Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Adriana Espinosa

Second Advisor

Ann Marie Yali

Third Advisor

Glen Milstein


Well-being, Academic Performance, Income Inequality, Resilience, Acculturative Stress, Perceived Stress, Immigrants in the United States



Research on the psychology of immigrants has primarily focused on their socioeconomic status, but has not factored in macroeconomic indicators. These provide a deeper understanding of the stressors experienced by immigrants through the lens of cultural gaps between home and host countries. This study examined predictors of psychological well-being (PWB) and academic performance among 376 immigrant college students by employing Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of development (1994) consisting of four levels of environmental factors: Macrosystem, exosystem, mesosystem and microsystem. The results revealed that higher PWB was predicted by mesosystem variables (lower perceived stress, lower acculturative stress) and microsystem variables (higher resilience, higher ethnic identity, being older), whereas better academic performance was predicted by microsystem variables (being younger, higher resilience) and exosystem variables (higher family economic status). Although macrosystem factors (economic growth, income inequality) alone did not impact the outcomes significantly, an additional moderation analysis revealed a significant interaction effect of income inequality and resilience in predicting PWB. Namely, the positive relation between resilience and PWB was larger in magnitude among immigrants from more egalitarian countries than it was among immigrants from less egalitarian countries. Immigrants from non-egalitarian countries proved to be more resilient than immigrants from egalitarian countries: Their higher level of resilience seemed to translate into better skills of coping with distress rather than enhancing their PWB or academic performance. Higher levels of ethnic identity were also associated with better PWB, but not with academic performance. The moderating effect found for PWB was not found for academic performance.



Firstly, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my advisor Dr. Adriana Espinosa for her patience, motivation, immense knowledge, and engagement through the learning process of this master thesis. She consistently allowed this paper to be my own work, but navigated me in the right direction whenever she thought I needed it. I could not have imagined having a better advisor and mentor for this interdisciplinary study.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the other members of the committee: Dr. Ann Marie Yali and Dr. Glen Milstein for their encouragement and insightful comments.

My sincere thanks also go to Dr. Timothy Ellmore, Dr. Adriana Espinosa, Dr. Tiffany Floyd, Dr. Jón Sigurjónsson, Dr. Chaim Tarshish and Dr. Ann Marie Yali (alphabetical order) whose valuable inputs helped me to increase the participants for my study. Importantly, I like to thank all participants in my survey for willingly sharing their precious time during the long survey.

I also thank deeply Mr. Aleks Tikhonov (M.A.), the lab chief manager for sharing his methodological skills and his warm encouragement.

Finally, I must express my very profound gratitude to my dearest friend Dr. Joachim Viehoever for providing me with unfailing support and continuous encouragement throughout my years of study.

This accomplishment would not have been possible without all of you. Thank you.



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