The support networks of immigrants in Canada: a multilevel multinomial analysis of emotional and instrumental support among recent immigrants
This study focuses on the role of support networks in the integration process of Ghanaian immigrants to Canada. While social support networks - identified as social relationships that surround an individual and the characteristics of those linkages, have been widely argued to shape the immigrants’ pre- and post-migration experience, their presence, and roles are neither self-evident nor constant. Common conceptualizations of social support exchange which involves “the social resources that persons perceive to be available or that are actually provided to them by non-professionals in the context of both formal support groups and informal helping relationships” (Cohen et al. 2000:4), is often perceived as unidirectional flowing from network members to immigrants. This underlies a rather linear notion of support networks among immigrants. Empirically, few studies have simultaneously examined specific characteristics of the immigrant, their network members and the network collectively to determine their effect on support provision. This paper, therefore, investigates directionality of support regarding emotional, instrumental, and informational support and the extent to which closeness, delineated as Familial (Kinship), perceived (importance of relationship), temporal (frequency of interaction), and geographic (location) influence these support exchanges. The study employs a multilevel multinomial analysis of 172 egocentric networks of recent and established immigrants in Toronto, Canada using a social network analysis approach. Social network analysis is a tool for analyzing relational data (Perry et al., 2018; Scot, 2002; Wasserman & Faust, 1994) that addresses analytical challenges typically associated with relational data. Results show that geographic closeness was consistently less important than kinship, temporal, and perceived closeness in both emotional, instrumental, and informational support – regardless of directionality. This broadly support the assertions about ‘death of distance’ and that spatiality may no longer be a key influencer within the social support networks of immigrants. Likewise, the findings reveal that interactions between immigrants are based on functions performed by the network member regardless of proximity. Importantly, the current study moves beyond “mere metaphorical” use of network terminology in migration studies by empirically examining support networks.