Becoming New Yorkers

Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 432
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    Becoming New Yorkers
    Book Description:

    More than half of New Yorkers under the age of 18 are the children of immigrants. This second generation shares with previous waves of immigrant youth the experience of attempting to reconcile their cultural heritage with American society. In Becoming New Yorkers, noted social scientists Philip Kasinitz, John Mollenkopf, and Mary Waters bring together in-depth ethnographies of some of New York’s largest immigrant populations to assess the experience of the new second generation and to explore the ways in which they are changing the fabric of American culture. Becoming New Yorkers looks at the experience of specific immigrant groups, with regard to education, jobs, and community life. Exploring immigrant education, Nancy López shows how teachers’ low expectations of Dominican males often translate into lower graduation rates for boys than for girls. In the labor market, Dae Young Kim finds that Koreans, young and old alike, believe the second generation should use the opportunities provided by their parents’ small business success to pursue less arduous, more rewarding work than their parents. Analyzing civic life, Amy Forester profiles how the high-ranking members of a predominantly black labor union, who came of age fighting for civil rights in the 1960s, adjust to an increasingly large Caribbean membership that sees the leaders not as pioneers but as the old-guard establishment. In a revealing look at how the second-generation views itself, Sherry Ann Butterfield and Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida point out that black West Indian and Russian Jewish immigrants often must choose whether to identify themselves alongside those with similar skin color or to differentiate themselves from both native blacks and whites based on their unique heritage. Like many other groups studied here, these two groups experience race as a fluid, situational category that matters in some contexts but is irrelevant in others. As immigrants move out of gateway cities and into the rest of the country, America will increasingly look like the multicultural society vividly described in Becoming New Yorkers. This insightful work paints a vibrant picture of the experience of second generation Americans as they adjust to American society and help to shape its future.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-328-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Philip Kasinitz, John H. Mollenkopf and Mary C. Waters
  5. Chapter 1 Worlds of the Second Generation
    (pp. 1-20)
    Philip Kasinitz, John H. Mollenkopf and Mary C. Waters

    Immigration has reshaped America since the mid-1960s. Today immigrants make up one-tenth of the U.S. population. Their U.S.-born children constitute nearly another tenth. In the nation’s two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles, more than half of the population is now of immigrant stock. The number of immigrants in the country now rivals the number at any point in American history, and the diversity of contemporary immigration is unprecedented.

    This dramatic demographic change has produced intense debate. Analysts, journalists, and politicians argue over whether immigration is having a positive or negative impact on the U.S. economy, the quality of...

    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 21-27)

      Getting an education is both the biggest individual challenge facing children of immigrants as they grow up and the most important institutional sorting mechanism that will send them off into different life trajectories. Norman Nie, Jane Junn, and Kenneth Stehlik-Barry (1996) have underscored the paradox of education: that individual investment in education pays off in upward mobility, but that growing social investment in education has not produced a more equal social or political system. To the contrary, the educational system continues to be a defining element in our national patterns of social stratification. For the children of immigrants, just as...

    • Chapter 2 Unraveling the Race-Gender Gap in Education: Second-Generation Dominican Men’s High School Experiences
      (pp. 28-56)
      Nancy López

      The social critique articulated by Leo and José, both seniors at what I refer to as Urban High School in New York City, points to the ever-present awareness of racial stigma among Dominican youth, particularly young men. These social critiques are part and parcel of the race-gender gap in education that I witnessed at Urban High School’s graduation in June 1998. At the end of the traditional graduation processional, rows of young women had to be paired with each other because they were graduating at greater rates than their male counterparts (López 2003; Sum et al. 2000; Kleinfeld 1998; Lewin...

    • Chapter 3 Somewhere Between Wall Street and El Barrio: Community College as a Second Chance for Second-Generation Latino Students
      (pp. 57-78)
      Alex Trillo

      Like other Americans, the children of Latino immigrants in New York grow up hearing about the virtues of a formal education. But as Nancy López (this volume) reminds us, they often attend the city’s least desirable schools. Add to this the many other challenges associated with the immigrant experience—newcomer communities, conflicts between the sending and receiving cultures, and the like—and it seems painfully obvious why so many become demoralized or sidetracked and forgo a college education, and why only a handful get the opportunity for a traditional college experience.

      Still, many students respond to such barriers by opting...

    • Chapter 4 “Being Practical” or “Doing What I Want”: The Role of Parents in the Academic Choices of Chinese Americans
      (pp. 79-110)
      Vivian Louie

      Despite coming from nearly opposite socioeconomic ends of Chinese migration flows to New York, Victoria and Robert relayed a common experience of confronting parental pressure to follow a “practical” professional path. In this chapter, I explore how second-generation Chinese American college students understood the expectations of their Chinese immigrant parents as they were choosing what to study and pursue as a career. Across class and gender, my respondents heard the same message from parents: not only is education important—with the bachelor’s degree seen as the minimum level of attainment (Louie 2001)—but the end goal of education is a...

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 111-114)

      No part of the contemporary immigrant experience has received more attention or stirred up more controversy than the impact of immigrants on the labor market (see, for examples, Portes 1995). Since most immigrants come to the United States to work, it is understandable that many Americans worry about the effect on their own jobs and wages of the prevalence of immigrant workers in the U.S. labor market. Questions about whether immigration hurts American workers and to what extent any negative effects are offset by the benefits it brings to Americans as consumers and taxpayers remain controversial, and attempts to answer...

    • Chapter 5 Who’s Behind the Counter? Retail Workers in New York City
      (pp. 115-153)
      Victoria Malkin

      Awalk down Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan’s midtown becomes a corporate shopping oasis; music, clothes, cosmetics, and shoe stores compete for clientele from New York City and beyond. But anyone entering these stores will see that while customers cram the aisles, try on clothes, discard items, hunt for bargains, and return goods, a small army of employees, many of them indistinguishable from the shoppers, are wandering the floor, restocking shelves, responding to customers, and fighting with faulty cash registers. This labor force represents one cross-section of New York City’s population—mobile, mostly young, and as diverse as the shops in which...

    • Chapter 6 Leaving the Ethnic Economy: The Rapid Integration of Second-Generation Korean Americans in New York
      (pp. 154-188)
      Dae Young Kim

      At the time of the interview in 1998, Heesoo was a thirty-four-year-old woman born in Korea and raised in the suburbs of Maryland. She worked as a real estate developer for a major real estate acquisition and development company in New York. A graduate of a prestigious university in the midatlantic, she had also received an M.B.A. from an Ivy League university. Her parents were college-educated, but like many other Korean immigrants who had difficulty transferring their professions to the U.S context, they adapted economically by entering small business as grocers. During Heesoo’s childhood her father struggled with the business....

    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 189-196)

      Earlier periods of migration to the United States inspired many rich studies of the social worlds of immigrants and their American children. This literature often focused on the political and institutional lives of these communities. Midtwentieth-century observers, including Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, often highlighted the crucial role that churches, political clubs, labor unions, and fraternal organizations played in helping the children of immigrants “become Americans.” With only a few notable exceptions, however (see Cordero-Guzman 2002; Bozorgmehr, Kucukozer, and Bakalian 2004; Gerstle and Mollenkopf 2001; Warner and Wittner 1998; Jones-Correa 1998; Kwong 1996), contemporary observers have given much less...

    • Chapter 7 “Isn’t Anybody Here from Alabama?”: Solidarity and Struggle in a “Mighty, Mighty Union”
      (pp. 197-226)
      Amy Foerster

      The ethnic contrasts evident in this scene, which was played out in New York City’s Social Service Employees Union (SSEU), are becoming increasingly common as America’s churches, workplaces, educational institutions, and voluntary organizations are dramatically altered by immigration. In this case, the union, which was founded primarily by leftist Jewish and Italian caseworkers and African American civil rights veterans, has been significantly transformed as waves of Latin Americans, Africans, West Indians, and South Asians—and their second-generation children—have entered the city’s social service workforce. The consequences for the union—and its members—have been dramatic: the union’s structural practices...

    • Chapter 8 Ethnic and Postethnic Politics in New York City: The Dominican Second Generation
      (pp. 227-256)
      Nicole P. Marwell

      Studies of the political incorporation of immigrants often have employed the concept of “generation” to understand how newcomer groups establish a voice in American politics. Such works include studies of the political behavior of “old” immigrants (Treudly 1949; Wirth 1941; Wolfinger 1965), African Americans (Browning, Marshall, and Tabb 1984; Keiser 1997; Pinderhughes 1997), and “new” immigrants (Filipcevic 2000; Kasinitz 1992; Pessar and Graham 2002; Warren 1997). The general thrust of all these studies is that second and later generations of immigrants (or, in the case of African Americans, the descendants of southern migrants to the North) will be more familiar...

    • Chapter 9 Chinatown or Uptown? Second-Generation Chinese American Protestants in New York City
      (pp. 257-280)
      Karen Chai Kim

      It is seven o’clock on Friday night. A group of Chinese and Korean American evangelical Protestants gathers together in the midtown Manhattan apartment of a Chinese American investment banker for the regular meeting of their church-sponsored home fellowship. Seated in a circle on the living room floor, they begin the evening by distributing copies of theCornell University Korean Christian Fellowship Songbookand singing several contemporary praise songs, accompanied by acoustic guitar. After the songs they take turns answering the icebreaker question of the week: “What is the most unpleasant experience you have had while living in New York City?”...

    • [Part IV Introduction]
      (pp. 281-287)

      The issue of how race will affect the future of the new second generation has been a major cause of worry. Since the vast majority of immigrants arriving since 1965 have been nonwhite, many scholars have suggested that the persistence of racial discrimination in the United States may hurt their life chances if whites see them less as immigrants and more as nonwhite (Gans 1992; Waldinger and Perlmann 1998). Indeed, the theory of segmented assimilation explicitly argues that racial discrimination will lead young nonwhite immigrants to a reactive ethnic identification with native minorities and a rejection of mainstream American values...

    • Chapter 10 “We’re Just Black”: The Racial and Ethnic Identities of Second-Generation West Indians in New York
      (pp. 288-312)
      Sherri-Ann P. Butterfield

      New york has been transformed by West Indian immigration. This scene in Caribbean Brooklyn also typifies West Indian neighborhoods throughout metropolitan New York. The rising predominance of West Indian communities in New York is a direct result of the rapid increase of black Caribbean immigrants over the last few decades. The 1999 Current Population Survey puts their numbers at roughly 600,000, which constitutes almost one-third of New York’s black population. West Indian immigrants and their children now outnumber African Americans in New York—54 percent of the blacks in the city in the year 2000 were West Indian. In fact,...

    • Chapter 11 Class Matters: Racial and Ethnic Identities of Working- and Middle-Class Second-Generation Korean Americans in New York City
      (pp. 313-338)
      Sara S. Lee

      Asian americans comprise a diverse group of people with distinct cultural, historical, and social backgrounds and experiences. However, the American public and the popular press tend to perceive Asian Americans as a homogeneous group, comprised of people who share a common penchant for success. As members of a “model minority” group, Asian Americans are presumed to be smart, dependable, and industrious (Tuan 1998; Lee 2002).¹

      The second-generation Korean immigrants I interviewed for this study reacted in various ways to their ascribed “model minority” racial image. Some participants believed that the image accurately reflects the “true” characteristics of Korean Americans. For...

    • Chapter 12 Affinities and Affiliations: The Many Ways of Being a Russian Jewish American
      (pp. 339-360)
      Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida

      Recent census data suggest that there are about 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their children living in the New York metropolitan area (March 1998 Current Population Survey). Most of those who left the Soviet Union since the early 1970s immigrated to Israel, where they received immediate citizenship under the “law of return” and extensive “absorption” and resettlement services. Those who chose to immigrate to the United States were assisted by Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HAIS) agents in Vienna—which was the first stop for all immigrants from the former Soviet Union—and flown to Rome, where they...

    • Chapter 13 Cosmopolitan Ethnicity: Second-Generation Indo-Caribbean Identities
      (pp. 361-392)
      Natasha Warikoo

      During the 1920s, Bhagat Singh Thind, an Indian immigrant to the United States, attempted to become a naturalized citizen under a law that gave the right of naturalization to “white” residents. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually denied Thind’s right to citizenship, based on his nonwhite status, in spite of arguments that scientific racial classification systems at the time placed northern Indians in the category of “Caucasian.”

      Since the time of Bhagat Singh Thind, race has had a strong impact on the experiences of immigrants, although today’s immigrants have less interest in pushing for identification as “white” in all spheres of...

  10. Conclusion Children of Immigrants, Children of America
    (pp. 393-404)

    Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1963 classicBeyond the Melting Potmarked a paradigm shift in the study of assimilation. They argued that the Jews, Italians, Irish, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans of New York City had not and would not melt into a homogeneous mass but rather had become distinct ethnic groups—different from their immigrant parents, but still self-consciously organized as distinct interest groups with strong ethnic identities. In so doing, these ethnic groups altered previous expectations about the later stages of assimilation. Glazer and Moynihan challenged the inevitability, advisability, and even possibility that ethnic distinctions would...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 405-420)