An Analysis of Bhutanese Refugees' Experiences in the United States
This study explores the resettlement experiences of twenty-one Bhutanese refugees in Laconia, New Hampshire and Chelsea and Lynn, Massachusetts. Its purpose is to determine if place significantly affects a refugee’s success and satisfaction, and to assess the differences between those effects in urban and rural locations. In addition, this study seeks to determine if one kind of place, urban or rural, is better for resettlement than the other. It draws on the theories of assimilation, social networks, and social capital, as it strives to enter the sociology of immigration discourse. This qualitative study employed a mixed-method approach in attempting to answer its research questions. Semi-structured interviews and brief surveys were conducted with ten respondents in an urban location, Greater Boston, and eleven respondents in a rural location, Laconia, NH. The samples were recruited through snowball sampling methods. This study finds that in the rural location respondents had extensive in-group and out-group network connections, developed social capital, and feelings of safety and security, but they lacked employment and consequently economic stability. In the urban location respondents had a higher rate of employment, developed social capital, and a formal in-group network, however they lacked out-group network connections and felt unsafe in their neighborhoods. Therefore, the study concludes that there are specific characteristics of urban and rural places that affect a refugee’s sense of well-being; however, the positive and negative forces of these characteristics balanced out to have an equal effect on overall satisfaction. Where it is best to resettle each refugee may depend on his or her personal values and cultural background. While resettling refugees in one location or another may not solve resettlement issues, this research suggests that there are many systematic improvements to be made to better help refugees adapt and succeed in the United States.