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Receptivity toward Immigrants in Rural Pennsylvania: Perceptions of Adult English as Second Language Providers


  • This study was made possible by a Seed Grant from the College of Agricultural Sciences at Pennsylvania State University and support from the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy (ISAL). The other members of our research team, Fern K. (Bunny) Willits (Rural Sociology, Penn State) and Sheila Sherow (ISAL, Penn State), were instrumental in conceptualizing and implementing the study. We also wish to thank the ESL providers who so generously shared their time and perspectives with us. Direct correspondence to Esther Prins at Pennsylvania State University, 305B Keller Building, University Park, PA 16802, e-mail, and to Blaire Willson Toso at Pennsylvania State University, 405 Keller Building, University Park, PA 16802, e-mail


This article uses interview and questionnaire data to examine how adult English as a second language (ESL) providers in rural Pennsylvania perceive community receptivity toward immigrants and the factors they believe foster or hinder receptivity and immigrants' integration. ESL providers' depictions of local responses to immigrants ranged from welcoming to hostile. They identified four constellations of factors that influenced receptivity: national and local politics, the labor market and immigrant occupations, immigrants' ability to look or act like native-born residents, and community institutions. This study reveals how differing contexts of reception are believed to influence immigrants' incorporation into rural communities. It also highlights the role of educators and educational institutions in creating a welcoming atmosphere that supports immigrants' socioeconomic well-being.