We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Diversity Paradox

Immigration and the Color Line in Twenty-First Century America

Jennifer Lee, Frank D. Bean

Publication Year: 2010

African Americans grappled with Jim Crow segregation until it was legally overturned in the 1960s. In subsequent decades, the country witnessed a new wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America—forever changing the face of American society and making it more racially diverse than ever before. In The Diversity Paradox, authors Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean take these two poles of American collective identity—the legacy of slavery and immigration—and ask if today’s immigrants are destined to become racialized minorities akin to African Americans or if their incorporation into U.S. society will more closely resemble that of their European predecessors. They also tackle the vexing question of whether America’s new racial diversity is helping to erode the tenacious black/white color line. The Diversity Paradox uses population-based analyses and in-depth interviews to examine patterns of intermarriage and multiracial identification among Asians, Latinos, and African Americans. Lee and Bean analyze where the color line—and the economic and social advantage it demarcates—is drawn today and on what side these new arrivals fall. They show that Asians and Latinos with mixed ancestry are not constrained by strict racial categories. Racial status often shifts according to situation. Individuals can choose to identify along ethnic lines or as white, and their decisions are rarely questioned by outsiders or institutions. These groups also intermarry at higher rates, which is viewed as part of the process of becoming “American” and a form of upward social mobility. African Americans, in contrast, intermarry at significantly lower rates than Asians and Latinos. Further, multiracial blacks often choose not to identify as such and are typically perceived as being black only—underscoring the stigma attached to being African American and the entrenchment of the “one-drop” rule. Asians and Latinos are successfully disengaging their national origins from the concept of race—like European immigrants before them—and these patterns are most evident in racially diverse parts of the country. For the first time in 2000, the U.S. Census enabled multiracial Americans to identify themselves as belonging to more than one race. Eight years later, multiracial Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States. For many, these events give credibility to the claim that the death knell has been sounded for institutionalized racial exclusion. The Diversity Paradox is an extensive and eloquent examination of how contemporary immigration and the country’s new diversity are redefining the boundaries of race. The book also lays bare the powerful reality that as the old black/white color line fades a new one may well be emerging—with many African Americans still on the other side.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.0 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (44.7 KB)
pp. vii-viii

About the Authors

pdf iconDownload PDF (39.1 KB)
pp. ix-x


pdf iconDownload PDF (47.5 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Part 1. Historical Background, Theoretical Framework, and Sociodemographic Context

pdf iconDownload PDF (17.1 KB)
pp. 1-2

read more

1. Introduction: Immigration and the Color Line in America

pdf iconDownload PDF (154.9 KB)
pp. 3-22

On November 4, 2008, the United States elected Barack Obama president, elevating an African American to the country’s highest office for the first time. Because Obama’s rise illustrates how far the United States has come from the days when blacks were denied the right to vote, when schools and water fountains000

read more

2. Theoretical Perspetives on Color Lines in the United States

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.8 KB)
pp. 23-34

At the beginning of the twentieth century, when W. E. B. Du Bois famously proclaimed that “the problem of the twentieth-century [will be] the problem of the color line,” (1903/1997, 45), there was little ambiguity about the state of U.S. race relations. So rigid and powerful was the black-white color line that...

read more

3. What Is This Person's Race? The Census and the Construction of Racial Categories

pdf iconDownload PDF (289.7 KB)
pp. 35-54

At its inception more than two centuries ago, in 1790, the decennial census began the process of counting the American population by race, setting the stage for the national institutionalization of racial status and the color line during the postindependence era of slavery, and race has remained a classification category...

read more

4. Immigration and the Geography of the New Ethnoracial Diversity

pdf iconDownload PDF (628.5 KB)
pp. 55-80

More immigrants come to the United States than to any other country in the world (Brown and Bean 2005). According to the American Community Survey, by the year 2008, the foreign-born population in the United States exceeded thirty-eight million, and their native-born children were nearly as numerous...

Part 2. Individual Experiences of Diversity: From Multieraciality to Multiracial Identification

pdf iconDownload PDF (17.3 KB)
pp. 81-82

read more

5. The Cultural Boundaries of Ethnoracial Status and Intermarriage

pdf iconDownload PDF (160.1 KB)
pp. 83-100

As early as 1941, Kingsley Davis and Robert K. Merton studied patterns of intermarriage as a way of measuring the social distance between groups and, in 1964, Milton M. Gordon extended this line of research by relating intermarriage to assimilation. Gordon theorized that because intermarriage follows...

read more

6. What About the Children? Interracial Families and Ethnoracial Identification

pdf iconDownload PDF (148.0 KB)
pp. 101-120

The family, both nuclear and extended, is an important site of ethnoracial identity formation, since cultural traditions and identities are first learned in the home (Alba 1990). When both parents share the same ethnoracial background, there is little discrepancy about how the parents will choose to identify their...

read more

7. Who Is Multiracial? The Cultural Reproduction of the One-Drop Rule

pdf iconDownload PDF (123.3 KB)
pp. 121-136

As noted earlier, the 2000 census allowed Americans to mark “one or more” races to indicate their racial identification. This landmark change in the way the census has measured race was significant not only because it represented official recognition of racial mixing in the United States but also because it validated...

read more

8. From Racial to Ethnic Status: Claiming Ethnicity Through Culture

pdf iconDownload PDF (134.3 KB)
pp. 137-154

In an oft-cited passage about group boundaries, the social anthropologist Fredrik Barth (1969, 15) noted:
The critical focus of investigation from this point of view becomes the ethnic boundary that defines the group, not the cultural stuff that it encloses. The boundaries to which we must give our attention are of course social...

Part 3. the Empirical and Policy Significance of Diversity: Generalization and Paradox

pdf iconDownload PDF (17.3 KB)
pp. 155-156

read more

9. Ethnoracial Diversity, Minority-Group Threat, and Boundary Dissolution: Clarifying the Diversity Paradox

pdf iconDownload PDF (220.7 KB)
pp. 157-180

The quantitative findings presented in the preceding chapters based on data from the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses and the 2007 and 2008 American Community Surveys (ACS) reveal that recent immigration has fueled population growth among Latinos and Asians in the United States, which has led to an...

read more

10. Conclusion: The Diversity Paradox and Beyond (Plus Ca Change, Plus C'est la Meme Chose)

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.4 KB)
pp. 181-194

We opened this book with W. E. B. Du Bois’s prediction, “The problem of the twentieth-century will be the problem of the color line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men” (Du Bois 1903/1997, 45). Since Du Bois made this forecast, in 1903, the United States has undertaken major...

Appendix: Methodological Appendix

pdf iconDownload PDF (89.1 KB)
pp. 195-204


pdf iconDownload PDF (31.0 KB)
pp. 205-206


pdf iconDownload PDF (153.4 KB)
pp. 207-224


pdf iconDownload PDF (115.4 KB)
pp. 225-236

E-ISBN-13: 9781610446617
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871540416

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010