Call for Research Syntheses: Immigrant Integration

The Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy requests applications from researchers to conduct syntheses of research into practices and programs for English language learning and addressing social determinants of health and healthcare access

Application Deadline: July 21, 2023

The Institute on Immigrant Integration Research & Policy (IIIRP) at the Rockefeller Institute of Government seeks two researchers or research teams to conduct syntheses on the topics identified below that document current knowledge and existing state of the practice designed to address problems that hinder the integration of foreign-born New Yorkers in the fabric of their communities.


Traditional immigrant gateways and new gateways alike face challenges in integrating new Americans in the fabric of their communities. Through a survey of key stakeholders, IIIRP identified two top priorities for IIIRP’s applied research program focus for 2023: language access and social determinants of health and healthcare access for foreign-born New Yorkers.

IIIRP requests applications from researchers to conduct a synthesis in one of the following areas:

  1. English Language Learning Practices and Programs
  2. Programs and Practices Addressing Social Determinants of Health and Healthcare Access

Each synthesis will compile knowledge and practices that exist on one of the two topic areas, analyze practices that have been used to address problems associated with the topic area, identify outcomes of completed research, and define gaps that still exist that could benefit from future research.[1]

Who Should Apply

Faculty and advanced doctoral students affiliated with SUNY institutions are eligible to apply. Applications submitted by a team of faculty and doctoral students will be considered. Bio sketches from each member of the team should be submitted. Only one application will be considered from each team of researchers.

Application Process

Applicants are required to submit a two-page letter of interest describing their approach to conducting the synthesis and a four-page bio sketch that documents areas of expertise relevant to the project and qualifications of the applicant.

Compensation will be made in the amount of $5,000 to produce each synthesis. Two syntheses will be funded. Compensation will be granted on a fixed price basis at the submission of the final synthesis report.

Key Dates
Deadline for submitting a letter of interest and bio sketch July 21, 2023
Funding decision August 7, 2023
Draft work plan August 17, 2023
First draft report October 23, 2023
Second draft report November 21, 2023
Final report December 8, 2023
Virtual presentation to key stakeholders December 29, 2023


Developing a Synthesis

The call for syntheses is driven by the understanding that while there is a wealth of information produced by researchers and practitioners on practices, programs, and services, it is often scattered and fragmented. Often, valuable knowledge fails to make it to practice and approaches that are promising fail to receive full diffusion. This derails integration and leads to increased costs, ineffectiveness, and inefficiencies. Researchers provide empirical evidence that programs are effective, but there is a chasm between producers of research and those who implement programs. Additionally, the world of practice is ripe with innovations that have led to promising outcomes, but this knowledge often stays confined within limited quarters.

Producing syntheses is a systematic means of assembling and evaluating existing information and presenting it in ways that would accelerate transfer of practices and adoption of knowledge to generate responsive policy, practices, and research. There is a need to compile and diffuse knowledge of what is learned about solutions to a problem and to bridge the gap between research and the application, implementation, adoption, and adaptation of its findings (i.e., technology transfer).[2] A synthesis effort will document current practice and illuminate evidence of effectiveness and efficiency whenever it exists. Syntheses typically rely on literature review as well as survey and follow-up interviews to identify current and ongoing research and practice case examples. A synthesis also presents an analysis of information gaps and suggestions for future research to address those gaps. Sharing these syntheses will be valuable to policymakers, researchers, and practitioners. They will accelerate adoption, reduce cost of integration efforts, and improve quality of outcomes for foreign-born residents. Dissemination will illuminate future research that is needed and ensure maximum return on research investments in immigrant integration.

Syntheses Topic Areas


  1. Language Access

The ability to communicate is critical to integration. Immigrants need access to English language learning resources and, while learning the language, they need services that bridge the communication gaps between them and their receiving communities. This is essential to providing unfettered access to social, economic, and civic resources. Lack of English language proficiency can destine immigrants to a life of poverty and significantly limit their opportunity structure. English language proficiency determines earnings and wages (Bleakley & Chin, 2010). It narrows the wage gaps between foreign- and native-born wage levels (Calvo & Sarkisian, 2015). The quality and quantity of jobs that are accessible are affected by the ability to speak English (Bleakley & Chin, 2004). Foreign-born workers who speak English well earn 33% more than workers who do not speak English well. Workers who speak English very well earn 67% more than those who do not speak English well. (Bleakley & Chin, 2004). “The opportunity cost of English deficiency ranges from $33,718 for the individual closest to fluency to $63,887 for the individual less fluent.” (Akresh, Massey, & Frank, 2014, 932). English ability also affects digital literacy and access to information technologies (Ono & Zavodny, 2008). Lack of digital literacy can lead to adverse occupational outcomes. Deskilling occurs when foreign-born New Yorkers are not able to leverage their talents and work in occupations for which they have received training because of English abilities.

Communication is an essential element of not only economic mobility and integration, but social integration as well. There is no doubt that a sense of belonging, trust, and the ability to access social capital can be adversely affected when immigrants cannot easily communicate with their neighbors and colleagues. Inability to access bridging capital that connects them with employment opportunities and expands their networks, and social links that connect them with publicly available resources and programs further intensifies vulnerability and marginalization in the labor market (Ager & Strang, 2008).

Questions that a synthesis will examine include (but are not limited to):

  • How is the infrastructure of English language learning structured and designed in New York State?
  • How are English language learning programs funded and maintained in the US?
  • Are there any programs that are deemed evidence-based?
  • What models of native language learning exist abroad and how are they designed and structured?
  • What barriers exist for foreign-born residents in accessing these services?
  • What challenges do these programs have in recruiting and retaining foreign-born residents? Are there gaps in provision of these services?
  • What gaps exist in coverage?
  • How is outreach provided for these programs?
  • How are the programs accessed by service recipients?


  1. Social Determinants of Health and Healthcare Access

Like many of their native-born counterparts, immigrants face a multitude of forces that hinder their access to healthcare. These non-health-related factors, or social determinants of health, affect health outcomes. The immigration experience and foreign-born status add another layer of complexity and vulnerability. To improve health outcomes for immigrant populations, there is a need to address these social determinants of health.

Social determinants of health are socially produced, avoidable differences in health status that include (Refki, Ahmed, Altarriba & Khurana, 2023):

  1. Socio-political (systemic racism and xenophobia, deskilling, harmful federal, state, and local policies);
  2. Physical built environment (concentrated effects of poverty, lack of safe and affordable housing, lack of access to community resources, lower access to education, lack of accessible transportation);
  3. Behavioral (pre- and post-migration characteristics, lack of awareness of preventive medicine and systems of care, mental health stigma and devaluing of mental health, prevalence of stereotyping about the healthcare systems and practices, and traditional gender norms, roles, and relations); and
  4. The healthcare system (lack of culturally and linguistically accessible healthcare system, complex and cumbersome healthcare system, lack of universal healthcare coverage, lack of providers’ knowledge about immigrants’ experiences, and lack of trust in the healthcare system and institutions of government).

Various vulnerabilities stem from a range of complex and intersecting variables. Vulnerabilities lead to lower rates of healthcare utilization and poor physical, psychological, and social health outcomes. Several programs exist at the local level to address social determinants of health facing foreign-born residents including community health workers/healthcare advisors/peer educators who serve as advocates for the patient helping them navigate the complex healthcare system and bridge the gap that exists in providing culturally and linguistically competent care (Refki, Ahmed & Altarriba, 2021).

Questions the synthesis will examine include (but are not limited to):

  • What are the different forms and types of programs and practices that are designed to transcend social determinants that hinder healthcare access?
  • What programs exist in New York State?
  • Does evidence exist that any of these models work?
  • How are the different types designed and funded?
  • How are these models sustained?
  • What role do intersectoral partnerships play in designing and delivering these models?

To Apply

Send a letter of interest and bio sketch to IIIRP Deputy Director and Intergovernmental Liaison Guillermo Martinez at [email protected].

Application Deadline: July 21, 2023

References Cited

Ager, Alastair, and Alison Strang. “Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework.” Journal of Refugee Studies 21, 2 (2008): 166–91,

Akresh, Ilana Redstone, Douglas S. Massey, and Reanne Frank. “Beyond English proficiency: Rethinking immigrant integration.” Social Science Research 45 (2014): 200–10,

Bleakley, Hoyt, and Aimee Chin. “Age at Arrival, English Proficiency, and Social Assimilation Among US Immigrants.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2, 1 (January 2010): 165–2,

Calvo, Rocio, and Natalia Sarkisian. “Racial/ethnic differences in post-migration education among adult immigrants in the USA.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 38, 7 (2015): 1029–49, DOI:

Ono, Hiroshi, and Madeline Zavodny. “Immigrants, English Ability and the Digital Divide.” Social Forces 86, 4 (June 2008): 1455–79,

Refki, Dina, Rukhsana Ahmed, and Jeanette Altarriba. Closing the Health Disparity Gap in U.S. Immigrant Communities in the Era of COVID-19: A Narrative Review, Understanding and eliminating minority health disparities in a 21st-century pandemic: A White Paper Collection. University at Albany: Scholars Archive, 2021,

Refki, Dina, Rukhsana Ahmed, Jeanette Altarriba, and Pallavi Khurana. “Towards a framework for addressing immigrants’ social determinants of health.” In Addressing Differential Impacts of COVID-19 in New York State. Edited by Havidan Rodriguez, DeeDee Bennett Gayle, David R. Holtgrave, Theresa A. Pardo, and  Lynn A. Warner. Albany: SUNY Press, forthcoming.

[1] A synthesis will not collect new data. It will compile existing practices (not best practices). A synthesis will not evaluate practices but seek to find evaluation studies that have been completed or ongoing about these practices when they exist.

[2] A synthesis is a concise report on the topic that presents current knowledge and practices available which are designed to address specific problems.