Ethnicity maintenance : its contingent nature and impact on health : case studies of second generation Poles in the West Midlands (UK) and South Michigan (US)
OBJECTIVES My topic of research is a comparative study of ethnicity and (selected) health patterns among second generation Poles (and to a lesser extent, first generation Poles), looked at by means of two case studies, one in the UK and one in the USA. I examine the level of ethnicity (cultural) maintenance in a white - assumed assimilated - minority ethnic group in two specific geographic locations and therefore the context specific nature of ethnicity maintenance. I also examine whether it is possible to assess the impact of such maintenance on their personal health, well-being, and quality of life. METHODS My research design includes a (smaller, post WWII) selection of first generation UK and USA Polish respondents who act as point of reference, and allow me to define within this study, the parameters of the cultural 'nuances' in question. My design allows for the assessment of any evidence of ethnic self-identity and a common sub-cultural identity, as well as any differences between the two groups of respondents in relation to their respective degrees of co-operation, and accommodation problems, with host groups. The collection of data is operationalized via multiple methods, including questionnaires. I employ the use of qualitative, quantitative, and ethnographic elements, thus allowing for multidimensional analysis of selected issues. Comparisons are made with extant data from both the host ( indigenous) communities. RESULTS/CONCLUSION Empirical results bore out variations in the degree of maintained ethnic lifestyles, across a range of social groups. Some of the differences can be explained by the different environments (UK and USA), as well as the diasporic nature of the first generation's immigration experiences. Qualitative and ethnographic evidence was found to be crucial in explaining the various affective ethnic nuances that quantitative methods are unable to reveal, such as the pervasive impact that the first generation's diasporic experiences, as well as the nature of the Polish exiled community, have had on the second generation, both in the UK and the USA, and their respective qualities of life. This study has indicated that maintaining one's ethnic roots can for these individuals be just as problematic, although in differing ways, as for members of non-white ethnic minorities.