Binational Social Networks and Assimilation: A Test of the Importance of Transnationalism
While the concept of transnationalism has gained widespread popularity among scholars as a way to describe immigrants' long-term maintenance of cross-border ties to their origin communities, critics have argued that the overall proportion of immigrants who engage in transnational behavior is low and that, as a result, transnationalism has little sustained effect on the process of immigrant adaptation and assimilation. In this article, we argue that a key shortcoming in the current empirical debate on transnationalism is the lack of data on the social networks that connect migrants to each other and to nonmigrants in communities of origin. To address this shortcoming, our analysis uses unique binational data on the social network connecting an immigrant sending community in Guanajuato, Mexico, to two destination areas in the United States. We test for the effect of respondents' positions in cross-border networks on their migration intentions and attitudes towards the United States using data on the opinions of their peers, their participation in cross-border and local communication networks, and their structural position in the network. The results indicate qualified empirical support for a network-based model of transnationalism; in the U.S. sample we find evidence of network clustering consistent with peer effects, while in the Mexican sample we find evidence of the importance of cross-border communication with friends.
transnationalism; immigration; adaptation and incorporation of immigrants; social networks; collecting data on immigration