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An exploratory research project of factory workers in the ESL worksite classes: The effects of immigration on high-status/low-status immigrants to the United States

Eileen Nancy Ariza, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The problem this research addresses is that, regardless of training, educational background or social status, with or without work experience, most non- or limited-English speaking immigrants are forced to begin their American careers at the bottom of the occupational ladder. This study focuses on the comparison of the lives of English as a Second Language (ESL) students/warehouse workers before and after migration to try to ascertain whether these individuals have experienced upward or downward mobility. The approximately 80 participants in this study are workers in a garment distribution warehouse in Worcester, Massachusetts. The participants have been drawn from the worksite ESL classes offered during their lunch or dinner hours and extended one-half hour into work time donated by the company. A questionnaire was distributed to voluntary participants. The information gleaned was used to tabulate statistics and analyze hypotheses regarding the socio-economic transition of immigrants to the United States. As a result of this study, the following questions were addressed: (1) How do immigrants perceive the effects of immigration? (2) When immigrants come to the United States, do they feel their lives improve or worsen socioeconomically? (3) If studies prove that high-status immigrants become downwardly mobile upon entrance to the United States, does that imply that lower-status immigrants become upwardly mobile? (4) How do immigrants compare their lives in their native country to their lives in their new country? The objective of this study was to evaluate the ramifications of migration to the United States with respect to upward and downward mobility of higher- and lower-status immigrants. The population consisted of ESL students/warehouse workers from 13 different countries. This group of immigrants was chosen because, regardless of background, education, English language facility, experience, degree of literacy, or previous socioeconomic class, they were now all thrust together, doing the same job, earning the same salary, and on an equal footing here in the United States. Based on this premise, the researcher wanted to study their perceptions of life in the United States compared to their previous countries to see if, in their estimation, they had indeed bettered themselves or their lots in life by migrating to the United States, or whether their lives had taken a downward turn by coming here.

Subject Area

Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Cultural anthropology|Language arts|Adult education|Continuing education

Recommended Citation

Ariza, Eileen Nancy, "An exploratory research project of factory workers in the ESL worksite classes: The effects of immigration on high-status/low-status immigrants to the United States" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9219400.