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The Place of Cultural Explanations and Historical Specificity in Discussions of Modes of Incorporation and Segmented Assimilation


  • Joel Perlmann

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)


This paper serves as an opportunity to pull together some thoughts and questions about modes of incorporation as an explanation for ethnic differences in behavior. Specifically, I ask just what is the status of cultural explanations for ethnic behavior if ethnic behavior is approaches from a modes-of-incorporation perspective. I ask this question both in connection with individduals of the immigrant generation as well as in connection with the second generation; the concern with the second generation leads me to consider the status of cultural explanations for ethnic behavior in connection with the related conception of segmented assimilation. My argument proceeds through four steps. 1) I note that the modes are introduced as a way out of being left with a large ethnic residual (or unexplained difference) from individual-level analysis and as one more way of contradicting the claim that the residual reflects the operation of independent cultural differences among groups. 2) I stress how far we can push the corollary that living in different modes can effect not only the structural opportunities available to a person but also the attitudes, values, and outlooks common in people from different groups. 3) I also stress the possibility that many specifics of an immigrant group's historical experiences are not captures by the modes of incorporation (as would be true of any typology), and that such historical specifics ignore by the typology might matter a great deal. Moreover, such historically specific features may involve cultural characteristics as well as other characteristics, cultural characteristics related not at all or only tangentially to the aspects of experience discussed in the typology of the modes. 4) A big question, from this perspective, then, is: how well do the modes in fact explain the residual ethnic differences unexplained by the individual-level variables? And how do we answer that question empirically?

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Perlmann, 1998. "The Place of Cultural Explanations and Historical Specificity in Discussions of Modes of Incorporation and Segmented Assimilation," Macroeconomics 9808004, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9808004
    Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC - PC; to print on PostScript; pages: 24; figures: included

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George J. Borjas, 1992. "Ethnic Capital and Intergenerational Mobility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 123-150.
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    • E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics

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