Illustration of writing an article on a laptop

ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Research Friday: Expect to Find the Unexpected!

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Researchers at ASU (see Dr. Lili Wang’s post on Hispanic Volunteering), along with colleagues from across the country, are examining the impact of acculturation on the philanthropic behaviors of minorities and immigrants.

Research is limited, due to the differences between data sets, the variety of Asian American ethnic groups, and the lack of adequate conceptual models to examine ethnic sub-groups (Sundeen, Garcia, & Raskoff, 2009). Education, religion, age, and income are some variables that are typically studied in relationship to formal giving and volunteering, informal or personal giving and volunteering, and secular and religious volunteering (Sundeen, Garcia, and Wang, 2007). Acculturation is the process by which individuals change in adapting to demands of a new environment (Berry, 1997), including language, cultural identity and stress, and citizenship and generation status.

With some colleagues, I will be presenting a study titled "Acculturation and Volunteering of Korean Americans in the United States" at the upcoming nonprofit research conference (ARNOVA) in Toronto. As EXPECTED, based on past research of Asian Americans, most acculturation variables (language, cultural identity, and generation status) were found to decrease the likelihood of formal volunteering, and factors such as religion, education, age, and income increased formal volunteering. UNEXPECTEDLY, attainment of citizenship for Korean Americans was found to decrease formal volunteering behavior. Also, homeownership and children did not have the expected positive association with formal volunteering. Lastly, acculturation factors and most socio-demographic variables had very limited association with religious and informal volunteering.

Based on past research, these findings are unexpected. Are these findings due to the unique characteristics of Korean Americans, or are they artifacts of this data set? Can we support these new findings with research literature?

In our presentation at ARNOVA, we’ll be offering some possible explanations for the unexpected finding that attaining citizenship decreased the likelihood of formal volunteering. One possible explanation is the anxiety and disengagement individuals experience when they are illegal immigrants can persist even after citizenship is attained. Sundeen et. al. (2007) found that citizenship had different results on volunteering among three Asian subgroups (Chinese, Indian, and Filipino). Chinese Americans who were naturalized citizens were not more likely to volunteer than non-citizens.

Another explanation might be the bi-dimensional acculturation strategies reported by Lee, Sobal, and Frongillo (2003), where they found separate or marginalized Korean Americans (as contrasted by the more assimilated Korean Americans that tend to be younger, married, more educated, and integrated) and more likely to volunteer. Those with citizenship might be the former group that have lived long enough in the United States to obtain citizenship, but still maintain their cultural heritage and have not sought to become involved in the greater community.

We hope that our colleagues at ARNOVA will help us understand the results of our study and provide additional insight towards unraveling the complexity of volunteering behavior for ethnic and immigrants groups. Certainly, more research is needed on the impact of citizenship and to further explore the bi-dimensional acculturation model for Korean Americans.


 [1] Sundeen, R. A., Garcia, C., & Raskoff, S. A. (2009). Ethnicity, acculturation, and volunteering to organizations: A comparison of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Whites. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(4): 929–955.
 [2] Sundeen, R. A., Garcia, C., & Wang, L. (2007). Volunteer behavior among Asian American groups in the United States. Journal of Asian American Studies, 10(3), 243–281.
 [3] Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigration, acculturation, and adaption. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 46(1): 5-68., 181-199.
 [4] Jang, H.S., Wang, L., and Yoshioka, C.F., (2011). Acculturation and volunteering of Korean Americans in the United States, paper presented at the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary annual conference, Toronto, Canada, November 2011.
 [5] Lee, S., Sobal, J., & Frongillo, E.A. (2003). Comparison of models of acculturation: The case of Korean Americans. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34(3): 282-296.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog