Financial Institution and Immigrant Integration in the US and Canada

Project: Research project

Project Details


Financial Institution and Immigrant Integration in the US and Canada Financial Institution and Immigrant Integration in the U.S. and Canada This proposed project posits that financial institutions develop and utilize social capitalethnic assets in outreach to immigrant communities; and that financial integration is part of the ultimate goal in immigrant integration into receiving societies. It aims to compare and contrast the roles of different types of financial institutions (banks and credit unions) in both the U.S. and Canada by examining both supply and demand sides on banking and immigration. Specifically, it seeks to explore: a. the strategies financial institutions use to reach out to immigrant communities, and the global, national, and local forces that shape these strategies; b. ways in which immigrant communities assess the fairness and effectiveness of such strategies. This research will combine census data analysis, GIS-aided spatial analysis, bank financial data analysis, interviews with bank executives and immigrant entrepreneurs, and surveys of immigrants. The project builds upon my joint work on minority-owned banks and Chinese foreign banks in LA ethnic communities. It also extends from previous pilot Canadian research by examining major types of financial institutions for the first time, in San Francisco and Vancouver. Both areas are the primary gateways to and the financial sub-centers of the Pacific Rim. The project is collaborative in nature with Dr. Lucia Lo of York University in jointly designing the interview/survey, and conducting analyses. Focusing on receiving countries, it is the first phase to test interview and survey instruments for a future cross-national multilingual comparative project on banking and immigration, especially immigrants use of banking services and their transnational financial connections, in countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The project is especially timely amid the subprime loan and credit crises in the US whose impacts move beyond border. Intellectual Merit of the proposed project: We are living in an age of migration and financial globalization, not only in terms of the century-old phenomenon of people and money crossing national borders, but also in the unprecedented scope and complexity that these crossings have reached. Population and money often have a bi-directional flow, sometimes in the same direction, while opposite in others. However, only the latter has drawn widespread attention, and this attention has focused on remittances. The former, as a result of both wealth generating in source countries and recruitment by the destination countries, has not been fully recognized or analyzed. This study attempts to bridge these literature gaps by linking immigration study and financial analyses. It also examines the intermediary roles of financial institutions of various kinds in the immigrant integration process from the perspectives of both supply (banks) and demand (immigrants) through an interdisciplinary approach. It connects theories about financial geography, social capital and ethnic assets with empirical evidence to add an ethnic layer to, and to examine the institutional roles for, the financial globalization debate, while inserting a financial angle to social scientific study on immigrant integration. Theoretically, the evaluation of the validity of the ethnic assets as a form of social capital in financial sectors and immigrant financial integration advance our knowledge in both financial/economic and ethnic/social geography as well as social science in general. Empirically, the comparison among two sites in the US and Canada will demonstrate that contemporary financial dynamics pertaining to immigration is rooted/localized in different ways with different groups, and shaped by different national policies and institutional contexts. The project puts people back into an analysis of the financial system and addresses the sorely under-socialized treatments of finance that predominate financial analyses. Methodologically, this study proposes an
Effective start/end date6/15/095/31/13


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $224,272.00


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