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Ancestry versus Ethnicity: The Complexity and Selectivity of Mexican Identification in the United States

  • Duncan, Brian

    ()

    (University of Colorado Denver)

  • Trejo, Stephen

    ()

    (University of Texas at Austin)

Using microdata from the 2000 U.S. Census, we analyze the responses of Mexican Americans to questions that independently elicit their “ethnicity” (or Hispanic origin) and their “ancestry.” We investigate whether different patterns of responses to these questions reflect varying degrees of ethnic attachment. For example, those identified as “Mexican” in both the Hispanic origin and the ancestry questions might have stronger ethnic ties than those identified as Mexican only in the ancestry question. How U.S.-born Mexicans report their ethnicity/ancestry is strongly associated with measures of human capital and labor market performance. In particular, educational attainment, English proficiency, and earnings are especially high for men and women who claim a Mexican ancestry but report their ethnicity as “not Hispanic.” Further, intermarriage and the Mexican identification of children are also strongly related to how U.S.-born Mexican adults report their ethnicity/ancestry, revealing a possible link between the intergenerational transmission of Mexican identification and economic status.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3552.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Research in Labor Economics, 29, 2009, 31-66
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3552
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  1. Nekby, Lena & Rödin, Magnus, 2007. "Acculturation Identity and Labor Market Outcomes," Research Papers in Economics 2007:7, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
  2. Trejo, Stephen J, 1997. "Why Do Mexican Americans Earn Low Wages?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1235-68, December.
  3. Bisin, A. & Verdier, T., 1999. "Beyond the Melting Pot : Cultural Transmission, Marriage, and the Evolution of Ethnic and Religious Traits," DELTA Working Papers 1999-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
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  6. Amelie Constant & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2007. "Measuring Ethnic Identity and Its Impact on Economic Behavior," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 47, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  7. George J. Borjas, 1992. "The Intergenerational Mobility of Immigrants," NBER Working Papers 3972, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Howard Bodenhorn & Christopher S. Ruebeck, 2005. "Colorism and African American Wealth: Evidence from the Nineteenth-Century South," NBER Working Papers 11732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Mason, Patrick L., 2004. "Annual income, hourly wages, and identity Among Mexican Americans and other Latinos," MPRA Paper 11326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. William Darity & Darrick Hamilton & Jason Dietrich, 2002. "Passing on blackness: Latinos, race, and earnings in the USA," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(13), pages 847-853.
  11. Brian Duncan & Stephen Trejo, 2009. "Intermarriage and the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnic Identity and Human Capital for Mexican Americans," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0902, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  12. Alberto Bisin & Giorgio Topa & Thierry Verdier, 2004. "Religious Intermarriage and Socialization in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 615-664, June.
  13. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2005. "Gender and Assimilation Among Mexican Americans," NBER Working Papers 11512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Jaeger, David A, 1997. "Reconciling the Old and New Census Bureau Education Questions: Recommendations for Researchers," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(3), pages 300-309, July.
  16. Karl Eschbach & Khalil Supple & C. Snipp, 1998. "Changes in racial identification and the educational attainment of American Indians, 1970–1990," Demography, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 35-43, February.
  17. Gretchen Livingston & Joan R. Kahn, 2002. "An American Dream Unfulfilled: The Limited Mobility of Mexican Americans," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 83(4), pages 1003-1012.
  18. Zhenchao Qian, 2004. "Options: Racial/Ethnic Identification of Children of Intermarried Couples," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 85(3), pages 746-766.
  19. George J. Borjas, 1994. "Long-run convergence of ethnic skill differentials: The children and grandchildren of the Great Migration," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(4), pages 553-573, July.
  20. Reynolds Farley, 1991. "The new census question about ancestry: What did it tell us?," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 411-429, August.
  21. Darity, William Jr. & Mason, Patrick L. & Stewart, James B., 2006. "The economics of identity: The origin and persistence of racial identity norms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 283-305, July.
  22. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  23. Brian Duncan & Stephen Trejo, 2006. "Ethnic Identification, Intermarriage, and Unmaresured Progress by Mexican Americans," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0602, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
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