Volunteering and civic participation among immigrant members of ethnic congregations: Complementary not competitive

Jill Witmer Sinha, Itay Greenspan, Femida Handy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This article explores the relationship between voluntary activity of first-generation immigrants who attend ethnic congregations and their civic participation outside their congregations. We distinguish between attendance and volunteering within the congregation and examine whether and how these concepts relate to civic participation in the wider community. To address this question, survey data from 495 first-generation immigrants who attended 23 ethnic congregations in the United States were analysed using a composite variable of civic participation. Our analysis suggests that volunteering within the congregation is significantly related to civic participation, while attendance is not. We discuss the implications of volunteering as a factor in facilitating civic participation, and hence integration, among first-generation immigrant members of ethnic congregations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)23-40
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Civil Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was financially supported by a University Research Foundation grant from the University of Pennsylvania. The authors thank Gordon Zhu, Charlene C. McGrew and Hila Rimon-Greenspan for their invaluable support in data collection and data entry. They also thank the pastors and congregants who opened their houses of worship for them.


  • Civic participation
  • Immigrants
  • Religious congregations
  • Voluntary associations
  • Volunteering


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