Economic Mobility and Cultural Assimilation among Children of Immigrants

Economic Mobility and Cultural Assimilation among Children of Immigrants

Economic Mobility and Cultural Assimilation among Children of Immigrants

Economic Mobility and Cultural Assimilation among Children of Immigrants

Synopsis

Segmented assimilation theory states that immigrants follow multiple paths of assimilation into different segments of American society. Faulkner tests the theory using data on children of immigrants and later generation youths and analyzes how context of reception, adaptation obstacles, and protective factors are associated with paths of assimilation. She take into account five factors that segmented assimilation theory has not fully considered (1) assimilation's intergenerational nature, (2) life course stage, (3) assimilation starting points, (4) gender, and (5) later generation comparisons. Assimilation paths differ by these factors. Results suggest that exposure to U.S.-born minorities may not have the detrimental effects that the theory posits and that immigrants' cultural attributes may be less important for their success than the quality of their family relationships.

Excerpt

Sociologists have long used the term “assimilation” to describe the incorporation of immigrants into American society (see, for example, Simons 1901; Park and Burgess 1924; Park 1928; Gordon 1964). in recent years, there has been much discussion about the meaning of assimilation and its applicability to the most recent waves of immigrants to the United States. Portes and Zhou (1993) developed segmented assimilation theory as a response to some of the critiques of earlier assimilation definitions. They suggest that immigrants who enter a stratified society will experience stratified, or segmented, outcomes of incorporation.

While this theoretical framework has been highly influential and has added much to the discussion of immigrant incorporation—most importantly, the idea that there are multiple ways of being “American”—it has consistently overlooked several factors critical to understanding the immigrant experience. First, segmented assimilation theory conflates paths, trajectories of change, with segments, outcomes of assimilation or mobility. Second, segmented assimilation theory and research have often failed to fully consider how immigrants’ initial values of assimilation indicators, or “starting points,” are associated with directions of assimilation and their meaning. Third, despite the fact that generational change is the driving force behind assimilation, segmented assimilation theory and research lack a true intergenerational focus, from parents to their own children. Instead, they often infer generational change through a comparison, during the same time period, of individuals of the same age cohort who belong to different generations-since-immigration. Fourth, segmented assimilation theory and research typically overlook gender, considering . . .

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