Ethnic enclave economy in urban China: The Korean immigrants in Yanbian

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The purpose of this article is two-fold. First, it seeks to contribute to the ongoing sociological debate surrounding the immigrant enclave hypothesis, originally articulated by Alejandro Portes and his associates. It also extends this debate beyond the empirical setting on which the previous research has almost exclusively focused, i.e., developed market economies. The current study applies the enclave argument to a non-market context by analysing an original survey of 449 ethnic Koreans living in the city of Yanji, located in the northeastern corner of China. In doing so, this study probes into how ethnic enclave relates to inequality and stratification within the context of China's transitional economy. Multivariate analyses reveal that ceteris paribus working in the Korean enclave economy is positively associated with significant earnings advantage. Logistic regression models are also estimated to explore the causal determinants of enclave participation in terms of both immigrant entrepreneurship and employment. Empirical results indicate that the ethnic sector typically attracts those who lack substantial human capital required for entering 'mainstream' (state-managed) labour markets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-828
Number of pages27
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Economic sociology
  • Ethnic enclave
  • Immigrant labour market


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