Date of Award

1995

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Scott L. Feld

Abstract

In this dissertation, I examine the role of involvement in an ethnic community in the academic achievement of Vietnamese American teenagers. I first describe the social context of these young people by discussing the situation of Vietnamese people in the United States and by offering a detailed description of a Vietnamese American community. Next, I examine how Vietnamese American students are performing in American schools and look at the characteristics of young people in the community in question. Finally, I employ data from a survey administered in the public schools of New Orleans where Vietnamese youth are concentrated in order to determine whether involvement in the ethnic community actually does contribute to the academic achievement of the young people and to examine how it might make this contribution. I find that Vietnamese Americans in this community have formed tightly integrated and cooperative social relations, providing a small alternative society within a low-income neighborhood. These cooperative social relations facilitate advantageous social action, such as the development of home-ownership, self-employment, and the creation of civic organizations, including civic organizations specifically directed at improving the school performance of young people. I also find that because this is a small alternative society in a relatively disadvantaged area, young people who are less involved with the ethnic community, or more marginal to it, tend to be more affected by the social problems that affect young people in American society than are those who are deeply involved with their own ethnic community. In looking at school achievement, I find that those young people who are more involved with the ethnic community in a number of ways tend to do better in school. The data are consistent with the argument that the ethnic community appears to promote academic achievement to some extent because those who are more involved with the community have more access to its supports, but also because the more ethnically involved students tend to less involved with the immediately surrounding disadvantaged segment of American society.

Pages

303

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