Ethnic Insularity among 1.5- and Second-Generation Korean-American Christians*

By Park, Jerry Z. | Development and Society, June 2013 | Go to article overview

Ethnic Insularity among 1.5- and Second-Generation Korean-American Christians*


Park, Jerry Z., Development and Society


Building on insights from Min's (2010) comparisons between Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus, and my findings of elite freshmen Korean racial insularity (Park 2012), I use data from the Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles (2004) survey to examine the extent to which religion serves to not only preserve ethnicity but also support insularity in young adult 1.5- and second-generation ("second generation" hereafter) Korean Americans. Findings suggest that at the racial level of comparison, second-generation Korean-American endogamy resembles that of white, black, and Latino endogamy; second-generation Korean-American endogamy reflects not only the highest intraracial marriage rate, but also the highest intraethnic marriage rate of all Asian groups in the sample. Further, religious married second-generation Korean Americans have the highest racially homogeneous composition rate in the congregations they attend relative to other racial groups and other Asian ethnicities. In multivariate analyses, these two dynamics of marital endogamy and congregational racial homophily produce strong effects on one another and diminish the unique Korean effect. Findings suggest that these group relational patterns are more evident for second-generation Korean Americans and may have implications for social mobility in a racialized context.

Keywords: Second-Generation Korean Protestants, Second-Generation Asian Americans, Religious Preferences, Intermarriage, Religious Congregations, Racial Homophily

Introduction

In an ever-pluralizing environment, the need for understanding social integration between various groups grows more urgent and more complex. Immigration continues apace and recent reports show that Asia is now the largest sending continent, followed closely by Latin America (Taylor et al. 2012). With lower population growth among non-Hispanic whites, the United States increasingly resembles the racial pentagon proposed by David Hollinger (1995): White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. One of the key players in the new multicultural drama is the children of immigrants, the second generation. Being born and/or raised in the United States, these Latino and Asian young Americans play an important role in understanding how well social integration occurs today. In the following study, I introduce current research on racial integration and apply them to a large sample of second-generation young adult Americans in the Los Angeles area, with particular attention to the second-generation Korean-American Protestant case. The intersection of racial minority status and conservative Protestant status suggest a lack of integration or greater insularity, but for different reasons.

Milton Gordon first systematized the ways in which new Americans assimilate into society and offered a seven-stage process by which new groups are integrated into the mainstream of U.S. society. Of particular importance for this study are the second and third stages, which he describes as structural and marital assimilation. Structural assimilation refers to the large-scale integration of ethnic and racial groups into mainstream organizations, such as clubs and institutions. Marital assimilation refers to ethnically or racially mixed marriages. Greater proportions of new ethnic groups in the main institutions of society, as well as marrying members of the dominant group, indicate these two stages of assimilation. Since the time of Gordons writing, new immigration to the U.S. has seen an unprecedented growth of Asian and Latino sojourners who, alongside African Americans, now constitute more than 35 percent of all Americans today. Given these new racialized realities, how well do Gordons theorizing (built on observations of early 20th century immigration) hold?

Racial and Religious Socialization of the Second Generation

As children of immigrants, the second generation faces a variety of competing socialization influences on how they define their self and group identities. …

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