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Demographic change and assimilation in the early 21st-century United States

Alba, Richard and Maggio, Christopher (2022) Demographic change and assimilation in the early 21st-century United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119 (13). ISSN 1091-6490

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Identification Number: 10.1073/pnas.2118678119


Assimilation has not gotten its due in recent decades, overshadowed by discussions about race and racism. Using evidence from the 2000 Census and the 2015 to 2019 American Community Survey, we show, however, that contemporary social change and its implications for a society stratified along ethnoracial lines cannot be understood without taking the assimilation of many Americans with non-White or Hispanic family origins into account. We begin by necessity with a reconsideration of the concept, arguing that assimilation involves the decline in influence of ethnoracial origins on social status and on relationships with others; it does not require the erasure of all markers of those origins. We highlight that demographic dynamics are playing a critical role in promoting assimilation: Ethnoracial shifts across birth cohorts are generating opportunities for minority mobility, and increasing mixing in families is engendering a growing group of young Americans from mixed minority–White family backgrounds. These mixed Americans, we argue, offer the clearest window into assimilation processes, which are not limited to them, however. The empirical evidence presented shows effects on both social status and relations across group boundaries: 1) the top tier of the workforce, the best-paid quartile of occupations, is growing much more ethnoracially diverse over time, and mixed minority–White Americans are important to this diversity because their probabilities of entering this tier are more similar to those of White people than are those of unmixed minorities; and 2) intermarriage remains robust, enhanced by high rates of marriage to White people by mixed minority–White individuals.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2022 14:24
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2024 17:09

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