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  • Intermarriage and Segmented AssimilationU.S.-Born Asians in 2000
  • Xuanning Fu (bio) and Melanie E. Hatfield (bio)

Hispanics and asians have become the two fastest growing segments of the U.S. population, largely due to influxes of immigration in the last few decades.1 How Hispanics and Asians assimilate into American society has been of interest to sociologists.2 In this study, we examine U.S.-born Asian Americans' assimilation through intermarriage, based on assumptions of Portes and Zhou's segmented assimilation theory.3 The 2000 census 5% PUMS data will be used for the analysis.

Immigration and Asian Americans

Immigration to the U.S. has had a clear pattern of four waves,4 generally referred to as the colonization wave (1600–1820), the frontier expansion wave (1820–1870), the industrialization wave (1880–1925), and the globalization wave (1965–present). Associated with these waves are the changing patterns of national origins and racial backgrounds of the immigrants.5 Primarily, the first three waves brought immigrants from different regions of Europe, with small proportions from Latin America and Asia.6 The fourth wave, conversely, largely saw immigrants coming from Mexico, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands.7

The proportions of Asians in the total U.S. population have increased by 1% each decade since 1970, from 1% to 4% in 2000, while their actual [End Page 249] number rose from 1.5 million to 12 million during the same period.8 With continued immigration, Hispanics and Asians are expected to triple their share in the U.S. population to 25% by 2050,9 and their presence has already changed the racial and ethnic profiles of America from the traditionally dominant "Black-White" to a multi-layered diversity.

Although Hispanics outnumber Asians by a large margin, Asians are much more diverse in national origins, native languages, religions, and cultural traditions. Asians also have a wider difference between themselves in length of residency in America, with some groups starting to arrive in large numbers 150 years ago and others only after 1965. Although they are all lumped together as "Asians" in the U.S. census, differences between various Asian groups can be just as large as between Asians and other racial groups.

Socio-economically, new immigrants generally have lower educational attainment than native-born Americans, and they are also more likely to be employed in manual-labor occupations, especially among those who have fewer than 4 years of college.10 Different from this national norm, a large proportion of Asian immigrants are highly skilled and highly educated.11 Asian immigrants are therefore more evenly spread across all social strata, from highly skilled professionals to poorly educated manual laborers. In contrast, Hispanic immigrants tend to concentrate in the secondary labor market.12

Among the various Asian groups, Southeast Asians (Hmongs and Vietnamese, for example) tend to have the lowest socioeconomic status while Indians have the highest, although both are relatively new to America.13 The earliest Asian immigrant group, the Chinese, found their new immigrants spreading over a wide spectrum of socioeconomic status, with some being highly educated and skilled and others very poorly educated and non-skilled. In contrast, the Japanese, another early Asian immigrant group, have the smallest proportion of new immigrants and are perhaps the most acculturated Asians.14

Asian immigrants are thus very diverse in their educational and occupational profiles, and in their degrees of ethnic solidarity and adherence to enclave economy. These diversities, in turn, may lead to different versions of realizing the "American dream," and to various manifestations of assimilation to America through generations.15 [End Page 250]

Intermarriage and Segmented Assimilation

After landing in the host country, immigrants typically go through economic and socio-cultural incorporations, albeit with varying degrees of success. Gordon's classic assimilation model, which was built upon earlier work by M. L. Hansen, Robert Park, and others, posited a straight-line assimilation path through cultural, structural, and finally marital assimilations. Immigrants are hypothesized to acculturate into America, structurally merge into the middle-class society, and marry other Americans to eventually complete their assimilation process.16

While Gordon's model to a large degree could apply to European immigrants of the last...


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