Korean immigrants don't buy health insurance: The influences of culture on self-employed Korean immigrants focusing on structure and functions of social networks

Hyunsung Oh, Chung Hyeon Jeong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Culture has been pinpointed as a culprit of disparities in health insurance coverage between Korean immigrants and other ethnic groups. This study explored specific mechanisms by which culture influences a decision to buy health insurance among self-employed Korean immigrants living in ethnic enclaves by focusing on the structure and functions of social networks. Between March and June 2015, we recruited 24 Korean immigrant adults (aged 18 or older) who identified as self-employed and being uninsured for substantial periods before 2014 in Southern California. Interviews were conducted in Korean, and Korean transcripts were translated into English by two bilingual interpreters. Using constant comparative analysis, we explored why participants didn't purchase health insurance after migrating to the United States and how their social networks influenced their decisions whether to purchase health insurance. Results indicate Korean immigrants sought health information from dense and homogeneous social networks whose members are mostly Korean immigrants embedded in similar social contexts. Social learning was frequently observed when people sought health care while uninsured. However, respondents often noted social ties do not provide helpful information about benefits, costs, and ways to use health insurance. “Koreans don't buy health insurance” was a dominant social norm reported by most respondents. Findings indicate that social learning and normative influence occur inside social networks and these mechanisms seemingly prevent purchasing of health insurance. In addition to the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more targeted approaches that consider the structure and functions of social networks could improve the public health of Korean immigrants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-201
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume191
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Health insurance
  • Normative influence
  • Self-employed Korean immigrants
  • Social learning
  • Social networks
  • Social norms
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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