(Re)Defining Access to Latino Immigrant-Serving Organizations: Evidence from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Local social-service organizations can shape the process of immigrant integration, but their ability to do so partially hinges on whether immigrants can reasonably access services. In addition to distance or proximity, key features of an organization (e.g., capacity, multilingual staff) also shape whether a social-service program is accessible. This study explores the spatial relationship between Latino immigrant neighborhoods and organizations that we define as “immigrant-serving.” We argue that spatial access to social services is a characteristic of the immigrant receiving context and therefore integral to how we understand processes of immigrant integration. Drawing on unique survey data from social-service organizations in metropolitan Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles, California, and Washington, DC, and tract-level demographic information from the American Community Survey, we measured spatial access to social-service providers across neighborhoods with different degrees of Latino immigrant concentration. We then identified a subset of organizations that we define as Latino immigrant-serving organizations and examined their accessibility relative to Latino immigrant neighborhoods. We found evidence of considerable mismatch between Latino immigrant neighborhoods and service providers, but there is some variation across context and by provider type. Latino immigrants tend to have greater access to Latino immigrant-serving organizations, but there are few of these providers, and they are more likely to provide select types of services. Our findings have important implications for how immigrant-serving organizations are defined, the understanding of immigrant access to the safety net, and more generally, the variability of opportunities for immigrant integration across local receiving contexts.

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