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Generations of Exclusion

Generations of Exclusion: Mexican-Americans, Assimilation, and Race

Edward E. Telles
Vilma Ortiz
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 416
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    Generations of Exclusion
    Book Description:

    When boxes of original files from a 1965 survey of Mexican Americans were discovered behind a dusty bookshelf at UCLA, sociologists Edward Telles and Vilma Ortiz recognized a unique opportunity to examine how the Mexican American experience has evolved over the past four decades. Telles and Ortiz located and re-interviewed most of the original respondents and many of their children. Then, they combined the findings of both studies to construct a thirty-five year analysis of Mexican American integration into American society. Generations of Exclusion is the result of this extraordinary project. Generations of Exclusion measures Mexican American integration across a wide number of dimensions: education, English and Spanish language use, socioeconomic status, intermarriage, residential segregation, ethnic identity, and political participation. The study contains some encouraging findings, but many more that are troubling. Linguistically, Mexican Americans assimilate into mainstream America quite well—by the second generation, nearly all Mexican Americans achieve English proficiency. In many domains, however, the Mexican American story doesn’t fit with traditional models of assimilation. The majority of fourth generation Mexican Americans continue to live in Hispanic neighborhoods, marry other Hispanics, and think of themselves as Mexican. And while Mexican Americans make financial strides from the first to the second generation, economic progress halts at the second generation, and poverty rates remain high for later generations. Similarly, educational attainment peaks among second generation children of immigrants, but declines for the third and fourth generations. Telles and Ortiz identify institutional barriers as a major source of Mexican American disadvantage. Chronic under-funding in school systems predominately serving Mexican Americans severely restrains progress. Persistent discrimination, punitive immigration policies, and reliance on cheap Mexican labor in the southwestern states all make integration more difficult. The authors call for providing Mexican American children with the educational opportunities that European immigrants in previous generations enjoyed. The Mexican American trajectory is distinct—but so is the extent to which this group has been excluded from the American mainstream. Most immigration literature today focuses either on the immediate impact of immigration or what is happening to the children of newcomers to this country. Generations of Exclusion shows what has happened to Mexican Americans over four decades. In opening this window onto the past and linking it to recent outcomes, Telles and Ortiz provide a troubling glimpse of what other new immigrant groups may experience in the future.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-528-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)
    Joan W. Moore

    UCLA′s Mexican American Study Project is the ancestor of the study you hold in your hands. Born in the politically charged environment of the mid-1960s, the UCLA study was a massive effort to help put Mexican Americans on America′s social and political map. I served as its associate director.¹

    Household surveys of the Spanish-surnamed population,² then overwhelmingly of Mexican origin, were a major aspect of the research. The interviews were conducted in Los Angeles and San Antonio, the two cities with the greatest numbers of Mexican Americans. We also contracted for a dozen or so specialized studies and enlisted the...

  6. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In 1993, when UCLA′s historic Powell Library was being retrofitted to meet stricter earthquake codes, workers found numerous dusty boxes hidden behind a bookshelf in an unused basement room. The boxes contained the original survey questionnaires taken in 1965 and 1966 that were used to inform Leo Grebler, Joan Moore, and Ralph Guzmán′sThe Mexican American People: The Nation′s Second Largest Minority, published in 1970. This path-breaking study had accompanied the national discovery of Mexican Americans, which, they claim, began in 1960 with the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. Based on random samples of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles...

  7. Chapter 2 Theoretical Background
    (pp. 21-44)

    How ethnic groups are integrated in national societies and why they take particular paths are subjects of considerable debate. In the United States, the literature on their integration often revolves around a tension between assimilation and racialization perspectives. Even though Mexicans are the largest immigrant group with the longest duration in the history of the United States, little is known about their integration trajectories. Do the descendants of Mexican immigrants assimilate into mainstream society, like the descendants of European immigrants have, does race come into play, or is there another path? There is no consensus but much debate about which...

  8. Chapter 3 The Mexican American Study Project
    (pp. 45-73)

    The 1965 Mexican American Study Project was designed as the first comprehensive study to ″depict factually and analytically the present realities of life for Mexican Americans in our society.″¹ Using the latest scientific methods at their disposal, Grebler, Moore, and Guzmán collected random sample surveys of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles County and San Antonio City, the two largest concentrations of Mexican Americans and together 25 percent of all Mexican Americans in the Southwest and 37 percent of all Mexican Americans in urban areas.² The samples represented the wide diversity of Mexican Americans in the two metropolitan areas on various...

  9. Chapter 4 The Historical Context
    (pp. 74-103)

    At the time that Grebler, Moore, and Guzmán were conducting their, study, Mexican Americans were beginning to enter universities in significant numbers. These students, along with a tiny cadre of Mexican American professors, were beginning to question the prevailing conceptions of Mexicans in the United States. Reacting to the cultural and ahistorical explanations of the conditions of Mexican Americans, in which they were characterized as fatalistic, apathetic, irrational, sexually irresponsible, and un-American, these scholars would instead emphasize the historical-structural constraints to the progress of Mexican Americans in the American social structure. For example, Octavio Romano concluded that the extant literature...

  10. Chapter 5 Education
    (pp. 104-134)

    Today, according to most public opinion polls, education ranks as the most important issue facing Latinos.¹ Despite sixty years of political and legal battles to improve the education of Mexican Americans, they continue to have the lowest average education levels and the highest high school dropout rates among major ethnic and racial groups in the United States.² These inequalities generate other social and economic inequalities between them and European Americans throughout their adult lives. However, leading analysts, apparently believing in the universality of assimilation, argue that this is the result of a large first- and second-generation population still adjusting to...

  11. Chapter 6 Economic Status
    (pp. 135-157)

    No other issue regarding racial and ethnic divisions in the United States is as troubling as the lack of economic incorporation of some groups, most notably African Americans. The persistently low occupational level, income, and accumulated wealth of minorities demonstrate the limits of the equal opportunity principle and the universality of the American dream. Evidence based on national statistics show that Mexican Americans, like Puerto Ricans and African Americans, have persistently low socioeconomic status even among the third generation.¹ Since at least the 1970s, many scholars have argued that racial discrimination in labor and housing markets, inferior and segregated education,...

  12. Chapter 7 Interethnic Relations
    (pp. 158-184)

    Residential segregation and intermarriage have become primary indicators of the extent of social distance between race and ethnic groups. High levels of residential segregation and low levels of intermarriage mean that boundaries between groups are rigid, implying social isolation as well as high intragroup social cohesion. Under the traditional assimilation theory, residential segregation declines and intermarriage increases over time or over generations-since-immigration, a pattern commonly supported in empirically based studies.¹ In Gordon′s formulation, the development of such primary group affiliations between ethnic groups, which he referred to as structural assimilation, “naturally” leads to assimilation on all other dimensions. Lower residential...

  13. Chapter 8 Culture and Language
    (pp. 185-210)

    Mexican Americans are often believed to share particular cultural attributes associated with Mexican culture, such as the Spanish language, Catholicism, and pronatalist and patriarchal family orientations. These and other attributes are not only used to describe their culture, but also considered traits that distinguish Mexican Americans from other groups. Cultural differences in themselves do not, social scientists believe, define ethnic boundaries, but the traits clearly strengthen ethnic differences by making the boundaries ″quasi-natural and self-evident.″¹ Speaking Spanish, for example, marks one′s ethnicity and may also strengthen one′s ethnic identity. The extent to which such cultural markers persist over generations thus...

  14. Chapter 9 Ethnic Identity
    (pp. 211-237)

    Modern understandings of ethnicity stress that ethnics or ethnic groups are created when members of society actively erect and sustain social boundaries between themselves and so-called others, often but not always on the basis of perceived cultural differences. Ethnic identities largely reflect societal ascription, though they may also involve personal and political choices.¹ Thus, ethnic identities and the classification of others delimit who is an insider and who is an outsider. The extent to which ethnicity is sustained for the descendants of immigrants largely depends on the extent to which subsequent generations perceive similarly meaningful differences with others and consequently...

  15. Chapter 10 Politics
    (pp. 238-263)

    Grebler, Moore, and Guzmán blamed a ″history of conflict″ for the limited Mexican American political involvement outside of New Mexico and south Texas. ″No other ethnic group,″ they asserted, ″has labored under a similar handicap of hostility, mistrust and suspicion as the result of an historic struggle with the dominant society.″¹

    This conflict included Mexican American clashes with the Border Patrol and the Texas Rangers, the massive repatriations during the Great Depression, the roundups of undocumented immigrants during Operation Wetback in the 1950s and ″humiliating tests of citizenship of people who were required to prove they were not deportable.″² They...

  16. Chapter 11 Conclusions
    (pp. 264-292)

    The Mexican American experience requires that we look beyond the traditional assimilation versus race theories that have been based almost entirely on the European American and African American experiences. The well-known assimilation story, in its classic and modern forms, has been the dominant theory for explaining immigrant integration and was derived from the experiences of European immigrants to the United States and their descendants. Even though many of them occupied the bottom rungs of the American class structure when they arrived, their children and grandchildren successfully rode the mobility escalator to middle class status, stopped speaking their native languages, and...

  17. Appendix A Descriptive Statistics
    (pp. 293-296)
  18. Appendix B Multivariate Analyses
    (pp. 297-316)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 317-348)
  20. References
    (pp. 349-368)
  21. Index
    (pp. 369-390)