URC

Relieving Current Immigration Tensions Through
Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences

Corinne Thomas
The Master's College


Abstract

Current research suggests immigrants are no longer viewed as welcome in the United States due to the potential social and economic problems they bring with them. The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not the Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer its services to help alleviate some of the tensions caused by immigration. The study’s survey instrument, which was distributed to selected international students at The Master’s College and selected members or attenders of Eagle Rock Baptist Church between the dates of March 26, 2006, and April 9, 2006, requested demographic information in addition to the ten Likert-type scale questions. The data revealed that, according to the participants surveyed, immigrants are in need of basic training in the areas of financial planning, food preparation and nutrition, quality garment selection, life skills education, and home management in order to become functional members of Westernized society. However, the data also revealed that those surveyed were unsure of whether or not they had the practical skills mentioned. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can and should offer immigrants the practical skills training that will allow them to do well in Westernized society.

INTRODUCTION

“In recent years a tidal wave of immigration has been sweeping over many parts of the globe . . . the goal of many [immigrants] is to be admitted to the United States, a situation that poses acute problems for the government’s Immigration and Naturalization Service.” (Long, 1992, preface). Indeed, the majority’s view on immigration has declined significantly in recent years as immigrants (whether legal or not) have flooded into the nation, bringing with them their problems from their home countries and encountering new ones on American soil. One main problem area for immigrants has been their hesitancy to relinquish the lifestyles from their home countries. Historically, “the typical immigrant of the present does not really live in America at all, but, from the point of view of nationality, in Italy, Poland . . . or some other foreign country.” (Ziegler, 1953, p. 1). This problem has continued into modern times. Many believe that this is merely due to rebellion, but one fact they often overlook is the lack of services offered to teach these immigrants basic life skills to help them become functioning members of American society.

History reveals that “America is a nation of immigrants.” (Dougherty, 2004, p. 1). However, current research suggests immigrants are no longer viewed as welcome in the nation due to the potential problems they bring with them. “Governments are unlikely to be able to solve the many problems posed by international migration through unilateral approaches only” (Martin, 2001, Abstract, p. 1). With problems growing, the Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences discipline may be able to offer solutions to the problems.

Historical Overview of Immigration

Immigration has become a “hot topic” for several countries around the globe. For America, immigration “has been the most persistent and the most pervasive influence in her development. The whole history of the United States during the past three and a half centuries has been molded by successive waves of immigrants who responded to the lure of the New World and whose labors, together with those of their descendants, have transformed an almost empty continent into the world’s most powerful nation” (Jones, 1969, p. 1). Whether she wants to admit it or not, America “consists entirely of immigrants and of the descendants of immigrants” (Jones, 1969, p. 1).

According to Wittke, a historian in the early 1949s, “Until the close of the First World War, the gates of this American land of liberty and opportunity stood open and practically unguarded to all who had the courage to risk the great adventure across the Atlantic. Keeping the gates open was a deep-seated American tradition. It was part of the vision of American democracy to welcome men and women of every national origin who wanted to share the peace and prosperity which this country had to offer” (p. 5-6).

Immigration tensions, however, were starting to rise. “[As] the number of immigrants rose in the 1880s and economic conditions in some areas worsened, Congress began to issue immigration legislation. The more general Immigration Act of 1882 levied a head tax of fifty cents on each immigrant and blocked (or excluded) the entry of idiots, lunatics, convicts, and persons likely to become a public charge” (Smith, 1998, p. 1). Being involved in two world wars in the 1900s also impacted America’s view of immigration as “issues of hitherto undreamed-of proportions and complexity [caused] the United States [to abandon] its traditional policy of welcoming all comers, and though the gates were left slightly ajar, they were, for all practical purposes, virtually closed after World War I” (Wittke, 1949, p. 6).

For over a hundred years, America’s Statue of Liberty has proclaimed, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free . . .” but there has been a shift in America’s opinion about immigration. What happened? Most Americans are still proud to quote her welcoming words, but, as more and more [immigrants] are proving to be hostile to the United State’s interests and its citizens, the question is asked, “Has the United States outgrown its immigration creed?” (Dougherty, 2004, Sleeve section).

Current Immigration Tensions

Twenty-first century America finds immigrants still trying to enter the “slightly ajar door,” whether it be legally or illegally. Several issues have risen in recent years that have raised tensions in America about immigration. Brimlow (1995) states:

The United States is being engulfed by the greatest wave of immigration it has ever faced. The latest immigrants are different from those who came before. These newcomers are less educated, less skilled, more prone to trouble with the law, less inclined to share American culture and values, and altogether less likely to become Americans in name or spirit. [We] cannot continue to admit millions of legal and illegal immigrants if we wish to maintain our standard of living and our national identity. (Introduction)

The thread between many of the major complaints against immigration is the apparent lack of interest among immigrants to adapt to their new country. Many, as evidenced in the examples above, feel insulted by what they perceive as hostility from immigrants against American culture. However, previous studies have shown that hostility may not be the main motivating factor in immigrants’ minds. Culture shock may occur, which is then misinterpreted as hostility. “Marginality, or the experience of navigating across multiple cultures, can be psychologically uncomfortable and even incapacitating” (Hirschman, 2005, p. 14). What is needed is education or training on both sides in order to bring about mutual understanding (Gallares-Japzon, 2001, p. 5).

Assimilation versus Americanization

“Many Americans, both those who favor and those who oppose assimilation, believe that for immigrants to assimilate they must abandon their original cultural attributes and conform entirely to the behaviors and customs of the majority of the native-born population.” This is true in a sense, as described by Hirschman (2005):

In addition to high motivations to succeed and a willingness to take risks, immigrants (and their children) have two understandings of how the world works: the cultural framework of their origins and the new culture that they acquire in the host society. Immigrants do, of course, adapt and become more similar to other Americans over time (or at least across generations). The complementary point is that twenty-first century American society and culture are not simply products of continuity from eighteenth-century origins, but have been continually reshaped by successive waves of immigrants and their descendants.

The children of immigrants inevitably lose many distinctive attributes, including language skills and personal knowledge of their countries of origin. However, the children of immigrants often broaden the base of the cosmopolitan society through the creation of multicultural families. The evolution of American society as an immigrant society, with moderately high levels of social mobility and intermarriage, has created a population of blended ancestries, united with a common civic identity. Although unintended, the American example of nationhood, open to all peoples, may be the real legacy of the American Century. (p. 14-16)

The difference between assimilation and Americanization is that assimilation does not require the immigrant to abandon their ethnic identity. Instead, they are introduced to the American way of life and taught to function in American society. Americanization is the process of taking away one’s ethnic identity and forcing the immigrant to become completely Americanized (Gallares-Japzon, 2001). However, “assimilation is not today a popular term. . . . Indeed, in recent years it has been taken for granted that assimilation—as an expectation of how different ethnic and racial groups would respond to their common presence in one society—is rejected. Had I asked what they thought of the term ‘Americanization,’ the reaction would have been more hostile” (Glazer, 1998, p. 7).

Gallares-Japzon (2001) states that assimilation means “sharing different perspectives.” The author suggestes:

Not surprisingly, older people found it more difficult to adjust because of their deeply ingrained values, customs, traditions, and beliefs. Although they eventually adjusted to American culture, many still express some desire for the way things used to be in their own countries.

In contrast, younger immigrants easily adjusted to almost everything, as if they had lived in America all their lives. Children born to immigrant parents are Americans through and through. They think and act like Americans. Although parents continue to tell their children about old customs, values, traditions, and beliefs, they are not sure if their children really listen. (p. 7-8)

“When you are experiencing culture shock, the easiest way to deal with it is to accept, or at least learn to live with, the differences. If you choose to accept or tolerate the differences, you can adapt quickly to a new country. But if you refuse to accept the differences, you will ultimately suffer the results and it will take longer for you to integrate into society. Isolating yourself defeats the purpose of social integration” (Gallares-Jazpon, 2001, p. 1).

Are Practical Skills Necessary to Survival in American Society?

What, then, is necessary to survive in American society? If isolation is not the answer and social integration is the key, how can an immigrants function in American society? Do they even need to have practical skills? Brimelow (1995) writes:

Skilled immigration must be favored before family reunification. To put it another way, the United States could do without that portion of the current influx that is below the average American’s educational achievement.

The immigrant influx could be further reharmonized with U.S. labor-market conditions by requiring more potential immigrants to have offers of employment. Since an immigrant’s country of origin turns out to be an excellent predictor of likely success or failure in the United States, the admissions policy might take account of this reality. (p.261)

From Brimelow’s sentiments, one can see that practical skills are indeed necessary for survival (if not acceptance) into American society. Gallares-Japzon (2001) adds, “Starting a new life in America meant adjustments in many areas—culture, language, lifestyle, social integration, job and economic adaptation, to name a few” (p, XV). Other areas in need of practical skills training would include:

  • Finances (Gallares-Japzon, 2001, p. 47)
  • Nutrition (Gallares-Japzon, 2001, p. 12)
  • Clothing (Gallares-Japzon, 2001, p. 15)
  • Education (Gallares-Japzon, 2001, p. 17)
  • Home Management (Gallares-Japzon, 2001, p. 139)

Training in Practical Skills

The Home Economics-Family & Consumer Sciences discipline offers training in various practical skills. Such programs “provide students with life management, transferable, and employability skills through instruction and leadership development activities. [The] programs focus on preparing students to balance personal, family, and work responsibilities. Students are equipped with essential skills for living through instruction in these eight content areas:

  • Child Development and Guidance
  • Consumer Education
  • Family Living and Parenting Education
  • Fashion, Textiles, and Apparel
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Housing and Furnishings
  • Individual and Family Health
  • Leadership Development (CDE, 2006)

Home Economics- Family and Consumer Sciences “strives to improve the quality and standards of individual and family life by providing educational programs, influencing public policy and through communication . . . [empowering] individuals, [strengthening] families and [enabling] communities. It focuses on an integrative approach to the reciprocal relationships among individuals, families and communities, as well as the environments in which they function” (AAFCS, 2006).

METHOD

The purpose of the study is to determine whether or not the Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer its services to help alleviate some of the tensions caused by immigration. Generating from the general purpose statement above, the following research questions were cited:

  1. Are immigrants in need of basic training in order to become functional members of American society?
  2. Can the Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences discipline offer immigrants practical skills training that will allow them to matriculate into American society?

These research questions provide the focus of the study.

Method of Data Collection

The survey instrument used in this study measured whether or not the Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer its services to help alleviate some of the tensions caused by immigration. A personal data sheet requested demographic data in addition to the responses to the ten survey questions. The survey instrument was distributed to selected international students at The Master’s College and selected members or attenders of Eagle Rock Baptist Church between the dates of March 26, 2006 to April 9, 2006. The survey instruments were personally returned to the researcher.

Statistical Procedures

STATPAK was employed to examine the data; the desired scale of measurement was ordinal. An ordinal scale is “a scale of measurement in which the measurement categories form a rank order along a continuum” (Brown, Cozby, Kee, & Worden, 1999, p. 372). The One-Dimensional Chi-Square test was utilized in analyzing the collected data because it analyzes “discrepancy, if any, between frequencies actually observed in the sample of subjects measured and frequencies expected according to the stated hypothesis” (Joseph & Joseph, 1986, p. 182-189). A .05 level of significance was used to test the results of the study. Data retrieved from the demographic portion of the survey instrument was reported in percentages, tables, and figures.

RESULTS

The subjects for this study were selected international students at The Master’s College and selected members or attendees of Eagle Rock Baptist Church. They completed the survey instruments between the dates of March 26, 2006 and April 9, 2006. 27 copies of the survey instrument were distributed; 26 were returned and 26 were used in this study. The data collected from the 26 subjects will be discussed in subsequent sections, commencing with the reporting of the demographic findings. The sample indicated 4% from Africa, 42% from Asia, 19% from Europe, 15% from North America, 12% from South America, and 8% gave no response. Table 1 summarizes the survey responses.

Table 1

Summary of Responses to Survey Questions

SURVEY QUESTION

SCALE NUMBER

TOTAL RESPONSES

COMPUTED

CHI-SQUARE VALUE

TABLED

CHI-SQUARE VALUE

1

2

3

4

5

No Response

1

1

3

2

7

13

0

26

18.6154

11.01

2

0

0

2

8

16

0

26

11.3846

5.991

3

2

3

3

8

10

0

26

9.7692

9.488

4

0

1

3

6

16

0

26

20.4615

7.815

5

2

5

8

5

6

0

26

3.6154

9.488

6

0

1

9

9

7

0

26

6.6154

7.815

7

0

2

7

9

8

0

26

4.4615

7.815

8

1

3

6

6

10

0

26

9.0000

9.468

9

0

4

4

6

12

0

26

6.6154

7.815

10

1

2

3

7

13

0

26

18.6154

9.468

Research Question One

Are immigrants in need of basic training in order to become functional members of American society? Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the survey instrument located in Appendix A addressed this Research Question.

The results of the analysis revealed that the calculated value was at the .05 significance level and suggests that immigrants are in need of basic training in the areas of financial planning, food preparation and nutrition, quality garment selection, life skills education, and home management in order to become functional members of American society.

The finding from question 1 aligns with Dougherty’s (2004) research, which states that immigrants come to America not knowing how to earn wages and use them correctly, thereby taking away from society instead of adding to it (p. 4-5). The finding from question 2 aligns with research done by the California Department of Education, which states that a knowledge of preparing nutritious meals is part of becoming a “positive, productive [member] of the workforce, families, and the community (2006, p. 1). The finding from question 3 deviates from Gallares-Japzon’s (2001) research, which states that “people wear clothes that fit their lifestyles and personalities; some wear fancy clothes [to meet] current trends while others wear [only] what they can afford” (p. 15). The finding from question 4 aligns with Brimelow’s (1995) research, which states that “the United States could do without that portion of the current influx that is below the average American’s educational achievement” (p.261). The finding from question 5 deviates from Hirschman’s (2005) research, which states that moving from one culture to another “can be psychologically uncomfortable and even incapacitating” (p.14).

Research Question Two

Can the Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences discipline offer immigrants practical skills training that will allow them to function in American society? Questions 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the survey instrument located in Appendix A addressed this Research Question.

The results of the analysis revealed that the calculated value was at the .05 significance level. Results suggest that the Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer immigrants practical skills training in the areas of budgeting, food preparation and nutrition, textiles and clothing selection, life skills education, interior design, and home management. Such training will allow them to function in American society.

The finding of question 6 aligns with research conducted by Gallares-Japzon (2001) that states that “many immigrants sell their property and bring all the money they have with them to start a new life in the United States. Some still have the habit of keeping their money at home, in boxes tucked under their beds or in a corner of their cupboards.” This suggests that many immigrants are hesitant or uninformed about keeping a regular budget (p.47). The finding of question 7 aligns with Gallares-Japzon’s (2001) research, which states that immigrants are initially confused about how American supermarkets operate and how to prepare food with American products (p.6). The finding of question 8 aligns with Gallares-Japzon’s (2001) research which states that choosing quality clothing while maintaining a budget and decorum is important to respect the country in which one lives (p. 16). The finding of question 9 deviates from research conducted by Gallares-Japzon (2001), which states that “it is important to get a good education to make it in America professionally and economically. In the United States, educational background counts heavily toward the chances of getting a job” (p. 17). The finding of question 10 aligns with research conducted by the California Department of Education which states that a knowledge of housing and furnishings is an essential skill for life (2006, p. 4).

Findings

The results of the One-Dimensional Chi-Square statistical analysis suggest that knowledge of financial planning is crucial to survival in America; skills in preparing nutritious meals are an important part of everyday life; many immigrants are willing to spend extra money for clothes that will last longer; many believed that life skills education is important to becoming a well-functioning member of American society; and managing a home in America is not difficult, even if the resources available are different from that of the home country.

DISCUSSION

Within the stated purpose and findings of this study, the following conclusions appear warranted:

  1. Immigrants interviewed felt that basic training is needed in order to become functional members of American society.
  2. The Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer said practical skills training that should allow immigrants to more effectively function in American society.

For several years, immigrants have flocked to America, viewing it as a land of opportunity. Originally, history revealed that America eagerly welcomed these immigrants. However, attitudes towards immigration and the immigrants themselves have changed over the past few years. They are now seen as a threat to society, leeches who merely want to strip the country of its natural resources in order to benefit themselves. Instead of being viewed as people who merely want a new chance at life, immigrants are automatically labeled as burdens on society.

Why has such a mentality pervaded America? Perhaps it is because most immigrants do not have the knowledge or practical skills training to function in American society. The resources and situations presented to them are unlike those in their native lands. Culture shock may set in as immigrants are overwhelmed with the new possibilities and responsibilities presented to them without the training in how to manage them. In addition to adjusting to a new culture, hostility and racism present challenges to acclimation as well.

The Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer assistance in helping new immigrants function in American society. Programs that teach basic life skills in education, nutrition, finance, fashion, and interior design are ways that the Home Economics-Family and Consumer Sciences can equip immigrants to meet their challenges. Armed with their new training, immigrants will be able to function more smoothly in American society, thereby potentially lessening some of the tensions caused by immigration.

Limitations of the Study

Several limitations to this study existed. The sample population was limited to selected international students enrolled at The Master's College in Santa Clarita, California during the Spring 2006 semester as well as selected members or attenders of Eagle Rock Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Because the survey itself was conducted in English and not in each participant’s native language, the possibility for misunderstanding questions presented itself in this study. Although the findings for this study pertain mainly to the internationals of The Master’s College and Eagle Rock Baptist Church, a general trend may be observed and conclusions drawn.

Recommendations for Further Study

This study provides some information regarding whether or not the Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer its services to help alleviate some of the tensions caused by immigration. Additional questions pertaining to whether or not the Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer its services to help alleviate some of the tensions caused by immigration warrant further investigation; thus the following recommendations for further research and study are offered:

  1. This study should be replicated, using a different population to determine whether or not the Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer its services to help alleviate some of the tensions caused by immigration.
  2. A study should be conducted to determine the challenges that immigrants from specific nationalities face to determine whether or not the Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences discipline can offer its services to help alleviate some of the tensions caused by immigration.
  3. A survey instrument to collect data should specify whether the opinion requested is that of the participant’s experience in America or that of their home country.
REFERENCES

American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. (2006). A brief history. Retrieved March 27, 2006 from http://www.aafcs.org/about/history.html

Brimelow, P. (1995). Alien nation: Common sense about America’s immigration disaster. New York, NY: Random House.

Brown, K.W., Cozby, P.C., Kee, D.W., & Worden, P.E. (1999). Research methods in human development (2 nd Ed). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

California Department of Education. (2006). Home economics-career technical. Retrieved March 21, 2006 from http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/ct/he/

Dougherty, J.E. (2004). Illegals: The imminent threat posed by our unsecured U.S.-Mexico border. Nashville, TN: WND Books.

Gallares-Japzon, L. (2001). Succeeding in America: Lessons from immigrants who achieved the American dream. Silver Spring, MD: TeamCom Books.

Glazer, N. (1998). We are all multiculturalists now. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hirschman, C. (2005). Immigration and the American century. Demography, 42(4), 595-621.

Jones, M.A. (1969). American immigration. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Joseph, M. & Joseph, W. (1986). Research fundamentals in home economics (3 rd Ed). Redondo Beach, CA: Plycon Press.

Long, R. E. (1992). Immigration to the Untied States. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company.

Seabrook, J. (2003). Far from home, they toil to buy a fridge for mama. New Statesman, 4641(132), 32-34.

Smith, M.L. (1998). A historical guide to the U.S. government. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

United States Immigration Support. (2006). Glossary of immigration terms. Retrieved March 27, 2006 from http://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/immigrationterms.html#p

Wittke, C. (1949). Immigration policy prior to World War I. The Annals, 262, 5-14.

Ziegler, B.M. (1953). Immigration: An American dilemma. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company.


APPENDIX A

Survey Instrument

Survey
Please circle the number that best represents your opinion on the following statements, with one being strongly disagree and five being strongly agree.

  Strongly       Strongly
  Disagree   Neutral   Agree

1. Knowledge of financial planning is crucial to survival in America

1 2 3 4 5

2. Skills in preparing nutritious meals are an important part of everyday life.

1 2 3 4 5

3. I am willing to spend extra money for clothes that will last longer.

1 2 3 4 5

4. Life skill education is important to becoming a well-functioning member of American society.

1 2 3 4 5

5. Managing a home in America is difficult because the resources available to me are different than my native country.

1 2 3 4 5
6. I have a budget that I follow regularly. 1 2 3 4 5
7. I know how to shop for and prepare healthy, culturally appetizing meals. 1 2 3 4 5

8. It is important to know how to choose quality clothing.

1 2 3 4 5

9. I would benefit by having more education in practical skills training.

1 2 3 4 5
10. My home’s atmosphere is appealing. 1 2 3 4 5

- Please Return to Corinne Shook at Box 2014 –

Thank you so much for your participation!!!

 


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