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Color Lines, Country Lines

Race, Immigration, and Wealth Stratification in America

Lingxin Hao

Publication Year: 2007

The growing number of immigrants living and working in America has become a controversial topic from classrooms to corporations and from kitchen tables to Capitol Hill. Many native-born Americans fear that competition from new arrivals will undermine the economic standing of low-skilled American workers, and that immigrants may not successfully integrate into the U.S. economy. In Color Lines, Country Lines, sociologist Lingxin Hao argues that the current influx of immigrants is changing America’s class structure, but not in the ways commonly believed. Drawing on 20 years of national survey data, Color Lines, Country Lines investigates how immigrants are faring as they try to accumulate enough wealth to join the American middle class, and how, in the process, they are transforming historic links between race and socioeconomic status. Hao finds that disparities in wealth among immigrants are large and growing, including disparities among immigrants of the same race or ethnicity. Cuban immigrants have made substantially more progress than arrivals from the Dominican Republic, Chinese immigrants have had more success than Vietnamese or Korean immigrants, and Jamaicans have fared better than Haitians and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, many of these immigrant groups have acquired more wealth than native-born Americans of the same race or ethnicity. Hao traces these diverging paths to differences in the political and educational systems of the immigrants’ home countries, as well as to preferential treatment of some groups by U.S. immigration authorities and the U.S. labor market. As a result, individuals’ country of origin increasingly matters more than their race in determining their prospects for acquiring wealth. In a novel analysis, Hao predicts that as large numbers of immigrants arrive in the U.S. every year, the variation in wealth within racial groups will continue to grow, reducing wealth inequalities between racial groups. If upward mobility remains restricted to only some groups, then the old divisions of wealth by race will gradually become secondary to new disparities based on country of origin. However, if the labor market and the government are receptive to all immigrant groups, then the assimilation of immigrants into the middle class will help diminish wealth inequality in society as a whole. Immigrants’ assimilation into the American mainstream and the impact of immigration on the American economy are inextricably linked, and each issue can only be understood in light of the other. Color Lines, Country Lines shows why some immigrant groups are struggling to get by while others have managed to achieve the American dream and reveals the surprising ways in which immigration is reshaping American society.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

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pp. v-vi

About the Author

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank the people and organizations whose help made a significant contribution to this book. The idea for this book came to me near the end of my year as a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation and I would like to thank the Foundation for encouraging me to write. In addition, this work was partially supported by grant SES-0518870 from the National Science Foundation. ...

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-12

This book is about the impact of immigration on wealth stratification in America and the wealth assimilation of immigrants. The term immigrant refers to anyone who has crossed the U.S. border and settled in the United States for a substantial period, regardless of legal status. The era that followed the 1965 immigration law was characterized by a spike in immigration, mostly from Latin America and Asia. ...

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Chapter 2. A Theoretical Model for Wealth in an Era of Immigration

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pp. 13-51

Existing wealth theory no longer seems adequate to explain immigrants’ wealth when we consider that, without an inheritance, some immigrants can achieve wealth attainment within a generation yet African Americans cannot. Can a simple addition of wealth theory and immigration theory lend insight to wealth stratification in an era of immigration? ...

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Chapter 3. Wealth Distribution, An Overview

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pp. 52-78

Much research has examined immigrants’ employment, occupations, wage rates, income, and welfare use (Smith and Edmonston 1997; Borjas 1994; Borjas and Hilton 1996; Bean, Van Hook, and Glick 1997; Fix and Passel 1994; Jasso, Rosenzweig, and Smith 2000; Hao and Kawano 2001; Massey, Durand, and Malone 2002). However, with the exception of Lingxin Hao (2004), ...

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Chapter 4. Assets and Debts Among Latino Immigrants

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pp. 79-133

This chapter describes and analyzes the wealth of Latino immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Latino immigrants make up the majority of the U.S. foreign-born population and remain the fastest-growing group. In 2000, 29.5 percent of the foreign born were from Mexico and another 22.2 percent from other Latin American countries (U.S. Census Bureau 2003). ...

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Chapter 5. Assets and Debts Among Asian Immigrants

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pp. 134-179

The Asian immigrant population is growing rapidly. From 1990 to 2000, it grew by 52.4 percent, catching up to the growth rate of 57.9 percent for Latino immigrants (U.S. Census Bureau 2003). Although the numbers of Asian immigrants are relatively small today, the population’s high growth rate will lead to a more substantial Asian presence in the near future. ...

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Chapter 6. Assets and Debts Among Black Immigrants

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pp. 180-212

Black immigrants to the United States come from two parts of the world: the Caribbean and Africa. The SIPP data from 1996 to 2003 allow the identification of immigrants from two Caribbean countries, Haiti and Jamaica. Because of the relatively small sample from specific African countries in the SIPP, for the purpose of analysis, sub-Saharan Africa is taken as a region. ...

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Chapter 7. Wealth Stratification, Assimilation, and Wealth Attainment

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pp. 213-245

Descriptions of assets and debts in the previous chapters show large gaps in the wealth holding status and wealth components among racial-ethnic groups and immigrant origin-country groups. The conceptual framework developed in chapter 2 provides a rationale for how nativity differences can be subsumed by race-ethnicity and education. Such a structure allows immigration dynamics to create ...

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Chapter 8. Contextual Conditions of Wealth Attainment

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pp. 246-269

Race and education are, as we saw in chapter 7, the primary factors in the wealth stratification system; nativity and immigrant characteristics are secondary factors. The theoretical framework developed in chapter 2 indicates that the process of asset building and wealth accumulation is shaped not only by the nationwide racial hierarchy and education and by immigrant nationality group characteristics, ...

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Chapter 9. Looking Ahead: Immigration, Stratification, and Assimilation

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pp. 270-280

Douglas Massey and his colleagues (2002) predict that chain-migration from Latin America will continue for generations. It will persist from Asia and Africa. Uninterrupted streams of immigrants who are for the most part neither white nor highly skilled perpetuate a first generation that requires rethinking of two broad issues—the impact of immigration on American society and the assimilation ...

Appendix: Survey of Income and Program Participation

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pp. 281-292


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pp. 293-296


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pp. 297-306


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pp. 307-316

E-ISBN-13: 9781610442688
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871543387
Print-ISBN-10: 0871543389

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2007