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Segmented Assimilation Among Mexicans in the Southwest

Segmented Assimilation Among Mexicans in the Southwest

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Segmented AssimilationZulema Valdez Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Oxford, UK and Malden, USATSQThe Sociological Quarterly0038-02532006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.2006473397424LATINO IDENTITY AND SEGMENTED ASSIMILATION

The Sociological Quarterly ISSN 0038-0253

SEGMENTED ASSIMILATION AMONG MEXICANS IN THE SOUTHWEST
Zulema Valdez*
Texas A&M University

This article examines segmented assimilation among foreign-born and U.S.-born Mexicans. Using the 2000 census, this article investigates how immigrants’
Segmented AssimilationZulema Valdez Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Oxford, UK and Malden, USATSQThe Sociological Quarterly0038-02532006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.2006473397424LATINO IDENTITY AND SEGMENTED ASSIMILATION

The Sociological Quarterly ISSN 0038-0253

SEGMENTED ASSIMILATION AMONG MEXICANS IN THE SOUTHWEST
Zulema Valdez*
Texas A&M University

This article examines segmented assimilation among foreign-born and U.S.-born Mexicans. Using the 2000 census, this article investigates how immigrants’

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Published by: z_valdez on Aug 31, 2011
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The Sociological Quarterly
47
(2006) 397–424 © 2006 Midwest Sociological Society
 397
The Sociological Quarterly ISSN 0038-0253
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 *Please direct all correspondence to Zulema Valdez, Department of Sociology, Texas A&M University, 4351TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4351; e-mail: zvaldez@tamu.edu
 SEGMENTED ASSIMILATION AMONGMEXICANS IN THE SOUTHWEST
 Zulema Valdez*
 
Texas A&M University
 This article examines segmented assimilation among foreign-born and U.S.-born Mexicans.Using the 2000 census, this article investigates how immigrants’ length of residence in theUnited States and nativity affect the earnings and self-employment outcomes of low- and high-skilled Mexican men and women in the Southwest. Findings reveal that the earnings of low-skilled, foreign-born Mexicans decrease as immigrants reside in the United States longer andare generally lower among the U.S. born than the foreign born. In contrast, the earnings of high-skilled, foreign-born Mexicans increase as immigrants reside in the United States longer and aregenerally higher among U.S.-born Mexicans than foreign-born Mexicans. Moreover, self-employment participation decreases as immigrants reside in the United States longer and is loweramong the U.S. born than the foreign born, regardless of skill. Since self-employment results inlower earnings, a decline in self-employment indicates economic progress. Furthermore, men aregenerally better off than women. Drawing from segmented assimilation theory, findings supportthe “downward assimilation” hypothesis among low-skilled Mexicans and the “Anglo-conformity”hypothesis among high-skilled Mexicans. Overall, this research provides evidence of intragroupdifferences in segmented assimilation among foreign-born and U.S.-born Mexicans in theSouthwest.
 Socioeconomic assimilation refers to the gradual process of incorporation, as immigrantsand their descendants integrate into the United States economy (Myrdal 1944; Park 1950;Warner and Srole 1945; Lieberson 1963; Gordon 1964; Alba 1990; Waters 1990; Gans1992). Classic assimilation theory, specifically that of Anglo-conformity, predicts a grad-ual convergence to the socioeconomic outcomes of middle-class, non-Hispanic whites(Lieberson 1963:8; Gordon 1964:74; Gans 1992:174; Portes and Zhou 1993:82). Yet, thisupwardly mobile path is not guaranteed. Contemporary research on immigrant adapta-tion observes a mismatch between the assumptions of classic assimilation theory and theempirical reality of newer non-European ethnic and racial groups (Borjas 1990; Portesand Rumbaut 1990; Glazer 1993; Portes and Zhou 1993; Alba and Nee 1997; Zhou 1997;Kasinitz, Mollenkopf, and Waters 2004:394). Rather than a pattern of gradual conver-gence to the white middle class, some ethnic and racial groups proceed in the oppositedirection, toward “permanent poverty and assimilation into the underclass” (Portes andRumbaut 2001:82)—what has been coined “downward assimilation” (Model 1991;Portes and Zhou 1993; Butcher 1994; Fernandez-Kelly and Schauffler 1994; Zhou 1997;
 
 398
 
The Sociological Quarterly
47
(2006) 397–424 © 2006 Midwest Sociological Society
 
Segmented Assimilation
 
Zulema Valdez
 Portes and Rumbaut 2001). For example, Kalmijn (1996) finds that Spanish- and French-speaking Caribbean immigrants experience a decline in their socioeconomic outcomesthat eventually reflect those of the U.S.-born black population.Recent studies on Mexicans’ socioeconomic assimilation observe two contradictory trends. The first reveals a trend toward declining socioeconomic outcomes. This researchshows that Mexicans’ socioeconomic development is arrested (Schoeni 1997), on thedecline (Morales and Bonilla 1993; Ortiz 1996), and may reflect a pattern of downwardassimilation (Fernandez-Kelly and Schauffler 1994; Portes and Rumbaut 2001). A secondtrend suggests that Mexicans are making economic progress; although disadvantaged,this group remains distinct from the “underclass” (Moore and Pinderhughes 1993;Waldinger and Feliciano 2004).This article expands upon previous research by examining Mexicans’ segmentedassimilation. Using the 2000 census, this study investigates how immigrants’ length of residence in the United States and nativity affect socioeconomic assimilation, as mea-sured by workers’ earnings, self-employment participation, and self-employment earn-ings. Assimilation takes place over time and generations; therefore, this investigationattempts to capture assimilation in progress by conducting an analysis of the socioeco-nomic outcomes of foreign-born Mexicans (as length of residence increases) and U.S.-born Mexicans against U.S.-born, non-Hispanic whites. Furthermore, since differencesin Mexicans’ economic incorporation are rooted in gender (Xu and Leffler 1992;Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994; Schoeni 1998) and skill-level (Enchautegui 1998), I conductseparate analyses by these factors to expose divergent trends in Mexicans’ socioeconomicassimilation.This research uses one common measure of socioeconomic attainment—workers’hourly earnings—and further develops this concept to include self-employment partici-pation and self-employment earnings (as two additional measures). Self-employmentparticipation is associated with economic mobility among “entrepreneurial” ethnicgroups, such as Cubans and Koreans (Portes and Bach 1985; Light and Bonacich 1988;Waldinger et al. 1990; Rath 2000; Lee 2002). However, since Mexican self-employmentparticipation is negligible, it is often overlooked (Raijman and Tienda 2000:783).Whether this economic activity contributes to Mexicans’ economic progress is unclear.Thus, this research expands the scope of socioeconomic status beyond workers’ outcomesonly and contributes to the ethnic entrepreneurship literature by examining this under-studied group.The question of Mexican socioeconomic assimilation is important to the U.S. econ-omy in general and the Mexican community in particular, since the Mexican populationis large and growing. Recent census figures show that Mexicans, the largest Hispanicgroup in the United States, increased their numbers by 52.9 percent from 1990 to 2000(from 13.5 to 20.6 million) (Guzman 2001). Although migration patterns are increasingly expanding across the United States, three-fourths of the Mexican population remainsconcentrated in the Southwest (Guzman 2001).
 1
 This research focuses on the Southwestfor two reasons. First, the Southwest contains a large and diverse Mexican populationspanning time and generations. As such, the Southwest provides the most diverse
 
 
Zulema Valdez
 
Segmented Assimilation
 
The Sociological Quarterly
47
(2006) 397–424 © 2006 Midwest Sociological Society
 399
 Mexican-origin population in the United States from which to assess variation in hourly earnings across length of residence, nativity, gender, and skill level. Second, the Southwestis a geographically concentrated area of immigrant and ethnic settlement, a necessary ingredient for the formation of ethnic economies and “ethnic entrepreneurs” (Wilson andPortes 1980; Wilson and Martin 1982; Portes and Bach 1985:343; Logan et al. 1994:694).Since self-employed Mexicans constitute a small subgroup of the Mexican-origin popu-lation, the Southwest provides a large, ethnically concentrated, geographic region fromwhich to draw a sufficient number of self-employed Mexicans for analysis.
 SEGMENTED ASSIMILATION
 Segmented assimilation attempts to explain “destinies of convergence and divergence”(Zhou 1997:984) among today’s ethnic and racial minority groups (Alba and Nee 1997;Zhou 1997, 2001; Portes and Rumbaut 2001; Kasinitz et al. 2004:395). Segmented assim-ilation theory offers two hypotheses to explain Mexicans’ socioeconomic assimilation:downward assimilation and Anglo-conformity.
 2
 The downward assimilation hypothesis suggests that individual and group disadvan-tages combine with a negative context of reception, which results in a downward trend insocioeconomic outcomes. On average, Mexicans are a disadvantaged group, as they possess limited human capital (education and work experience) and English skills(Borjas 1985, 1990; Borjas and Tienda 1993; Phillips and Massey 1999; Portes andRumbaut 2001). Portes and Rumbaut (2001:282) argue that such deficiencies are repro-duced over time, as Mexican immigrants and their descendants acculturate into the U.S.economy and society. For example, they observe a decline in educational attainment asforeign-born Mexicans reside in the United States longer, and they note that U.S.-bornMexicans’ dropout rates are higher than those of their foreign-born counterparts (chaps.8 and 9). Similarly, Fernandez-Kelly and Schauffler (1994:678) characterize Mexicans asa “highly homogenous and vulnerable group” whose declining educational attainmentand skills constitute downward assimilation. Furthermore, research on wage inequality demonstrates that the wage gap between Mexicans and non-Hispanic whites is partially explained by human capital differences. Low human capital relegates Mexicans to low-wage, low-skilled occupations with limited opportunities for advancement (Schoeni1997). Such occupations maintain wage discrepancies over time and in some instancesincrease the wage gap (Schoeni 1997; Enchautegui 1998).A negative context of reception also contributes to Mexicans’ socioeconomic decline.Nativist policies, a demand for low-wage, low-skilled labor, citizenship status, and poorreturns on human capital combine to ensure Mexicans’ weak economic performance(Portes and Rumbaut 2001; Sanders and Nee 1996). In particular, legal status affects labormarket outcomes. Undocumented immigrants face greater hardships in employmentand wages (Kossoudji and Cobb-Clark 2002) and are more likely to face exploitation anddiscrimination than permanent legal residents or naturalized citizens (Donato, Durand,and Massey 1992). Moreover, “a continued climate of hostility against Mexicanimmigration” (Fernandez-Kelly and Schauffler 1994:681) leads to persistent

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