Social Capital Theory, Acculturation Theory, and Immigrant Adaptation
The concept of social capital has caught growing attention in last few decades as potential remedies to numerous social issues such as public and individual health, educational outcomes, poverty and crimes (Healy & Cote, 2001). Putnam (1993) defines social capital as “the features of social organizations, such as trust, norms, and networks, that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated action” (p. 167), and proposes that it can be formed only within physical community (Wellman, 2001). However, opponents (e.g., Quan-Haase & Wellman, 2004; Williams, 2006) suggest that social capital can also be nurtured online through utilization of social and interactive media such as Email and social network sites (e.g., Facebook; Cyworld). This is especially true to immigrants who cross physical boundaries. Empirical studies (e.g., Cemalcilar et al., 2005; Ye, 2006) show that contemporary immigrants are more likely to utilize a wider range of social capital for their adaptation. During cross-cultural transition, social technology helps immigrant to stay connected with their home country while developing new ties to the host society. Immigrants seem to maximize pre-existing and developing social capital through both online and offline social ties. In the past studies, assimilation and acculturation ideologies have been widely adopted as the guiding models for understanding the process of cross-cultural transition (Alba & Nee, 1997). In these linear dynamics, immigrants were expected to discard or change their own cultural tradition in order to fit into the host society (Robbins et al., 2006). However, technology has made these ideologies outdated. Bicultural individual might acknowledge available resources in both societies and in case of needs they can mobilize a wide web of social resources. Thus, the concepts of social capital and biculturalism are useful when understanding an adaptation process. This paper discusses social capital and acculturation theories to understand successful immigrant adaptation.
Keywords: Online Social Capital, Offline Social Capital, Biculturalism, Immigrant Adaptation
Doctoral Student, School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Arlington