Diversity Paradox, The

Diversity Paradox, The: Immigration and the Color Line in Twenty-First Century America

Jennifer Lee
Frank D. Bean
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Diversity Paradox, The
    Book Description:

    African Americans grappled with Jim Crow segregation until it was legally overturned in the 1960s. In subsequent decades, the country witnessed a new wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America—forever changing the face of American society and making it more racially diverse than ever before. In The Diversity Paradox, authors Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean take these two poles of American collective identity—the legacy of slavery and immigration—and ask if today’s immigrants are destined to become racialized minorities akin to African Americans or if their incorporation into U.S. society will more closely resemble that of their European predecessors. They also tackle the vexing question of whether America’s new racial diversity is helping to erode the tenacious black/white color line. The Diversity Paradox uses population-based analyses and in-depth interviews to examine patterns of intermarriage and multiracial identification among Asians, Latinos, and African Americans. Lee and Bean analyze where the color line—and the economic and social advantage it demarcates—is drawn today and on what side these new arrivals fall. They show that Asians and Latinos with mixed ancestry are not constrained by strict racial categories. Racial status often shifts according to situation. Individuals can choose to identify along ethnic lines or as white, and their decisions are rarely questioned by outsiders or institutions. These groups also intermarry at higher rates, which is viewed as part of the process of becoming “American” and a form of upward social mobility. African Americans, in contrast, intermarry at significantly lower rates than Asians and Latinos. Further, multiracial blacks often choose not to identify as such and are typically perceived as being black only—underscoring the stigma attached to being African American and the entrenchment of the “one-drop” rule. Asians and Latinos are successfully disengaging their national origins from the concept of race—like European immigrants before them—and these patterns are most evident in racially diverse parts of the country. For the first time in 2000, the U.S. Census enabled multiracial Americans to identify themselves as belonging to more than one race. Eight years later, multiracial Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States. For many, these events give credibility to the claim that the death knell has been sounded for institutionalized racial exclusion. The Diversity Paradox is an extensive and eloquent examination of how contemporary immigration and the country’s new diversity are redefining the boundaries of race. The book also lays bare the powerful reality that as the old black/white color line fades a new one may well be emerging—with many African Americans still on the other side.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-661-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Part I Historical Background, Theoretical Framework, and Sociodemographic Context
    • Chapter 1 Introduction: Immigration and the Color Line in America
      (pp. 3-22)

      On November 4, 2008, the United States elected Barack Obama president, elevating an African American to the country’s highest office for the first time. Because Obama’s rise illustrates how far the United States has come from the days when blacks were denied the right to vote, when schools and water fountains were segregated, when it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry, and when racial classification was reduced to an absolutist dichotomy of black and white, it is fitting to ask: Does Barack Obama’s election signify substantial erosion in the country’s long-standing black-white color line? Many scholars and pundits...

    • Chapter 2 Theoretical Perspectives on Color Lines in the United States
      (pp. 23-34)

      At the beginning of the twentieth century, when W. E. B. Du Bois famously proclaimed that “the problem of the twentieth-century [will be] the problem of the color line,” (1903/1997, 45), there was little ambiguity about the state of U.S. race relations. So rigid and powerful was the black-white color line that it affected all spheres of life—economic, political, social, and legal—and accurately reflected America’s racial reality. More than one hundred years later, the United States is composed of a kaleidoscope of ethnicities, a rainbow largely created by immigration from non-European countries. Newcomers from Latin America and Asia...

    • Chapter 3 What Is This Person’s Race? The Census and the Construction of Racial Categories
      (pp. 35-54)

      At its inception more than two centuries ago, in 1790, the decennial census began the process of counting the American population by race, setting the stage for the national institutionalization of racial status and the color line during the postindependence era of slavery, and race has remained a classification category in all subsequent U.S. censuses. But the way the census has measured it has remained far from consistent over time. Because census practices have often reflected the centrality of racial status as an organizing principle of the legal, political, social, and economic life in the United States, studying the changes...

    • Chapter 4 Immigration and the Geography of the New Ethnoracial Diversity
      (pp. 55-80)
      James D. Bachmeier and Zoya Gubernskaya

      More immigrants come to the United States than to any other country in the world (Brown and Bean 2005). According to the American Community Survey, by the year 2008, the foreign-born population in the United States exceeded thirty-eight million, and their native-born children were nearly as numerous, accounting for about another thirty-four million (Ruggles et al. 2009). Unlike the waves of immigrants who arrived in the early twentieth century, today’s immigrants are mainly non-European. In 2008, only about 12 percent of legal immigrants originated in Europe or Canada, whereas about 80 percent came from Latin America, Asia, Africa, or the...

  6. Part II Individual Experiences of Diversity:: From Multiraciality to Multiracial Identification
    • Chapter 5 The Cultural Boundaries of Ethnoracial Status and Intermarriage
      (pp. 83-100)

      As early as 1941, Kingsley Davis and Robert K. Merton studied patterns of intermarriage as a way of measuring the social distance between groups and, in 1964, Milton M. Gordon extended this line of research by relating intermarriage to assimilation. Gordon theorized that because intermarriage follows other types of structural assimilation, exogamy marks one of the final stages of a minority group’s assimilation into the majority-group host culture. Social scientists today follow Gordon’s lead, viewing intermarriage as a sign of increased contact between groups, declining racial and ethnic prejudice, the breakdown of ethnoracial and cultural distinctions, and the fading of...

    • Chapter 6 What About the Children? Interracial Families and Ethnoracial Identification
      (pp. 101-120)

      The family, both nuclear and extended, is an important site of ethnoracial identity formation, since cultural traditions and identities are first learned in the home (Alba 1990). When both parents share the same ethnoracial background, there is little discrepancy about how the parents will choose to identify their children, but when parents come from different backgrounds, the choice is far less obvious. Will they prioritize one ethnoracial identity over another, or will they choose to combine both parental backgrounds to identify their children? What are some of the factors that guide the choices parents make?

      Historically, the legacy of the...

    • Chapter 7 Who Is Multiracial? The Cultural Reproduction of the One-Drop Rule
      (pp. 121-136)

      As noted earlier, the 2000 census allowed Americans to mark “one or more” races to indicate their racial identification. This landmark change in the way the census has measured race was significant not only because it represented official recognition of racial mixing in the United States but also because it validated the view that racial categories are no longer strictly bounded and mutually exclusive (DaCosta 2000; Farley 2002; Hirschman, Alba, and Farley 2000; Hollinger 2003; Morning 2000; Waters 2000; Williams 2006). This was a momentous step, for the United States has historically denied the reality of racial mixture and instead...

    • Chapter 8 From Racial to Ethnic Status: Claiming Ethnicity Through Culture
      (pp. 137-154)

      In an oft-cited passage about group boundaries, the social anthropologist Fredrik Barth (1969, 15) noted:

      The critical focus of investigation from this point of view becomes the ethnic boundary that defines the group, not the cultural stuff that it encloses. The boundaries to which we must give our attention are of course social boundaries, though they may have territorial counterparts. If a group maintains its identity when members interact with others, this entails criteria for determining members and ways of signaling membership and exclusion.

      Barth recognized that ethnic boundaries are not static, fixed, and permanent, but rather continually transform through...

  7. Part III The Empirical and Policy Significance of Diversity:: Generalization and Paradox
    • Chapter 9 Ethnoracial Diversity, Minority-Group Threat, and Boundary Dissolution: Clarifying the Diversity Paradox
      (pp. 157-180)
      James D. Bachmeier

      The quantitative findings presented in the preceding chapters based on data from the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses and the 2007 and 2008 American Community Surveys (ACS) reveal that recent immigration has fueled population growth among Latinos and Asians in the United States, which has led to an increase in ethnoracial diversity and has boosted rates of intermarriage and multiracial reporting. The in-depth interviews about intermarriage and multiracial identification yield qualitative results concerning cultural change expressed as a weakening of the boundaries that separate whites from other groups, especially among Latinos and Asians. To summarize, and perhaps to risk oversimplification,...

    • Chapter 10 Conclusion: The Diversity Paradox and Beyond (Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose)
      (pp. 181-194)

      We opened this book with W. E. B. Du Bois’s prediction, “The problem of the twentieth-century will be the problem of the color line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men” (Du Bois 1903/1997, 45). Since Du Bois made this forecast, in 1903, the United States has undertaken major national-level legal and legislative initiatives to reduce the harsh effects of the country’s black-white color line. These include landmark decisions such asBrown v. the Topeka Board of Educationin 1954, the Civil Rights Act of 1964,Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginiain 1967, and the Fair...

  8. Appendix: Methodological Approach
    (pp. 195-204)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 205-206)
  10. References
    (pp. 207-224)
  11. Index
    (pp. 225-236)