveys (n=47). We excluded from this sample 35 questionnaires filled out by people who were not first generation immigrants, and 29 which were incomplete.
Survey Instrument The survey instrument included questions targeting members‟ attendance in worship services, volunteering within and outside the congregation, civic participation and socio-demographic characteristics. Questions related to congregational participation were adapted from instruments used by Cnaan and his colleagues (Cnaan, Boddie, Handy, Yancey, & Schneider, 2002; Cnaan, Boddie, McGrew & Kang, 2006) and by Handy and Greenspan (2009). Several items from the Social Capital Community Benchmark (SCCB) survey (Saguaro Seminar, 2000, 2001) were used to examine participation in social and political activities. The relevant items in the instrument are described in the data analysis section.
Sample Characteristics Survey respondents were nearly equally split in terms of gender composition, with 49% male respondents. Almost three quarters of the sample (72%) immigrated to the US before 2000. On average, respondents have resided in the US for 17 years, with a range from less than one year to 69 years. Respondents have been members of their congregation for an average of over 10 years.
Their ages ranged from 18 to 93 years, with a mean age of 43 years old. It was a relatively young sample, with 37% of the sample being less than 34 years old.
Respondents were educated (55% with a bachelor degree or higher) and more likely to be employed (78% were full- or part-time employed). A majority of the sample were of Asian origin (60%), with the remainder being white (15%), Black (14%), and Hispanic (11%). The ethnic composition of our sample closely corresponds to the 2000 US Census data on immigration in Philadelphia where the proportions of ethnicities among recent immigrants are: Asian - 68%, European - 15%, African - 9%, and Central and South America and the Caribbean
- 6% (Ceffalio & Patusky, 2006). Demographic characteristics of respondents are detailed in Table 2.
Limitations First, the sample does not, and was not intended to represent all faith groups and all religions in the Philadelphia region. It may also not be fully representative of the populations of the surveyed congregations because respondents were not chosen randomly in the sense that only those attending worship services on the day of the surveyor‟s visit were included in the sample.
Second, our sample respondents may be better educated than the average immigrant. Our sample includes a high proportion of immigrants from Asia (60%), which, while consistent with the immigrant population in Philadelphia, may contribute to the relatively high proportion of participants with high levels of education. In addition, 78% of the sample was employed either full or part time. As noted, the literature indicates that more educated and employed individuals tend to volunteer (Jacobs, Phalet & Swyngedouw, 2004; Togeby, 2004), but the number of volunteer hours contributed is negatively correlated with level of education (Handy & Greenspan, 2009). This combination may contribute to our sample being one that is more likely to volunteer than the general population. On the other hand, nearly 40% of our sample indicated some difficulty with regard to communication in English (“Cannot communicate at all,” “communicate with difficulty,” or “Somewhat difficult”) and 43% of our sample had a household income of less than $40,000, which suggests that this sample is not an elite one on these measures. Finally, due to the scope of the study that covers immigrants in congregations only, we lack a comparison group and are unable to generalize our findings to first generation immigrants who do not attend congregations or who belong to other community groups.
Data Analysis Dependent variables We constructed two measures of immigrants‟ involvement outside the congregation as our dependent variables: volunteering outside the congregation and civic participation. Our first measure was operationalized using the dichotomous yes/no question “In the past 12 months, have you volunteered for any other organisation?” To operationalize the variable civic participation, we recoded, averaged, and log-transformed five items borrowed from the SCCB survey into a new continuous variable labelled Civic Participation Score (CPS). The original question was „how many times in the past 12 months have you‟: “signed a petition,” “attended a political meeting,” “attended a public meeting in which school or community issue was discussed,” “attended a club or organizational meeting,” and “been in the home of a friend of a different race/ethnicity or had them in your home.” Responses to these items were originally given in an ordinal scale, ranging from „never‟ to „weekly‟. We translated and then logtransformed this measure to an interval scale by recoding the initial responses to approximate the number of days per year for each activity: “never” (0 days per year), “less than once a month” (7 days per year), “once a month” (12 days per year), “more than once a month” (32 days a year), and “weekly” (52 days a year). The log-transformed variable had a correlation of r=.967 with the ordinal variable that only calculated the means of the 5 original participation items.
All the five items grouped under CPS are inter-correlated (all correlations are statistically significant except for the correlation between „sign a petition‟ and „attend a club meeting‟).
Independent and control variables
The variables congregation attendance and volunteering within an ethnic congregation are our two independent variables. In the final regression model, the dependent variable volunteering outside the congregation is used as an independent variable along with attendance and volunteering within the congregation (see Multivariate analysis). Congregation attendance is a continuous variable measured by the question “In the past 12 months, how many times a month (on average) did you attend services in this congregation?
Responses ranged from 0 to 36 (more than once a day).
To determine the rate of volunteering within the congregation, we asked a dichotomous yes/no question, “In the past 12 months, have you volunteered with your congregation?” Seventy-nine percent responded positively to this question. However, this response did not capture the breadth of immigrants‟ volunteer activities. To capture multiple volunteer activities we used the count of types of volunteer activities to estimate volunteering within the congregation. The volunteer activities reported included: Administration – 13% respondents participating, Governance (committees, board) – 22%, Fundraising – 22%, Maintenance and transportation – 23%, Choir – 21%, Special events (cooking and serving meals, home visiting) – 39%, Training and education (including teaching Sunday school) – 26%, and Other – 15%.1 We summed the various types of volunteer activities for each respondent to create the variable volunteering within the congregation that is the count of all the volunteering activities in which they participated; this variable ranges between 0 and 8.
We included the following control variables: years of membership in the congregation (continuous), age (in years), racial/ethnic origin (Asian reference group), length of residency in the US (in years), dichotomous measure of gender (0=male), and dummy variables for level of English proficiency (0=cannot communicate or with some difficulty), education level (0=less than bachelor), presence of children under age 18 in the household (0=no), and employment status (0= not employed). Table 3 summarizes the descriptive statistics of the dependent, independent and control variables.
Twenty respondents reported about volunteering within the congregation but did not report type. They were recorded as other/unknown type.
Findings Bivariate analysis: First, we performed Pearson correlation tests to assess whether frequency of congregation attendance is correlated with volunteering within the congregation (H1), volunteering outside the congregation (H2), and civic participation (H3). We found that higher congregational attendance increases the likelihood of engaging in more types of volunteering within the congregation (r=.105, p=.027) thus supporting H1. However, our second and third hypotheses were not supported by the data. Second, we performed another correlation test to assess whether respondents‟ volunteering activities within the congregation were related to their volunteering outside the congregation (H4). We found that those who volunteered within the congregation were more likely to volunteer outside the congregation (r=.230, p.001). Lastly, we tested the correlation between volunteering within the congregation and civic participation (H5) to find that volunteering within the congregation also increases the likelihood of civic participation (r=.166, p.001) hence supporting our fifth hypothesis.