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From Many Strands

From Many Strands: Ethnic and Racial Groups in Contemporary America

Stanley Lieberson
Mary C. Waters
Copyright Date: 1988
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    From Many Strands
    Book Description:

    The 1980 Census introduced a radical change in the measurement of ethnicity by gathering information on ancestry for all respondents, regardless of how long ago their forebears migrated to America, and by allowing respondents of mixed background to list more than one ancestry. The result, presented for the first time in this important study, is a unique and sometimes startling picture of the nation's ethnic makeup.

    From Many Strandsfocuses on each of the sixteen principal European ethnic groups, as well as on major non-European groups such as blacks and Hispanics. The authors describe differences and similarities across a range of dimensions, including regional distribution, income, marriage patterns, and education. While some findings lend support to the "melting pot" theory of assimilation (levels of educational attainment have become more comparable and ingroup marriage is declining), other findings suggest the persistence of pluralism (settlement patterns resist change and some current occupational patterns date from the turn of the century).

    In these contradictions, and in the striking number of respondents who report no ethnic background or report it incorrectly, Lieberson and Waters find evidence of considerable ethnic flux and uncover the growing presence of a new, "unhyphenated American" ethnic strand in the fabric of national life.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-357-9
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vi-x)
    Charles F. Westoff

    From Many Strandsis one of an ambitious series of volumes aimed at converting the vast statistical yield of the 1980 census into authoritative analyses of major changes and trends in American life. This series, “The Population of the United States in the 1980s,” represents an important episode in social science research and revives a long tradition of independent census analysis. First in 1930, and then again in 1950 and 1960, teams of social scientists worked with the U.S. Bureau of the Census to investigate significant social, economic, and demographic developments revealed by the decennial censuses. These census projects produced...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-27)

    The united states is peopled almost entirely by migrants and their descendants. Only 3 percent of the population in 1980 report origins that are at least partly indigenous: American Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian Islander, and Hawaiian. The overwhelming majority of the population are from elsewhere on the globe: Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, and virtually every part of Europe. In addition, the nation also includes groups formed in the New World, such as Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, in some cases living in areas that were later conquered or purchased by the United...

    (pp. 28-50)

    The ethnic and racial makeup of the United States in 1980 is only one point in a long and continuously changing history of race and ethnic relations in the nation. In order to understand the contemporary composition of the United States, it is necessary to appreciate several key historical features. First, government immigration policies have been very restrictive toward some groups while simultaneously encouraging other groups. Second, the sources of immigration have also varied because of the influences of changing opportunities in the United States, shifts in the push to emigrate in the host countries, and the relative difficulty and...

    (pp. 51-93)

    We expect every ethnic group in the United States—or in any other nation—to exhibit a distinctive locational pattern. As observed in Chapter 2, the groups came to this nation for a variety of reasons and under changing conditions. Each of these forces has ramifications for their settlement patterns. The spatial pattern of conquered people, such as American Indians, results from their location at the time of their conquest, as well as from movements that were forced upon them later. This combination of initial location and later changes also applies to people whose territories were acquired in other ways...

    (pp. 94-116)

    Ethnic and racial groups differed in cultural attributes at the time of their arrival in the United States. Many of these differences involved rather prominent characteristics: language, food, names, clothing, kinship structures, religion, and the like. While cultural values are less obvious than these material and organizational qualities, we can assume that the groups differed on this dimension as well. In this chapter we address two central questions. First, do the groups differ in cultural features at present? Second, if they do, are these differences linked to the historical positions observed among their ancestors in the heyday of immigration? While...

    (pp. 117-161)

    Ethnic and racial groups typically follow distinctive occupational pursuits after their migration to the United States. A variety of forces operate to generate these differences.Timing of arrivalis relevant for the occupations initially held, just as it is for location in the country. In a dynamic economy, old occupational opportunities decline and new ones appear; therefore, groups that arrive at different periods encounter a distinctive set of occupational opportunities. At one time, for example, the iron and steel industry was rapidly expanding in the United States and hired very large numbers of unskilled immigrant men; this would hardly be...

    (pp. 162-203)

    Intermarriage has been a long-standing topic of interest for sociologists because it can be understood as both an indicator of the degree of assimilation of ethnic and racial groups and an agent itself of further assimilation for the couples who intermarry and for the next generation.

    Intermarriage for individuals means either the crossing of ethnic taboo lines and/or the demise of such prohibitions. Moreover, the group rates reflect not only the complex interplay of attractions and antipathies, but also the status afforded to each ethnicity, the nature and frequency of their contact, the strength of social pressures, and the structure...

    (pp. 204-246)

    At this point, based on the results observed in Chapter 6, we want to understand why ethnic groups differ in their rates of intermarriage and what leads to the growing levels of exogamy among the white ethnic groups. Also, when intermarriage does occur, what combinations are especially common or relatively infrequent? These issues are more complicated than the ones dealt with in the previous chapter and are less easily addressed exclusively with census data. Certainly, ethnic and racial groups have distinctive cultural features that affect their dispositions toward outmarriage and that also influence the dispositions of others toward having them...

    (pp. 247-268)

    Almost all discussions of ethnic and racial groups in the United States ultimately address the issue of the melting pot versus cultural pluralism.¹ To what degree are the groups alike, and to what degree do they maintain their separate identities? More precisely, are the initial differences between the groups disappearing such that the groups are becoming indistinguishable for all purposes? The answer is too complicated for a simple yes or no.

    First of all, it makes a difference which groups are being considered. Differences among white groups are for the most part dwarfed by comparison with the gaps we observe...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-274)
    (pp. 275-276)
  15. Name Index
    (pp. 277-278)
  16. Subject Index
    (pp. 279-289)