Social Networks and the Well-Being of Low and High Status Migrants

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 6B P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Dorottya HOOR, Central European University, Hungary
Migration with its profound effects on the daily experiences of individuals is argued to have far-reaching consequences on mental health. The importance of social networks is well established both for successful migration and for psychological well-being separately, however the role of social networks on the well-being of migrants is yet to be explored. This paper thus investigates how social networks impact the well-being of migrants in Budapest. It compares international graduate students (high status migrants) and asylum seekers (low status migrants) in Budapest, where currently both groups have experienced some displacement but are facing very different levels of uncertainty. As the experience of economic hardship has been linked to heavy reliance on strong ties often at the cost of foregoing weaker ties, the paper proposes that the social networks of high status migrants are configured differently from the network of low status migrants. It combines methodological tools from social network analysis with in-depth interviews to capture the micro social structures and to explore the content, meanings and histories of these social relationships. Results show that even though the presence of strong ties is crucial for the subjective well-being of both groups, high-status migrants tend to have more sparse ego-networks due to their ability to maintain several weak ties besides their strong links. On the contrary, low status migrants tend to be part of a rather closed dense network, which they mostly rely on for otherwise unattainable emotional and material support. Finally, the paper also suggests that such a lack of weak ties amongst low status migrants could be a major obstacle to their successful integration.