The Impact of Social Networks on Well-Being: Evidence from Latino
A series of studies has questioned the stylized fact that most Latino immigrants favor settling in major cities. The recent wave of immigration into the rural areas has been raising concerns about resource distribution and utilization. Special concerns have been expressed about having immigrants become a public burden thus, depleting local resources that could be employed elsewhere. Therefore, recently, monumental efforts have been put into Latinos' wellbeing research due to its potential to disperse widespread fears of opportunism by Latino immigrant and point out alternative avenues of integration into the community. Recent research has argued that immigrants are both important, as a workforce (Card, 2005; Jacobs, 1969), and detrimental, as free riders of social support services (Borjas, 1999), to the economic development of the receiving communities. However, the claim that Latino immigrants freeride on social welfare services to sustain their well-being seems a little bit confusing since current law does not provide for it; given the implementation of PRWORA. Thus, this study suggests that immigrants have been sustaining or improving well-being through social networks. This paper assesses the impact of social networks on well-being by combining sustainable livelihoods and household production theoretical frameworks. Specifically, emphasis is placed on assets and strategies Latino immigrants use to sustain and improve their well-being in non-urban areas of Missouri. Previous studies on well-being have focused on "economic" well-being thereby using income as a proxy. This study uses a much-expanded concept of well-being, which is subjectively assessed on a scale of 1 to 7, which includes various facets of human behavior. Thus, social network's impact is assessed empirically through ordered Probit regression using primary data from three different non-urban areas of Missouri. It is hypothesized that social networks have positive impact on Latino immigrant's well-being in these non-urban areas. This hypothesis has far-reaching implications in terms of local and regional policy focused on immigrants. For instance, local leaders can tap into these networks to pass important information related to education and economic mobility and opportunities for immigrants living in these areas.