Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Marriage Markets and the Paradox of Mexican American Nuptiality

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Marriage Markets and the Paradox of Mexican American Nuptiality

Article excerpt

The deteriorating economic circumstances of disadvantaged minorities has given new urgency to research on racial and ethnic differences in family formation (Jencks, 1992; Wilson, 1987). Despite a turbulent history, scholarly discourse is now converging around issues related to the intersection of economic opportunity, culture, and the growing racial gulfs in marriage and childbearing (Cherlin, 1992). For example, the conventional wisdom is that the retreat from marriage among blacks is associated with employment dislocations caused by industrial restructuring, which has reduced the supply of African American men who are suitable for marriage (Wilson, 1987). Another view is that this reflects a traditional black "cultural repertoire" of reliance on extended consanguineous bonds over conjugal bonds, reinforced by a larger cultural shift toward individualism (Cherlin, 1992; see also Morgan, McDaniel, Miller, & Preston, 1993; Sudarkasa, 1988).

While these issues have motivated substantial research on nuptiality, studies of the economic and cultural foundations of Hispanic marriage patterns are rare. This is surprising because the marital status distributions for whites, blacks, and specific Hispanic groups reveal a complex pattern worth further scrutiny. Specifically, Puerto Rican and African American women are less likely than Mexican Americans and whites to marry by age 25 (Bean & Tienda, 1987). Some might attribute this pattern to the high levels of poverty, welfare dependency, and unemployment among both Puerto Ricans and African Americans. Mexican Americans enjoy a small advantage in employment and wages over Puerto Ricans (Aponte, 1991). However, Mexican Americans are at least as likely as whites to be married and they marry at younger ages, despite higher levels of unemployment and lower wages (Bean & Tienda, 1987; Yang & Frisbie, 1989; see also Schoen & Owens, 1990). In light of the current emphasis on the economic underpinnings of black-white differences in family formation, the high marriage rate of Mexican Americans is paradoxical given their disadvantaged economic position relative to whites.

The absence of research on the paradox of Mexican American nuptiality stems from several factors, not the least of which are sample size limitations and concerns about parsimony (Lichter, McLaughlin, Kephart, & Landry, 1992). Equally important is the tendency to reify Hispanic as an ethnic classification: Mexican Americans are frequently combined with Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and others into a single ethnic classification (Michael & Tuma, 1985). Previous research also focuses disproportionately on racial differences in the structure of opportunities for marriage--that is, how the availability of marriageable mates in a local marriage market affects union formation. Little attention has been paid to other factors such as residential segregation, a surprising omission given that residential propinquity facilitates the maintenance of ethnic subcultures. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), we address these limitations by examining both the structural and cultural processes that influence first marriage transitions of Mexican American, Anglo, and African American women.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Contemporary research identifies structural and cultural processes in union formation that are manifested in the microlevel characteristics of individuals and the macrolevel contexts within which they live (for similar distinctions, see Angel & Tienda, 1982; Bean & Berg, 1992; Huber, 1991). We focus first on an alleged macrolevel (structural) constraint on the opportunities for marriage--the supply of marriageable men in the local marriage market--as well as on how the incentive to marry is influenced by the economic independence, welfare participation, and specific family background characteristics of women. The discussion then turns to residential segregation as a macrolevel ecological condition that may facilitate the maintenance of racial and ethnic subcultural enclaves. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.