Research Caveat - Research surrounding undocumented workers can often be problematic and unreliable. Primarily this is due to the nature of the subject matter -- individual on both sides of the issue are unwilling to talk because of the volaltility of the subject, language barriers, legal issues, access issues, fear of anything that even remotely feels governmental, and the validity of responses. Briefly, we can view these issues and the mitigating circumstances:
Language barriers -- Any viable research study will need to be dual language based; therefore it must be translated into the appropriate lanage and level (typically Spanish), with an emphasis on clarity, removal of hidden meanings or linguistic variations. In addition, the person or persons administering any research questionnaire would likewise need to be bilingual.
Mistrust -- Undocumented workers are often reluctant to particpate in any project that has a written component; they are mistrustful of the system, fearful of deportation, concerned about their fiscal stability, and not typically willing to provide truthful answers that may be perdeived with varying degree of vulberbility for them.
Non-documented populations move around a great deal, are unlikely to have a stable address, phone, or means of contact. This makes verification or follow-up of data quite difficult for the researcher.
Similarly, tabulation of demographic and psychographic data is problematical within this population. Due to the mistrust factor there is difficulty in recruiting those willing to answer questions, the veracity of the answers received, and even the nature and appropriateness of those who will participate as valid cross-sections of the population.
Because of these inherent problems, at times the academic community is reluctant to believe the results; often finding that the inability to verify the data makes it subject to falsification (Marshall and Rossman, 1999)
Project Proposal- There is a great deal of data from the sociological and economic perspective of American scholars on the subject of undocumented workers, but not much in the way of robust material from the perspective of the undocumented workers themselves. A thorough investigation into this issue would need to be widely geographic and longitudinal in form to be completely accurate, but it is possible that a smaller version of the project could be implemented as an initial basis for a larger, future project. This would consist of two parts -- a focus group in which the basic issues could be ranked and discussed with those results used to develop a larger, qualitative questionnaire. The basic research questions would focus on the undocumented workers' perceptions surrounding the major and most pressing issues they perceive regarding social, health and education services for themselves and their families. The focus group portion of the project is important because, as we know, there are a large number of issues and concerns faced by this population. It would be impossible to deal with each issue at this time, thus a hierarchy would need to be created.
Once that is done there should be a stronger focus for a qualitative study that would examine the top 2-3 issues, the impact those issues have on the individual families, and how this population group perceives those issues in the larger scheme of working in America. It is not appropriate, in this case, to expand the study into solutions for the issues; the study is not one that intends to be a policy brief or change agent, but rather a way to understand more on the median and micro levels if there is any convergence between U.S. scholarly sociological interpretations and actual undocumented worker popuilations on key issues.
Literare review and development of basic hypothosis
Develop list of questions for focus group; translate as appropriate
Identification of population
Logistical support for focus group; permissions, hiring of translators (as needed), etc.
Solidifcation and recruitment of popluation; 8-10 individuals; ages varying from 20s to 50s, mixed genders
Implementation of Focus Group; hone in on basic questions, find out which issues are top of mind.
Interpretation of Data
Data used in questionnaire development
Simplified format, translate if needed; focus on MAJOR issues and demographics used to appropriately tabulate data.
Identification of population group for administering of questionnaire
Because of issues surrounding this population, consider using community gather place for immediate completion of questionnaire; perhaps interface with local religious or migrant organization to help engender trust and mitigate suspicion.
Attempt 50 usable questionnaires; likely distribute 80-100 if at one location (church service or community event) to glean a 50% completion rate
Cross-Tabulation and Analysis Phase
Detailed codification and analysis of data
Interpretation of Data
Discussion and interpretation of results; work...
This will be necessary in order to complete the study using the available population base, the logistics of their physical location, and the speed at which the data must be collected and interpreted in the case of a need for cross-checking or validation. Most of the correlation in the data will be limited to a cross tabulation of issues with the identified demographic or psychographic modifies. For instance:
Length of Time in the U.S.
# of Children
Prior educational level
Thus, there will limited statistical testing, however, depending on how questionnaire is worded; we should be able to use a basic chi-square test to identify if there is association between gender and views on certain issues. For instance, we might have two issues: is there an association between gender and high levels of anxiety about health care and whether there is an association between gender and high levels of anxiety about educational services, and those compare. We might, then, have a table that looks something like this (for illustrative purposes only):
8, 9 or 10 on anxiety schedule for healthcare
8, 9 or 10 on anxiety schedule for education
Our null hypothesis, or initial assumption, would be no association between gender and either anxiety level; thus we would test, potentially with Excel or SPSS, the Chi-Square test. We do this simply to tell us whether there is an association between two categorical values, not what that association is. This will be useful in our basic description of the data set, but because we are primarily interested in our research as a qualitative case study that is preliminary to a longer study, further statistical analysis may not be necessary (Chan, 2003).
Conclusions and Validity - Due to the nature of our disenfranchised population, we acknowledge that this study should be viewed as a preliminary research project designed to focus on the ways that the undocumented worker population perceives the severity of several issues that are identified within a focus group. Likely, we will be able to use a linear basis for intensity as below:
It is likely that we will be able to identify 2-4 major issues for this population, and examine the way they view both the severity (intensity) of the issue in combination with certain demographic characteristics. In this way we will be able to provide useful data from an alternative perspective to traditional scholarly research. When combined, however, the intent is to have a more robust view with which to complete our research on the undocumented worker population.
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