Less Socially Engaged? Participation in Friendship and Extracurricular Activities Among Racial/Ethnic Minority and Immigrant Adolescents
by Hua-Yu Cherng, Kristin Turney & Grace Kao - 2014
Background/Context: Prior research has linked social engagement, such as peer interaction and participation in school activities, to a host of positive outcomes for youth and adolescents. However, little research considers patterns of social engagement among racial/ethnic minority and immigrant adolescents, despite prior research suggesting distinct racial/ethnic and generational differences in social interactions among young people.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This paper examines patterns of social engagement in friendships and extracurricular activities among racial/ethnic minorities and immigrant adolescents. We analyze five measures of social engagement: having any friends, socializing with friends, participating in school sports, participating in school clubs, and participating in activities outside of school.
Population/Participants/Subjects: This study utilizes the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative sample of high school sophomores.
Research Design: Our research design includes statistical analysis of secondary data.
Findings/Results: Overall, results show that racial/ethnic minority adolescents, as well as first- and second-generation adolescents, are less engaged in friendships than their third-generation White counterparts. In contrast, there is no clear pattern of advantage or disadvantage in extracurricular activity participation.
Conclusions/Recommendations: These findings suggest that a disproportionate number of racial/ethnic minority and immigrant adolescents are less engaged in friendships than their peers, and that schools and adults play an important role in facilitating social interactions that may not occur within informal friendship networks.
Studies have linked social engagement to a host of positive outcomes, including greater happiness, less depression, increased civic engagement, and reduced mortality among adults (Dekker & Uslaner, 2001; Graney, 1975; Kiely et al., 2000; Olsen, 1972; Resnick, Fries, & Verbrugge, 1997). Research also highlights the importance of social engagement for a variety of youth and adolescent outcomes, including academic motivation, academic performance, psychological well-being, and civic participation (Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Garcia-Reid, Reid, & Peterson, 2005; Larson, 2000; McFarland & Thomas, 2006; Newmann, 1992; Ryan & Patrick, 2001). Peer interactions, particularly informal friendships, are an important form of social engagement among adolescents and a necessary component of human development (Hodges, Boivin, Vitaro, & Bukowski, 1999; Kroger, 2007). Another form of social engagement, participation in school activities, is positively associated with outcomes such as academic adjustment, educational resiliency, and the transition to college (Bartko & Eccles, 2003; Fredricks & Eccles, 2006; Peck et al., 2008). In contrast, social isolation among adolescents has long been linked to depression and suicide (Bearman & Moody, 2004; Jacobs & Teicher, 1967).
Although both theoretical perspectives and empirical research highlight the nonrandom nature of social engagement among youth and adolescents, relatively little research considers patterns of social engagement among racial/ethnic minority and immigrant adolescents. For instance, prior research suggested that racial/ethnic minority students are more disengaged in classrooms than their White peers (Carter, 2005; Johnson, Crosnoe, & Elder, 2001), but this research did not consider the immigrant status of youth. Other research, though, painted adolescence as a traumatic time of adjustment for immigrant youth, a time often exacerbated by reports of isolation and discrimination (Gitlin, Buendia, Crosland, & Doumbia, 2003; Lee, 2005; Zhou, 1997), but these studies often lacked a nonimmigrant comparison group and, thus, make it difficult to systematically discern variation by immigrant status.
Given the gaps in our knowledge about the variation in social engagement across race/ethnicity and immigrant generational status, we use data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative sample of high school sophomores in the United States, to consider such variation. We consider five specific indicators of social engagement: having any friends, socializing frequently with friends, participating in school sports, participating in school clubs, and participating in outside-of-school activities. In this research, we extend prior literature on adolescent social engagement in the following ways: using a nationally representative sample; considering engagement both inside and outside of school; and considering patterns of engagement among racial/ethnic minority and immigrant adolescents.
GROWTH IN RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITIES AND CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS
Racial/ethnic minorities represent more than one-third of the U.S. population and more than 40% of public elementary and secondary school students (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The NCES Common Core of Data [CCD], 2005). These figures reflect an overall increase in minority students during the past three decades. In 2010, Latino students accounted for 23% of the total student population, followed by Blacks (16%) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (5%; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The NCES Common Core of Data [CCD], 2013). Moreover, children of immigrants account for approximately 25% of children under age 18. Latinos comprise 53% of children of immigrants and 51% of foreign-born children, and Asians comprise 18% of children of immigrants and 24% of foreign-born children (OHare, 2004). Thus, racial/ethnic minorities and immigrant children include an increasing share of adolescents in the United States and it is especially important to understand the experiences of these youth.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
Though there are many ways to operationalize social engagement, our analyses examine the types of social engagement that may be most meaningful to adolescents: having friends, socializing with friends, and informally interacting with peers through participation in extracurricular activities. To begin with, research highlights the importance of friendships for adolescents. Adolescents can form salient bonds with peers, which is vital for adolescent well-being and is an important avenue for adolescents to learn about their roles in the social world (Allen, Moore, Kuperminc, & Bell, 1998; Crowell, Fraley, & Shaver, 2008; Youniss & Smollar, 1985). This research often highlights the importance of time spent in informal interactions and the importance of friendship quality (Brown, 2004; Feld, 1991; Milner, 2004). Importantly, other work noted the potential negative consequences of friendships (Berndt & Keefe, 1995; Espelage, Holt, & Henkel, 2003).
In addition to the importance of friendships, scholars have long argued that adolescents who are less engaged in social networks are prone to a variety of negative outcomes, including engagement in risky behaviors, poor academic performance, poor mental health, a greater risk of suicide, and missed opportunities to interact informally with peers (Bearman & Moody, 2004; Kohn & Clausen, 1955; Trout, 1980). Moreover, as competition for college admission increasingly involves nonacademic indicators of success, not participating in extracurricular activities may negatively affect college admission (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001). For example, Kaufman and Gabler (2004), using the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:1988), found that participation in cultural extracurricular activities is associated with higher odds of college attendance, and that activities that are unique among peers (e.g., yearbook participation among male students, which is relatively uncommon) facilitate admission to elite colleges.
RACE AND ETHNIC PATTERNS OF PARTICIPATION IN FRIENDSHIPS AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
A large body of literature considers the racial/ethnic differences in friendships (Joyner & Kao, 2005; Kao & Joyner, 2004, 2006; Moody, 2001), but less work focuses on racial differences in number of friends and quality of friendships. One study considering a sample of 136 Black and White adolescents found that White adolescents had more contact with their White best friends in school and less contact outside of school, compared to Black adolescents with Black best friends. Moreover, Black students had fewer reciprocal friendships than their White counterparts (Clark & Ayers, 1992). In one of the few studies of adolescent friendships that consider race/ethnic variation beyond BlackWhite differences, Way and Chen (2000) found significant race/ethnic variation in friendships. For example, this study of 160 low-income, racial/ethnic minority ninth-grade students found that Black and Latino girls received more support from friendships than Asian students. Another study that compared friendship patterns of Black and White children found notable gender differences: White girls reported more peer support and intimacy in their friendships than White boys, although this difference was not found for their Black counterparts (DuBois & Hirsch, 1990).
Though scholars highlight the benefits of participation in extracurricular school activities for race/ethnic minorities, much less work considers patterns of participation. Students from diverse ethnic backgrounds may feel isolated from peers inside and outside of school due to feeling alienated from the norms and values of mainstream education (Delgado-Gaitan, 1988). Indeed, prior research noted that Black and Latino students often report weaker bonds with other students and schools, compared to their White counterparts (Calabrese, 1989; Ream & Rumberger, 2008). Overall, research on racial/ethnic variation in extracurricular activity participation comes to mixed conclusions. One study found that although youth participation in extracurricular activities was associated with greater levels of school connection, regardless of ethnicity, Latino students had significantly less involvement than White students (Brown & Evans, 2002). However, another study using a national sample of high school students found that, compared to their White counterparts, Blacks were more likely to participate in sports and fine-arts activities and Asians were more likely to participate in academic clubs (McNeal, 1995).
IMMIGRANT GENERATION PATTERNS OF PARTICIPATION IN FRIENDSHIPS AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
There is also reason to suspect that immigrant generation status may shape patterns of friendship and extracurricular participation. Those born in the United States may be more familiar with their surroundings and school norms than foreign-born youth. Additionally, scholars often see the adolescent period of adjustment as traumatic for many immigrant adolescents. For example, it is common for Chinese immigrant youth to report lack of school social support and invisibility (Yeh, Kim, Pituc, & Atkins, 2008), and Latino youth often report a fear of discrimination (Perreira, Fuligni, & Potochnick, . Classical assimilation theory also describes schools as the primary setting where students are exposed to mainstream culture (Birman & Trickett, 2001; Rumbaut, 1995; Zhou, 1997) and spend the majority of their time. One work argued that the new social network of immigrants is vital to their negotiating of racial/ethnic identities (Hoerder, Hébert, & Schmitt, 2005). Other authors argued more directly that immigrant participation in civic activities is vital for becoming American (Stipek, 2006).
Even beyond theoretical discussions by immigration scholars, schools have long been thought of as institutions of social reproduction (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977). The fact that immigrant youth must attend school is a step toward what Gordon refers to as structural assimilation, the large-scale entry into the cliques, clubs, and institutions of host society, on the primary group level (Gordon, 1964, p. 71). Any subsequent assimilation, Gordon argued, is not possible without this primary exposure.
Despite these theoretical perspectives, little existing research considers differences in friendships and extracurricular activities between immigrant and nonimmigrant youth. With respect to friendships, Yu, Huang, Schwalberg, Overpeck, and Kogan (2002) found that Asian immigrant students in the United States also report difficulty making friends, and Way and Chen (2000) suggested that Asian American youth, particularly girls, have less friendship support overall than their Latino or African American counterparts. With respect to extracurricular participation, one study found that children of immigrants, compared to children of native-born parents, were less likely to participate in school sports and clubs (Reardon-Anderson, 2002). However, another study, based on case studies from various qualitative studies, revealed that many children of Chinese and Korean immigrants participated in language schools that offered a wide array of extracurricular activities (Zhou & Kim, 2006).
Taken together, theoretical perspectives and empirical results provide an existing body of research that focuses mostly on BlackWhite differences in social engagement (especially with respect to friendship) and the benefits of participation in social activities. However, there is a need for scholarship that considers race/ethnic variation across a wide spectrum of race/ethnic groups and considers immigrant generation status. Generation status is particularly important for Asian and Latino adolescents, because relatively larger proportions of Asians and Latinos hail from immigrant families compared to their White and Black counterparts. In addition, much of what we know about social engagement among immigrant adolescents comes from qualitative research. This qualitative research provides rich detail of social engagement of newcomers, but does not address large-scale patterns of engagement (specifically, friendships and extracurricular activities) among specific racial/ethnic and immigrant generation groups, which is increasingly important given the rising number of immigrant students in the United States.
ADDITIONAL PREDICTORS OF FRIENDSHIPS AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Additional demographic and socioeconomic factors may be associated with friendships and extracurricular activities among adolescents. To begin with, females form different networks than males (Bearman & Moody, 2004; Billy, Udry, & Rodgers, 1984; Clark & Ayers, 1992). For example, girls typically establish intimacy through discussion and boys through shared activities (McNelles & Connolly, 1999). Research also points to gender differences in participation in different types of activities, with male students participating more in sports than their female counterparts and females participating more in school clubs (Eccles & Barber, 1999; Eccles, Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003).
Other demographic and socioeconomic characteristics may be associated with race/ethnicity, immigrant generational status, and social engagement. For example, measures of socioeconomic status such as parental income and education are positively associated with participation (Fredricks & Eccles, 2006). Similarly, schools that serve more disadvantaged populations generally offer fewer in-school activities than schools that serve more advantaged populations (Cohen, Taylor, Zonta, Vestal, & Schuster, 2007; Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsay, 1999). Children of married and cohabiting parents have greater well-being than their counterparts, and number of siblings is positively associated with well-being (Astone & McLanahan, 1991; Brown, 2004; Sandefer & Wells, 1999). Student employment may also influence a students choice to participate in friendships and extracurricular activities, with studies showing both positive and negative relationships (Gilman, Meyers, & Perez, 2004; Marsh & Kleitman, 2005; Warren, 2002). Similarly, children with chronic or acute health conditions, compared to their healthy counterparts, may be unable to participate in friendships or extracurricular activities.
Given prior research that suggested racial/ethnic minorities and immigrant adolescents may experience less engagement than their peers, we examine patterns of participation in friendships and extracurricular activities. In our analyses, we consider five opportunities for adolescents to engage in informal social interaction with peers: having any friends, socializing frequently with friends, participating in school sports, participating in school clubs, and participating in outside-of-school activities. We first consider the most obvious avenue of peer interaction, which is having at least one friend, and then consider whether adolescents socialize frequently with friends. We then examine patterns of participation in extracurricular activities. Our work not only examines an important aspect of the social lives of all adolescents, but also one where racial/ethnic minorities and immigrant children may be especially at risk as they try to fit in to life in the United States.
DATA, MEASURES, AND ANALYTIC STRATEGY
We use data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative sample of 15,362 sophomore high school students in 2002. We primarily use information reported by the students in our analyses, but parents, teachers, and school administrators were also interviewed during the baseline wave. High school students were selected according to a two-stage sample selection process, with schools selected proportional to their size and then students (about 26 students per school) selected from eligible schools. The response rate was 87%. The ELS:2002 provides a unique opportunity to answer our research questions in that it oversamples Asian students, is nationally representative, and includes a variety of information about participation both inside and outside of school (Ingels, Pratt, Rogers, Siegel, & Stutts, 2004).
The analytic sample for this paper includes 12,300 students (rounded to the nearest 10 to adhere to NCES data restrictions). We restrict the sample to students who reported a racial/ethnic group and who had complete information on the mothers and childs country of birth, which excluded 3,780 students from the sample. We exclude Native American students (n = 130), because of our focus on generational status, and multiracial students (n = 740). We allow adolescents to be in the sample even if they are missing data on one of the dependent variables, which means that the sample size varies slightly across outcomes. Relatively few observations are missing data on the covariates, and we use regression-based imputation to account for missing data.
We measure social engagement with five distinct dependent variables that measure if a youth has any friends, socializes with friends, participates in school sports, participates in school clubs, and participates in outside activities. We first use two measures that examine adolescents experiences with friends. A dummy variable indicates whether the respondent has any friends (1 = reports at least one close friend, 0 = does not report any close friends). Additionally, a set of questions asked respondents whether they visit with friends at a hangout, drive or ride around, or talk with friends on the telephone (with the following response categories: rarely or never, less than once a week, once or twice a week, or every day or almost every day). The outcome variable, socializes with friends, is a dummy variable that indicates whether an adolescent socializes with friends (1 = socializes with friends on at least one activity more than rarely or never, 0 = never or rarely socializes with friends on all social activities with friends).
Another set of variables represents adolescents participation in extracurricular activities where they interact informally with peers. We use these variables to measure potential opportunities for adolescents to engage with other adolescents, and do not focus on the content of different activities.1 To begin with we create a variable representing whether an adolescent participates in school sports. This variable represents adolescents responses about participation in the following intramural and interscholastic sports during their sophomore year: baseball; softball; basketball; football; soccer; other team sport; an individual sport (e.g., wrestling, golf, and tennis); and cheerleading, pompom, or drill team. We construct a dummy variable based on students responses to these questions (1 = student participates in intramural or interscholastic sport, 0 = student did not participate in at least one intramural or interscholastic sport).
Second, adolescents were asked if they participate in school clubs during their sophomore year, which include band, orchestra, chorus, and choir; school play or musical; student government; National Honor Society (NHS) or other academic honor society; school yearbook, newspaper, or literary magazine; service club; academic club; hobby club; vocational education club or vocational student organization (e.g., DECA (a marketing and entrepreneurship club, formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America), VICA (a career and technical student club, originally known as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America), FFA (an agricultural club, previously known as Future Farmers of America), or FHA (a family, career, and community leadership club, formerly known as Future Homemakers of America). Similar to the measure of participation in school sports, we construct a dummy variable indicating participation in school clubs (1 = student participated in at least one club, 0 = student did not participate in school clubs).
Third, the survey contained a set of questions asking adolescents if they participate in outside activities, which include working on hobbies, arts, or crafts; volunteering or performing community service; taking music, art, language, or dance classes; taking sports lessons; and playing a nonschool sport. We construct a dummy variable to represent participation in activities outside of school (1 = student participated in at least one outside activity, 0 = student did not participate in any outside activities).
Race/Ethnicity and Immigrant Status
Race/ethnicity and immigrant status is represented by a series of dummy variables: White first-generation, White second-generation, White third-generation (reference category in the multivariate analyses), Black first-generation, and so on.2 Race/ethnicity is measured by the following variables: Asian, Latino, Black, and White. Both students and mothers were asked about their country of birth, and we use this information to ascertain students generation status. Students are considered first-generation adolescents if they were not born in the United States. Students born in the United States with mothers born outside of the United States are considered second-generation adolescents. When both adolescents and mothers are born in the United States, they are designated third-generation (and beyond) adolescents. Without data regarding grandparents, we cannot differentiate third from fourth generation individuals, and so forth.
Our multivariate analyses control for a number of individual- and school-level characteristics associated with race/ethnicity, generation status, and participation. To begin with, a dummy variable indicates the student is female. Family socioeconomic status (SES) is a composite indicator, provided by the ELS:2002 and based on five equally weighted components: fathers education, mothers education, fathers occupation, mothers occupation, and family income. We re-standardize this variable for our analytic sample (mean = 0, standard deviation = 1). Age is a continuous variable that ranges from 15 to 19. A dummy variable indicates the adolescents parents are married or living in a marriage-like relationship, and number of siblings (including adoptive, step-, and half-siblings) is a continuous variable ranging from 0 to 6. Adolescents were asked a variety of questions about parental strictness, including the frequency with which their parents limit privileges because of poor grades, require them to do work or chores, limit the amount of time watching TV or playing video games, and limit the amount of time going out with friends on a school night (1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, and 4 = often). Based on responses to these questions, we use factor analysis to create a measure of parental strictness (α = 0.65). We also include a dummy variable indicating the students teacher reported that a health problem impedes school performance. A dummy variable indicates the student is employed, and we control for student grade point average (GPA) in 10th grade.
Our analyses began by presenting descriptive statistics for our dependent variables (Table 2). We use two-sample t-tests for proportions to examine these descriptive differences by race/ethnicity, generation status, and race/ethnicity and generation status. Our multivariate models combine race/ethnicity and generation status because we are interested in the joint contributions of race/ethnicity and generation status, but we also present descriptive results by race/ethnicity and generation status separately. We first examine racial/ethnic differences in participation, comparing all Blacks, Latinos, and Asians to Whites. We then examine generational differences in participation, comparing first- and second-generation adolescents to third-generation adolescents. Finally, we compare all first- and second-generation adolescents to their third-generation same-race counterparts.
Descriptive differences observed in engagement are striking, but they may result from additional individual-level characteristics. The multivariate analyses include two phases. In the first analytic phase, we present logistic regression models that estimate (a) having any friends and (b) socializing with friends. For each outcome, we estimated two models. The first model includes dummy variables for race/ethnicityimmigrant generation, as well as controls for gender and SES. The second model adjusts for a more robust set of control variables (age, parents marital status, number of siblings, parental strictness, health impedes school performance, current employment, and 10th grade GPA). In the second analytic phase, we present logistic regression models that estimate (a) participation in school sports, (b) participation in school clubs, (c) participation in outside activities, and (d) participation in any activity. These models proceed in a similar manner as those estimating friendship patterns. For ease of interpretation of immigrant generation patterns within each racial/ethnic group, we include figures that display predicted probabilities of the outcomes for each race/ethnicitygeneration group. In all multivariate models, we use the svyset command in Stata® and include the primary sampling unit and the base-year sample weight (BYSTUWT). This procedure adjusts for the complex sampling design of the ELS:2002.
Table 1 presents weighted descriptive characteristics of all variables in the analyses. To begin with, 94% of respondents report having any friend and 97% report often socializing with friends. Furthermore, about 66% of adolescents participate in at least one school sport, 52% of adolescents participate in at least one club, and 88% of adolescents participate in at least one activity outside of school. In addition, 96% of respondents report participating in at least one extracurricular activity (school sports, school clubs, or outside activities).
Table 1. Weighted Descriptive Statistics for Variables Used in the Analyses
In terms of demographic characteristics, more than two-thirds (62%) of the weighted analytic sample is third-generation White adolescents. Third-generation Black adolescents and third-generation Latino adolescents comprise the next largest groups, representing, respectively, 13% and 6% of the analytic sample. First- and second-generation immigrant groups of all races each comprise between 1% and 6% of the total sample. Adolescents are, on average, 16 years old. Slightly more than three-fourths (77%) live with parents who are married or in a marriage-like relationship and they have, on average, two siblings. About one-quarter (25%) of adolescents are employed.
BIVARIATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RACE/ETHNICITY AND GENERATION STATUS AND SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
Table 2 presents proportions of social engagement by race/ethnicity, generation status, and race/ethnicity and generation status. Turning first to proportions by race/ethnicity, nearly all racial/ethnic minority groups report less social engagement than Whites. For example, though 95% of Whites report at least one friend, only 91% of Blacks, 93% of Latinos, and 93% of Asians report at least one friend. The race/ethnic differences in extracurricular participation are even more striking. About 69% of Whites participate in school sports, compared to 55% of Latinos and 55% of Asians. The difference in school sports participation between Whites and Blacks, though, is not statistically significant. These patterns, which generally show that minorities have less social engagement than Whites, persist for club participation (though Asians and Whites have similar club participation) and outside-of-school participation (though Asians have slightly higher outside-of-school participation than Whites).
Next, when we examine differences by immigrant generation, first- and second-generation adolescents have lower social engagement than third-generation adolescents for all outcomes. For example, though 94% of third-generation adolescents report at least one close friend, this is true of 92% of first- and second-generation adolescents. Again, the differences with respect to extracurricular participation, especially participation in school activities (sports or clubs), are more striking. About 68% of third-generation adolescents report participation in school sports, but this is only true of 49% of first-generation adolescents and 57% of second-generation adolescents.
Finally, we consider the joint combination of race/ethnicity and generation status. Within most race/ethnic groups, a lower proportion of most first- and second-generation adolescents report social engagement than their third-generation counterparts, though the specific patterns depend on the outcome variable. These differences are particularly striking for participation in school sports and school clubs. For example, though about 69% of Asian third-generation adolescents participate in school sports, this is true of only 54% of first-generation Asians and 52% of second-generation Asians. These generation patterns persist for Latinos (with first-generation Latinos participating less than third-generation Latinos), Blacks (with first-generation Blacks participating less than third-generation Blacks), and Whites (with first-generation Whites participating less than third-generation Whites).3
Table 2. Weighted Proportions of Friendship and Extracurricular Participation by Race/Ethnicity, Immigrant Generation, and Race/Ethnicity and Immigrant Generation
FRIENDSHIP PARTICIPATION AS A FUNCTION OF RACE/ETHNICITY AND GENERATION STATUS
The descriptive findings show patterns of disadvantage for racial/ethnic minorities and foreign-born children (and children of foreign-born parents). Because these descriptive differences may be spurious, Table 3 presents coefficients from logistic regression models that estimate two aspects of adolescent friendships: (a) having any friends and (b) socializing with friends. We turn first to models estimating having any friends. Model 1, which adjusts for gender and SES, shows that many first- and second-generation minority groups are less likely to report having any friends. First-generation Asian, second-generation Asian, and first-generation Black adolescents are less likely than third-generation White adolescents to report any friends. This pattern is robust after adjusting for additional controls in Model 2. In Model 2, first-generation Asians have 21% lower odds of having any friends (p < .05), compared to third-generation Whites, second-generation Asians have 34% lower odds (p < .05), and first-generation Blacks have 50% lower odds (p < .01).4
We next turn to the second series of models in Table 3, those that estimate socializing with friends. The racial/ethnic-generation patterns that emerge here are even more striking. In Model 1, the following groups are less likely than third-generation Whites to report socializing with friends: first-, second-, and third-generation Asians, first-generation Latinos, first- and second-generation Blacks, and first-generation Whites. Interestingly, second-generation Whites are more likely than their third-generation White counterparts to report socializing with friends. Nearly all of these advantages and disadvantages persist after the inclusion of additional controls in Model 2. In this model, first-generation Latinos, Blacks, and Whites have less than half the odds of third-generation Whites of socializing with friends.
The control variables also work in expected directions. Female adolescents are more likely than male adolescents to report having any friends. SES is associated with higher probabilities of socializing with friends, and age is associated with lower probabilities of having any friends. Parental strictness is also associated with higher probabilities of socializing with friends. One possible explanation may be that parents who establish rules and are more involved in students lives may also be familiar with their childrens friends and approve of social interactions. This is consistent with a large body of literature that shows children raised in authoritarian households are more socially competent than their counterparts (Baumrind, 1966; Pellerin, 2005; Roberts & Strayer, 1987). Having married parents, compared to having unmarried parents, and having a higher GPA are associated with lower probabilities of socializing with friends.5
Table 3. Coefficients from Logistic Regression Models Estimating Friendship
Figure 1 presents predicted probabilities of the two friendship outcomes: having any friends and socializing with friends. The within-race patterns for Latino, Black, and White adolescents suggest immigrant disadvantage. For example, first- and second-generation Asians have the lower probabilities of having any friends and first-generation Latinos have the lowest probability of socializing with friends compared to their third-generation racial/ethnic counterparts (p < .01). Interestingly, the pattern for Asians is opposite: First-generation adolescents have higher probabilities of having any friends and socializing with friends than their second- and third-generation counterparts (p < .01) (although all Asians have lower probabilities than third-generation Whites).
Figure 1. Predicted probabilities of friendship
Notes. Predicted probabilities estimated from Model 2 of Table 3. Continuous variables set to mean and proportion across categories used for categorical variables. * denotes lower probabilities than third-generation White (p < .05).
EXTRACURRICULAR PARTICIPATION AS A FUNCTION OF RACE/ETHNICITY AND GENERATION STATUS
Table 4 presents estimates of extracurricular participation. Turning to the first outcome, school sports participation, we find evidence of minority immigrant disadvantages. Model 1, which controls for only gender and SES, shows that first-generation Asian adolescents have 39% lower odds of participating in school sports as third-generation White adolescents (p < .05). Additionally, second-generation Asians have half the odds (p < .05), first-generation Latinos have 42% lower odds (p < .05), and third-generation Latinos have 19% lower odds (p < .05) relative to their third-generation White counterparts. In Model 2, almost all evidence of disadvantage disappears once additional control variables are introduced into the model, although first-generation Asians still have lower odds of participating in sports than third-generation Whites.
Table 4. Coefficients from Logistic Regression Models Estimating Participation in Extracurricular Activities
With respect to participation in school clubs and outside activities, Model 1 provides some evidence of minority and generation status differences. For example, first- and second-generation Asians are more likely to participate in school clubs than third-generation Whites, and several groups (second-generation Latinos, third-generation Latinos, and third-generation Blacks) are less likely to participate in school clubs. These differences largely disappear once adjusting for additional controls, though second-generation Latinos are still disadvantaged relative to third-generation Whites.
Across Table 4, control variables also work in the expected directions. For example, Model 2 shows that females are more likely to participate in school clubs and are less likely to participate in school sports and outside activities than males. Additionally, socioeconomic status is independently positively associated with school sports participation and outside activity participation. Several aspects of the family environment serve as protective factors for adolescents. Adolescents with married parents report more sports and club participation than their counterparts. Parental strictness is also associated with higher probability of participating in outside activities and, similar to the interpretation of results from previous tables, this may reflect parental engagement and encouragement in certain activities. For instance, students who participate in nonschool-based sports and music groups may need to rely on parents for transportation to events and practices, as well as other types of support. Additionally, GPA is positively associated with sports, clubs, and outside-of-school participation, suggesting that adolescents who do well in school may be more socially engaged in school.6
Within-race patterns of generation status differences are illustrated in Figure 2, which presents predicted probabilities of participation in extracurricular activities. Within each racial/ethnic group, participation in sports and clubs generally increases across generations. For example, first-generation Asians have lower probabilities of participation in sports than their second- and third-generation counterparts (p < .05). There is little variation in participation in outside activities across generation group, which is consistent with models found in the previous table.
Figure 2. Predicted probabilities of participating in extracurricular activities
Note: Predicted probabilities estimated from Model 2 of Table 4. Continuous variables set to mean and proportion across categories used for categorical variables. * denotes lower probabilities than third-generation White (p < .05).
Given the importance of social engagement for adolescent short- and long-term outcomes, the goal of this paper is to document trends in adolescent friendship and extracurricular participation among race/ethnicity and immigrant generation status. To begin with, we find that nearly all first- and second-generation groups report less participation in friendship networks than their native-born White counterparts, even after adjusting for a host of demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. First- and second-generation Asians are less likely than their native-born White counterparts to report having any friends, and second-generation Asians are also less likely than native-born Whites to socialize with friends.
Patterns among Latino and Black immigrants are similar: First-generation Latinos and Blacks are less likely to report socializing with friends than native-born Whites. First-generation Blacks are also less likely than native-born Whites to report having any friends. In addition, we find group differences in extracurricular activity participation, but there is no clear pattern of advantage or disadvantage. First-generation Asians are less likely to report participating in school sports and second-generation Latinos are less likely to report participating in clubs than third-generation Whites. It is important to note that although differences exist, in many cases, the magnitude of these differences is modest.
Taken together, these findings extend theoretical and empirical literature about race/ethnic and immigrant generation differences in social engagement. Previous scholarship suggested that minority and immigrant adolescents may experience disadvantages in school. For example, some research shows that minority students report feeling disengaged from their school environment, teachers, and peers (Calabrese & Poe, 1991; Smith, Schneider, & Ruck, 2005). With respect to friendship patterns, our findings support this, as we find evidence that minority and immigrant adolescents are modestly disadvantaged with respect to the quantity of their friends and the quantity of their social interactions with friends. However, our analyses do not suggest that minority and immigrant adolescents are systematically disengaged from extracurricular activities or are denied opportunities to socialize with peers within schools. Thus, our findings extend previous work in the following ways: (a) using a nationally representative data source; (b) considering the joint contribution of race/ethnicity and immigrant generation status of adolescents; and (c) considering experiences both inside and outside of schools.
What could account for the persistent disengagement of minority and immigrant adolescents in friendships but not extracurricular activities? Though future research should work to uncover the mechanisms linking minority and immigrant status to less friendship participation, it may be that peers exclude minority and immigrant adolescents from social activities outside of school settings and away from teacher supervision. Given persistent reports of racial/ethnic discrimination (Grollman, 2012; Lee & Turney, 2012; Williams, Neighbors, & Jackson, 2003) and the current reception of many immigrant groups in the United States (Reitz, 2002; Zhou & Yang, 2005), it is reasonable to assume that discrimination exists among adolescents. In contrast, the extracurricular participation of minority and immigrant adolescents may attest to the ability of schools and teachers to facilitate socialization of adolescents. Thus, extracurricular activities may be of vital importance to the socialization of minority and immigrant youth, given their disadvantage in more informal friendship settings.
On the one hand, research pointing to the importance of friendships during this crucial time of development suggests that it is of concern that minority and immigrant adolescents are isolated from peer networks (Bartko & Eccles, 2003; Bearman & Moody, 2004; Hodges et al., 1999). On the other hand, though, research highlights the importance of family networks among immigrant youth. For example, Li, Holloway, Bempechal, and Loh (2008) found that some low-income Asian American families fostered their childrens academic achievement by involving extended kin networks to help monitor and tutor their children. Zhou and Kim (2006) also found a reliance on family networks to encourage academic success among Chinese and Korean American families. Work that investigates the social capital of Mexican American youth also highlights the importance of family networks (Stanton-Salazar, 2001).
Despite the clear patterns that emerge from our findings, there exist a number of caveats. First, the race/ethnic categories used in the analyses are crude. Only four categories represent a variety of racial/ethnic backgrounds that are likely represented in the sample. Additionally, though patterns of results often reach statistical significance, the magnitude of the differences in patterns is often modest, suggesting that future research should attempt to replicate these findings before considering any interventions. Another limitation is the potential for omitted variable bias. These data do not include information on adolescents romantic relationships or mental health, two characteristics that are linked to both immigrant status and school engagement (Bond et al., 2007; Finn, 1993; Rubin, 2009). However, given the patterns of disadvantage in friendship networks documented in this paper, it may be the case that many racial/ethnic minority and immigrant youth have poorer mental health due in part because of less social engagement with peers. It may also be that relationships with family members, in lieu of interactions with peers (e.g., Li et al., 2008; Stanton-Salazar, 2001), may facilitate more favorable mental health among racial/ethnic minority and immigrant youth. Further work should explore these possibilities.
Notwithstanding these limitations, our findings provide convincing evidence of inequalities in terms of social engagement in friendship groups. Given the stark differences in participation between racial/ethnic minorities and Whites and between foreign-born and native-born adolescents, our findings suggest that high schools, and activities that occur within them, may help provide opportunities for adolescents to socialize with peers that may not otherwise occur in friendship networks. We suspect that new arrivals to the United States are often viewed as F.O.B. (Fresh Off the Boat) and may face rejection from native-born adolescents of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. These patterns suggest that a large number of adolescents are excluded from friendships, but may find opportunities to interact informally with peers in more structured extracurricular activities.
The research reported here was supported in part by the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305C050041-05 to the University of Pennsylvania. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the U.S. Department of Education.
1. We use dummy variables to distinguish between adolescents participating in zero activities from adolescents participating in any activities, which allow us to distinguish between adolescents who are involved in at least one activity from those involved in no activities. However, in supplemental analyses not presented, we also use linear regression to investigate participation in sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities as continuous measures. We find that patterns are largely similar to our binary operationalization. We also use logistic regression to estimate participation in (a) academic clubs and (b) nonacademic clubs. Adjusting for all covariates, including GPA, we find that most racial/ethnic and immigrant groups are more likely to participate in academic clubs than third-generation Whites. Patterns with respect to nonacademic clubs are similar to those found for clubs overall.
2. First-generation Whites had slightly higher family socioeconomic status than average and approximately one-third spoke English as a first language.
3. In supplemental analyses, we use unweighted data to consider (a) statistical tests with Bonferroni corrections, which can only handle unweighted data, and (b) statistical tests without Bonferroni corrections. Results for both sets of tests were similar and, thus, we suspect this would be the same with weighted data.
4. e^(-0.23) = 0.79, e^(-0.41) = 0.66, e^(-0.69) = 0.50.
5. In supplemental analyses, we considered interaction terms between race/ethnicitygeneration status and gender. With two exceptions, we found the association between race/ethnicitygeneration status and friendships does not vary by gender. First- and second-generation Asian females, compared to Asian males, are less likely to report socializing with friends. First-generation Asian girls have 9% lower odds of socializing with friends than first-generation Asian males (p < .01).
6. In supplemental analyses, we again considered interaction terms between race/ethnicitygeneration status and gender. We find that for some race/ethnicgeneration status groups (namely first-generation Latinos and second-generation Blacks), the association with school sports participation varies by gender. For example, first-generation Latino females have approximately 50% lower odds of participating in sports than their male, cogenerational counterparts, compared to third-generation Whites (p < 0.05).
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