Investigating the associations between ethnic networks, community social capital, and physical health among marriage migrants in Korea

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This study examines factors associated with the physical health of Korea’s growing immigrant population. Specifically, it focuses on the associations between ethnic networks, community social capital, and self-rated health (SRH) among female marriage migrants. For empirical testing, secondary analysis of a large nationally representative sample (NSMF 2009) is conducted. Given the clustered data structure (individuals nested in communities), a series of two-level random intercepts and slopes models are fitted to probe the relationships between SRH and interpersonal (bonding and bridging) networks among foreign-born wives in Korea. In addition to direct effects, cross-level interaction effects are investigated using hierarchical linear modeling. While adjusting for confounders, bridging (inter-ethnic) networks are significantly linked with better health. Bonding (co-ethnic) networks, to the contrary, are negatively associated with immigrant health. Net of individual-level covariates, living in a commuijnity with more aggregate bridging social capital is positively linked with health. Community-level bonding social capital, however, is not a significant predictor. Lastly, two cross-level interaction terms are found. First, the positive relationship between bridging network and health is stronger in residential contexts with more aggregate bridging social capital. Second, it is weaker in communities with more aggregate bonding social capital.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Data for this study are drawn from the National Survey of Multicultural Families (NSMF) 2009, a government-funded project supervised by the Korean Ministry of Gender, Equality & Family (MOGEF) [50]. NSMF (2009) is the first and the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the country. The data collection was carried out by Statistics Korea. The study population consisted of all foreign-born spouses living in Korea at the time of the survey, approximately 131,000 individuals. The survey was designed to interview the entire population. The response rate was 55.9%, resulting in a sample size of 73,669. Weights are provided by NSMF (2009) to account for the probability of selection based on multiple individual and residential characteristics. The study protocol was originally reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board affiliated with the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA). Face-to-face interviews were conducted with spouses of foreign origin, both men and women, located throughout the country’s 7 metropolitan cities and 9 provinces. The analysis is based on a subsample of immigrant wives who make up the vast majority (over 90%) of the dataset. After excluding male respondents (husbands) and divorced female respondents, along with the listwise deletion of cases with missing values, the final sample contains 67,143 foreign wives nested in 212 residential clusters or primary sampling units (PSUs).

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: This study was supported by the Korean Ministry of Education and a grant from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2015-2015S1A3A2046566).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the author.


  • Bonding and bridging networks
  • Community social capital
  • Ethnic ties
  • Marriage migrants
  • Self-rated health


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