Despite ideals grounding American identity in principles and ideas, most U.S. citizens continue to believe that they are rooted at least in part in ascriptive characteristics such as religion, race, or language. Research suggests that these views shape attitudes toward immigrants, and that nonwhite and non-Christian immigrants may therefore be less likely to feel American. Drawing on survey and interview data, this article examines the ways ascriptive characteristics shape immigrants' identification as American. Our results confirm the importance of particularly skin tone and language in shaping identification as well as the role of perceived welcome in tempering their negative impact. Such identification and perceptions have important consequences, increasing immigrants' likelihood of naturalization and decreasing their desire to return to their countries of origin.


immigrant, Indian, Mexican, American identity, ascriptive characteristics, skin tone, religion, language, welcome

What constitutes American identity? Across disciplines, scholars have investigated whether American identity is grounded primarily in a set of principles and ideas—individualism, hard work, freedom, equality, and the rule of law—or in ethnonationalist traits such as language, skin color, native birth, and religion (Schildkraut 2014). Much of U.S. public and intellectual discourse signals that American identity should be thought of as the former—a civic culture revolving around the principles set out in the Constitution. Yet it is clear that in practice, a large majority of U.S. citizens continue to believe Americanness has its roots in at least some ascriptive characteristics (Citrin, Reingold, and Green 1990; Devos and Benaji 2005; Schildkraut 2011; Theiss-Morse 2009; Wong 2010). [End Page 47]

The specific definitions of Americanness among the U.S. born has profound downstream implications for domestic minority groups and larger processes of nation-building, but also for the foreign born who have immigrated to the United States. Through the assimilation process, many immigrants move progressively closer to the American mainstream over time and generations, regardless of whether they pursue that outcome intentionally (Alba and Nee 2003; NASEM 2015). However, even if these immigrants take on an American national identity defined in terms of language, skin color, birthplace, or religion, it may not be an easy fit for them. Given that the large majority—85 percent according to the 2010 Census—of the forty-one million immigrants currently residing in the United States are neither European nor white, and for the most part arrive without speaking English and perhaps also practicing a religion other than Christianity, most contemporary first-generation immigrants may not conform to the characteristics that the U.S. born attach to being American (on the census, Grieco et al. 2012). In addition, more immigrant newcomers have recently begun settling in areas, such as the Southeast, where local residents may be less likely to see new immigrants as "one of us" (Marrow 2011a, 2011b; Massey 2008; Winders 2013).

Research on American identity suggests the attitudes of the U.S. born toward immigrants are shaped by immigrants' ascriptive characteristics (Kinder and Kam 2009; Theiss-Morse 2009; Wong 2010), and that nonwhite and non-Christian immigrants may therefore be less likely to feel American (Devos and Benaji 2005; Huynh, Devos, and Smalarz 2011; Masuoka and Junn 2013). In a separate strand of literature, mainly in sociology, scholars also emphasize the importance of the surrounding "contexts of reception" in facilitating or hindering immigrant integration patterns in the United States (Portes and Rumbaut 2014). Undoubtedly the context to which immigrants arrive, alongside immigrants' characteristics, has a role in their developing sense of Americanness. In this literature, these contexts tend to be defined broadly, highlighting how factors such as governmental policies, labor markets, and other key social institutions, as well as public opinion, can be either more or less receptive to immigrant newcomers, and how such receptivity in turn can shape immigrants' downstream outcomes as well as their feelings of belonging or exclusion within a polity (see, for example, Bloemraad 2006; de Graauw 2016).

In this article, we bring together these two approaches, examining how receptivity toward immigrants might moderate well-established relationships between immigrants' ascriptive characteristics and their patterns of identification as American. We also advance existing research in two novel ways. First, we add legal status to the list of ascriptive characteristics typically analyzed by scholars of American identity, given that legal status has emerged as a key axis of social stratification since the mid-1980s (Gonzales 2015; Massey 2007; Massey and Sanchez 2010; NASEM 2015). Second, we extend existing analyses of contexts of reception down to the interpersonal level, reasoning that immigrants may experience receptivity or lack of it not only in their encounters with large institutions or via generalized public opinion, but also as their daily encounters and interactions with U.S.-born blacks and whites in their communities, from whom they receive signals about whether they "belong" (see, for example, on education, Gonzales 2015; on law and media, Menjivar 2016; on policing, Menjivar and Bejarano 2004; Williams 2015).

Our focus on the interpersonal level of receptivity is not meant to discount the larger and more institutional levels of context of reception highlighted in the literature. Rather, we intend to provide a useful extension of that literature, noting that existing research focused on individual-level attitudes and behaviors toward immigrants tends to pay attention to negative or restrictive ones rather than positive or welcoming ones. This is the case despite recent growth in local initiatives designed to encourage the U.S. born to welcome immigrants (Welcoming America 2017), and new scholarship demonstrating how welcoming attitudes and behaviors play key roles in facilitating downstream immigrant integration processes and outcomes (see Fussell 2014; Jones-Correa 2011; Okamoto and Ebert 2016; Phelps et al. 2013; Tropp et al. 2018).

This research draws on a new representative [End Page 48] survey and follow-up interviews conducted with South Asian Indian and Mexican immigrants, two groups positioned very differently in U.S. social and economic life. We gathered these data in two major metropolitan areas in the United States, Atlanta and Philadelphia, both of which have seen their populations grow increasingly diverse through immigration over the last several decades. Our survey data include measures of both immigrant groups' ascriptive characteristics (including their English-language ability, religion, and skin tone), their legal status, their perceptions of the (non) welcoming-ness of their interactions with the U.S. born (both whites and blacks), and finally, the strength of their identification as American. We find that for both Mexican and Indian immigrants, the perception of more welcoming treatment by U.S.-born whites softens the relationship between their darker skin tone and lesser English-language ability and weaker American national identification. For Mexican immigrants, but not Indian, the perception of more welcoming treatment by U.S.-born blacks has a similar effect. Examining some of the downstream effects of American identity, immigrants' identification as Americans, along with their ascriptive characteristics (mitigated by their sense of welcome), shapes their likelihood of naturalizing as U.S. citizens and their intentions of returning to their countries of origin.

Our results confirm the importance of some ascriptive characteristics—particularly skin tone and language—in shaping immigrants' identification as American, and highlight the role of perceived welcome among contemporary immigrants in tempering the negative impact of these characteristics. Together, immigrants' identification as American and their perceptions of being welcomed appears to strengthen their attachment to the polity despite the barriers posed by their ascriptive characteristics.


We briefly review three interrelated literatures: the views of the U.S. born of American identity and its effect on immigrant identification as American, the importance of the individual level contexts of reception in shaping immigrants' American identity, and the effects of identification as American on immigrants' adoption of U.S. citizenship and their expression of a desire to return to their country of origin.

Views of Americanness and Immigrants' Identifications as "American"

A number of surveys have asked respondents about what elements constitute being a "true" American (Citrin, Reingold, and Green 1990, Schildkraut 2007a; Theiss-Morse 2009). The General Social Survey, for example, asks respondents how much they believe that a number of characteristics—such as ancestry, being born in the United States, having American citizenship, speaking English, and respecting American institutions and laws—define being American. Despite widespread acceptance that the Constitution and respect for rule of law are important aspects of being American, surveys consistently find that speaking English is also considered a necessary condition. In addition, a substantial percentage of the U.S. born feel that being born in the United States and being Christian are as well (Citrin, Reingold, and Green 1990; Schildkraut 2011, 2007b; Theiss-Morse 2009; Wong 2010).

Race also appears to matter, in that some ethnic groups are perceived as more American than others, European Americans in particular (Huynh, Devos, and Smalarz 2011). In fact, a number of studies demonstrate that Americanness is attributed more to European immigrants than to African Americans, Asian Americans, or Latinos, regardless of which definition of Americanness respondents use (Devos and Banaji 2005; Devos, Gavin, and Quintana 2010; Huynh, Devos, and Altman 2015; Theiss-Morse 2009). This linking of American identity to a set of ascriptive characteristics privileging whiteness leads to an implicit (and sometimes explicit) ranking of the U.S. born over the foreign born, U.S. citizens over noncitizens, and European immigrants over their non-European counterparts (Hafsa and Devos 2014). It is not surprising, then, that scholars have found that the U.S. born often conceive of nonwhite immigrant newcomers as them rather than us, reinforced by the psychological tendency to favor one's in-group (Kinder and Kam 2009; Wong 2010). [End Page 49] Thus, the more ascriptively similar immigrants are to U.S.-born whites in regard to race, the more likely they may eventually be accepted as American, as one of us.

The way in which American identity is defined and understood has more than symbolic effects; it also has consequences for immigrant integration or exclusion through its impact on the development of attitudes among the U.S. born toward policy. Que-Lam Huynh, Thierry Devos, and Hannah Altman's experimental study suggests that agreeing with the notion of European ancestry as more typically American is a significant predictor of antiminority policy attitudes (2015, 466). Jack Citrin and his colleagues, relying on survey data, reach similar conclusions in reference to immigrants' out-groups: U.S.-born Americans who see national identity through an ethnic lens hold more negative views of both immigrants and immigration policy (Citrin, Reingold, and Green 1990; Citrin and Wright 2009). Likewise, Elizabeth Theiss-Morse finds that though white respondents who identify most strongly as American are more likely to provide aid to other Americans, they largely do so for people they consider to be like themselves—that is, those who are also defined as part of the prototypical American in-group (2009; see also Wong 2010).

The well-established links between American identity and ascriptive characteristics such as language, Christianity, and whiteness, suggest not only that the U.S. born may have difficulty seeing many contemporary immigrant newcomers as truly American, but also that recent immigrants may find it difficult to feel truly American. Drawing on a set of small-group experimental studies eliciting participants' identification as Americans, Devos and Mazharin Benaji conclude that "subgroups may differ in the ease with which they are included in a superordinate identity," and that the "propensity to equate American with White may facilitate the integration of ethnic and American identities for White Americans but not for members of groups excluded from the national identity" (2005, 464, emphasis added). Huynh and her colleagues reach similar conclusions, as do Massey and Sánchez, who find that many Latino immigrants living in the current anti-immigrant political context are hesitant to express an American identity, often citing feelings of being discriminated against for not speaking English or not being born in the United States (Huynh, Devos, and Altman 2015; Massey and Sánchez 2010). According to Theiss-Morse, it is precisely these ethnic minorities, some foreign born but others who are members of domestic minority groups, who are deemed the most undeserving, helped the least, and defined as marginal to the American body politic (2009). Consequently, Huynh and her colleagues argue that members of ethnic minority groups are aware of negative stereotypes and the skepticism with which their American identities will be viewed, leading them to question their belonging in the United States (2011; see also Gast and Okamoto 2016; Massey and Sánchez 2010; Masuoka and Junn 2013; Rydell, Hamilton, and Devos 2010). Nonetheless, most of these studies focus on the U.S. born (how they define American identity, how they see immigrants within that vision) or on immigrants' perceptions of belonging at large (how they feel included in or, more typically, excluded from the bounds of American identity). Few studies have direct measures of immigrants' micro-level contact experiences with the U.S. born, including how they interpret these relations and what the attendant consequences for their patterns of national identification might be.

In addition, although existing scholarship on American identity has focused on race, religion, nativity, and language as the key components of an ethno-national conception of Americanness, it has not adequately examined the role of legal status. Currently, the United States has approximately eleven million undocumented immigrants, more than half of them from Mexico, eliciting "strong cultural anxieties" (Citrin and Wright 2009) and charged rhetoric alleging the need to "uphold the law" (Brettell and Nibbs 2010). Illegality, rather than being an attribute of individual migrants, has become a status marker ascribed onto entrants arriving without documentation (Bean, Brown, and Bachmeier 2015; De Genova 2002). Several scholars argue that it now operates as a key axis of social stratification in the United States (Gonzales 2015; Massey and Sánchez 2010; NASEM 2015). Undocumented immigrants, for example, are consistently viewed more negatively [End Page 50] in public opinion polls than their legal counterparts (Espenshade and Calhoun 1993; Espenshade and Hempstead 1996; Fussell 2014; Suro 2009). In these ways, illegality is likely to be a key ascriptive characteristic shaping the perception toward the U.S. born of immigrant newcomers, and in turn, of immigrants' sense of belonging within U.S. society today (Masuoka and Junn 2013). In the language of immigrant incorporation, we might even conceive of illegality as a characteristic ascribed onto some new immigrant arrivals via a negative, such as unwelcoming or hostile, context of reception (Portes and Rumbaut 2014).

Contexts of Reception: U.S.-Born Welcome to Immigrants

At the same time, we assert that positive receptivity toward immigrants on the part of the U.S. born may play an important role in offsetting these relationships between immigrants' ascriptive characteristics and their willingness to identify as American. Our emphasis on welcoming-ness emerges from new research demonstrating how policies and institutions can signal inclusion as well as exclusion—for instance, by implementing multiculturalism policy at the national level (Bloemraad 2006) or employment, identity card, health, and community policing strategies at the local level (for example, de Graauw 2016; Marrow 2012; Marrow and Joseph 2015). Several recent studies have drawn attention to the types of inclusion-ary processes occurring within specific institutional contexts (Calvo, Jablonska-Bayro, and Waters 2017; Gast and Okamoto 2016; Huang and Liu 2017; Mallet, Calvo, and Waters 2017; Williams 2015). Such studies suggest that welcoming policies and practices can bolster immigrants' incorporation outcomes both symbolically and materially. New government policies and official events have even been established in cities across the country to highlight the value of welcoming immigrants into local communities (Jones-Correa 2011; Welcoming America 2017).

Still, to date most of these studies focus on receptivity at the level of law and policy, or operationalized as broad public opinion, overlooking the importance of understanding receptivity in terms of how immigrants engage with and feel welcomed by U.S.-born individuals they encounter in their local social environments.1 This is surprising, as there is considerable evidence that individual-level contact—defined as face-to-face interactions between members of different groups—can meaningfully contribute to improving intergroup attitudes (Pettigrew and Tropp 2011). It is also surprising given the much larger body of research that clearly suggests, in the opposite direction, that negative encounters with the U.S. born, sometimes conceptualized as perceptions of discrimination, increase immigrants' sense of exclusion from the polity (Kasinitz et al. 2008; Massey and Sánchez 2010).

Indeed, recent research has found that, among the U.S. born, having more frequent contact with immigrants predicts greater tendencies to welcome immigrants even after demographic characteristics, perceived discrimination, and contextual exposure to immigrants are controlled for (Tropp et al., forthcoming). Moreover, contact is often used as a strategy to build connections between immigrant and U.S.-born communities and to enhance immigrant integration (Bergmann 2016). In these ways, we expect that the extent to which immigrants perceive that the interactions they have with the U.S. born are positive and welcoming—as opposed to negative and unwelcoming or hostile—is likely to increase their feelings of belonging and of being American. It is even possible, in our view, that such feelings of belonging might attenuate negative impacts of ascriptive characteristics on American identity, such as nonwhite race, non-Christian religion, or lack of English fluency.

Correlates of American Identity: Citizenship and Return

Immigrants' identification as American has more than a symbolic importance. Social scientists have demonstrated that the adoption of a national identity—or feeling American—matters for other outcomes in several ways. For [End Page 51] one, it shapes support for redistributive policies, which tend to garner more support if they are perceived as applying to "deserving" individuals who are already members of the community as opposed to "undeserving" members located outside it, a boundary drawn in part along ascriptive lines (Theiss-Morse 2009; Wong 2010; Fox 2011). Second, the adoption of a national identity matters for civic and political engagement. Deborah Schildkraut finds, for example, that identifying as American is significantly and positively correlated with individuals' trust in government, trust in law enforcement, and expectations of obligation to the polity (2007b; also see Theiss-Morse 2009; Wong 2010).

Immigrants' identification as Americans thus likely shapes key decisions they make to orient themselves both toward and away from their American host communities and the national we. Immigrants who do not fall neatly within the boundaries of American identity because of their ascriptive characteristics may not only be less likely to identify as American. They may also, as a consequence, be less likely to adopt U.S. citizenship—a key form of attachment to the nation—or more likely to indicate a desire to permanently return to their countries of origin—an indicator of a non-U.S. orientation. Thus, if immigrants' perceptions of the welcoming-ness of the U.S.-born Americans turn out to mitigate negative relationships between their ascriptive characteristics and their identification as American, then we might also expect the results to have implications for their subsequent choice of acquring citizenship or returning to their countries of origin.


We explore these questions drawing on a new representative survey and follow-up semistruc-tured interviews conducted with two first-generation immigrant groups in Atlanta and Philadelphia, two major U.S. metropolitan areas.

Group Selection

We chose to study South Asian Indian and Mexican immigrant groups for three reasons. First, they are currently the largest two immigrant groups in the nation as well as in each of these two metro areas (Chakravorty, Kapur, and Singh 2017; Portes and Rumbaut 2014; Zong and Batalova 2016; Atlanta Regional Commission 2015; Singer et al. 2008). Second, they exemplify, in stark relief, the bifurcation of skills and economic status that is arguably the core feature of post-1965 U.S. immigration patterns (Alba and Nee 2003; Portes and Rumbaut 2014). Whereas Mexicans are seen as a quintessential low-status group (Massey 2007; Perlmann 2005; Bean, Brown, and Bachmeier 2015; Telles and Ortiz 2008), South Asian Indians are viewed as a quintessential high-status one, often even a model minority (Chakravorty, Kapur, and Singh 2017; Lee and Zhou 2015; Nee and Holbrow 2013; Sandhu 2012).2 Such pointed differences in the two immigrant groups' socioeconomic positioning shape the host society's reactions to them, driving, for example, the general American perception that all Mexicans are poorly educated and heightening the fear of many Americans that Mexicans will never assimilate (see, for example, Huntington 2004). Indians' socioeconomic standing helps drives U.S. perceptions that Indians, like all Asian immigrants, are well educated, smart, and talented, improving Americans' views about Asian immigrants relative to other nonwhite groups (Jiménez and Horowitz 2013; Samson 2013). Indeed, Asian immigrants as a group are generally typified much more positively than Hispanic-Latinos ones in the public realm (Pew Research Center 2015).

Third, Mexicans and Indians vary in their constellations of other ascriptive status markers that the literature on American identity shows U.S.-born Americans connect to American identity—namely language, skin tone, religion—as well as legal status. Mexican immigrants [End Page 52] have not only less education and more employment in lower-skilled sectors of the economy, but also less English-language proficiency and, after decades of intensifying border and interior immigration enforcement, very high levels of undocumented status (Bean, Brown, and Bachmeier 2015; Massey 2013; Massey, Durand, and Malone 2002; NASEM 2015; Telles and Ortiz 2008). Today, Mexicans are the group most strongly affected by and associated with undocumented status (Baker and Rytina 2013; Garcia 2017; Jiménez 2010; Massey and Sánchez 2010). In skin tone, Mexican immigrants in the United States tend to self-report all along the continuum from lighter to darker, reflecting the ethnic diversity within Mexico itself (Villareal 2010; Sue 2013); a few are even able to "pass" as black in the U.S. context (Jones 2012; Vaughn 2005; Vaughn and Vinson 2007).

In contrast, considered as a single group Indian immigrants are "doing very well" (Leonard 2007). A relatively low proportion are undocumented, though some reports suggest the number has been increasing since the 1990s (Rangaswamy 2000, 2007; Baker and Rytina 2013). They are residentially dispersed within metropolitan areas, many residing in well-heeled suburbs or ethnoburbs, largely among white Americans, where scholars see their children well poised to achieve upward mobility (Lee and Zhou 2015; Mishra 2016; Zhou and Bankston 2017). Still, they too exhibit significant internal variation—by factors such as social class, caste, citizenship, legal status, language, and even their regions of origin within India depending on when and in which wave they arrived. In fact, some scholars even suggest they are a highly "divided" (Mishra 2016) or even an economically and regionally "polarized" community, characterized by "extremes at two ends" (Chakravorty, Kapur, and Singh 2017).

By religion, non-Hindu minority groups, especially Sikhs and Christians, are overrepresented in the diaspora relative to their proportions in the general population in India; most survey estimates put the proportion of Hindus among all Indian Americans at somewhere between 45 and 76 percent (Kurien 2001, 2006). One recent national survey estimated that Hindus constitute about half of all Indian Americans (51 percent), followed by Christians (18 percent), Muslims (10 percent), Sikhs (5 percent) and others (Pew Research Center 2012). Some scholars note that religion is increasing in salience for Indian immigrants, in response to both the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and the rise of neo-Hindu (Hindutva) nationalistic politics in India since the 1980s (Kurien 2001, 2006; Mishra 2016). Turban-wearing Sikhs and Muslims have been subject to the most intense anti-Islamic and racial targeting since 9/11, following an intense "racialization of religion" in the United States in recent years (Kalita 2003; Joshi 2006).

Skin tone among Indian immigrants is a complex topic. On the one hand, Indian immigrants can be mistaken for Mexican, Native American, or black in the U.S. context (George 1997; Kurien 2001). Sangay Mishra argues that skin color and phenotype result in all Indian immigrants being mistaken for Muslims or Arabs, not just Mexicans or Native Americans—especially if they are male and especially in public spaces where the encounters they have with other groups are fleeting and anonymous (2016). Indeed, some Indian immigrants have recently been attacked and killed based on their skin color and perceived "outsiderness" (Kumar 2017). But according to Mishra and Susan Koshy (1998), many middle-class Indian immigrants and their organizations still tend to emphasize class and ethnicity over race or skin tone. Lower-class immigrants, on the other hand, in tandem with students and intellectuals, take a race- and color-conscious approach, even arguing that a race-blind approach is itself akin to white racism. Either way, Koshy points out many Indian immigrants express confusion about their racial identities not only in India, but also in the United States (1998).

In sum, Mexican and Indian immigrants make good comparison groups for this study because they occupy vastly different places in the U.S. social and economic hierarchy. This is likely to lead to their being perceived quite differently by the U.S. born, as well as to different contact experiences with the U.S. born in everyday life. Because of their higher socioeconomic status, Indian immigrants clearly have more opportunities to live and work alongside [End Page 53] U.S.-born whites than Mexican immigrants, who are more segregated. Greater intergroup contact could lead to more favorable relations between Indians and U.S.-born whites in particular, though Indian immigrants' relative success and darker skin tone may also provoke feelings of threat among whites (see Hochschild and Weaver 2007; Hochschild, Weaver, and Burch 2012; Jiménez and Horowitz 2013; Samson 2013). For their part, Mexican immigrants may experience less frequent and less positive contact with U.S.-born groups because of their lower socioeconomic status as well as their lower English-language ability and higher likelihood of residing in the United States without documents. Because of this status, they may also have more frequent contact with U.S.-born minorities, such as African Americans, than Indian immigrants do.

At the same time, Indian immigrants, who are predominantly Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim, might have greater difficulties in making their religious practices intelligible to the U.S.-born Christian majority (Pew Research Center 2010). Because of this, despite being more linguistically isolated and having lower socioeconomic status, on average, Mexican immigrants are more likely to share religious practices with U.S.-born communities than Indian immigrants are, and their participation in local congregations alongside the U.S. born could facilitate cross-ethnic contact and encourage positive intergroup attitudes. Taken together, these two immigrant groups provide a unique opportunity for examining how language, skin tone, religion, and legal status influence identification as Americans. Their perceptions of welcome by the U.S. born, both on their own and interacting with the visible marker of skin tone, has important consequences for the strength of their American identity, and downstream implications for the two groups' decisions to naturalize or return to their countries of origin.

Selection of Metropolitan Areas

We conducted our study of these four groups in Philadelphia and Atlanta for both theoretical and demographic reasons. To give us some purchase on understanding the dynamics of contact in the context of our four groups (particularly among immigrants and the U.S. born), we selected places with sizable populations of U.S.-born blacks and whites, and significant contemporary immigration streams from India and Mexico.3 Politics and social interactions in both metropolitan areas are profoundly shaped by the long history of black-white relations, which history provides the context for immigrant reception and intergroup relations. This suggests as well that immigrant relations with the U.S. born are best distinguished between interactions with whites and blacks separately. Despite similarities, Philadelphia and Atlanta also diverge in important ways. The political contexts of the two metro areas may shape intergroup interactions with the Georgia legislature, for instance, passing several laws targeting the state's undocumented population, and Philadelphia having declared itself a "sanctuary city," directing city agencies to avoid asking residents about their legal status (Frey 2001; Hansen 2005; Creighton and Katz 2007; Odem 2008). In short, although the four groups in the study are represented in both metropolitan areas, differing regional contexts may also help shape differing perceptions of American identity for immigrants. [End Page 54]

Survey and Qualitative Interviews

The Study of Immigrants and Natives in Atlanta and Philadelphia (SINAP) was fielded in 2013 by telephone, yielding interviews with 2,006 respondents, approximately five hundred from each group.4 In addition, interviews with a subsample of Mexican and Indian immigrants were conducted face to face.5 To be eligible for inclusion in the study, respondents had to be at least eighteen years old and reside in one of ten counties in the Philadelphia or Atlanta metropolitan areas. Respondents who identified as white or black had to indicate that they were born in the United States, and survey respondents who identified as Mexican or Indian had to indicate that they were born in Mexico or India, respectively.6 The study's in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2014 with recontacted survey respondents and with additional snowball sampling where necessary. The research team interviewed 249 individuals, with approximately thirty interviews from each target group in each site.

The study generated a wide array of demographic and other data. Beyond determining their age, racial and ethnic background, place of residence, and place of birth, survey respondents were asked to report their gender and political ideology, and—as indicators of socioeconomic status—their level of education, employment status, and homeownership. Sample characteristics from the survey are summarized for respondents from each group in table A1, and additional characteristics are tabulated for immigrant groups only in table A2.

A key dependent variable in our analyses is strength of identification as American: "In general, how strongly do you think of yourself as American? Very strongly, somewhat strongly, not very strongly, or not at all?" with the response categories ranging from 0 (not at all) to 3 (very strongly). This is a common measure of American national identity used in a number of other studies, which we supplement with novel data on individual respondents' experiences and perceptions of their intergroup contact experiences among both the U.S. born and immigrants. This affords us insight into how immigrants' individual-level interactions with the U.S. born (both white and black) might moderate the relationships between their ascriptive characteristics, legal status, and strength of their adoption of American national identity, and beyond that how that American identity may relate to naturalization and desires to return to their sending countries.

This study takes advantage of the unique characteristics of these data, in particular their attention both to ascriptive status markers among the foreign born, including legal status, and to perceptions of interactions occurring among the U.S. born and foreign born to build on prior work on the predictors of American identity. We looked first to the qualitative interviews [End Page 55] to see immigrants and the U.S. born discuss Americanness in their own words. Respondents were not prompted to talk about how they thought being American meant to them; the findings we discuss were a part of larger conversations about relations between immigrants and the U.S. born. The excerpts touching on American identity very much support the existing literature. In their conversations, respondents perceive and display a very strong association between immigrants' ascriptive characteristics, particularly race and language and American identity, and less legal status or religion. Because we saw these patterns upheld by our qualitative data, we then tested whether immigrants' ascriptive characteristics (including legal status) shaped the likelihood that Mexican and Indian foreign-born respondents identify as American on our larger quantitative sample. Third, we included positive receptivity ("feeling welcomed") as a moderating variable, seeking to test whether our immigrant respondents' perceptions of the valence of their interpersonal encounters with U.S.-born blacks and whites changes these relationships. Finally, we examined whether and how Mexican and Indian foreign-born respondents' identification as American affected their acquisition of citizenship and plans to return to their countries of origin.


We present two sets of empirical findings. The first, based on extensive in-depth interviews with immigrant and U.S.-born respondents in both Atlanta and Philadelphia, highlights the intersection of immigrants' American identity with certain ascriptive characteristics. The second, drawing on survey data, echoes the themes emerging from the interviews, to suggest that language and skin tone, in particular, shape immigrants' identification as American. In turn, their identification as American, moderated by their ascriptive characteristics, shapes immigrants' adoption of U.S. citizenship, and their desire to return to their countries of origin.

Qualitative Interviews

Our qualitative in-depth interviews with U.S.-and foreign-born residents in the Atlanta and Philadelphia metropolitan areas help illustrate some of the dynamics highlighted in earlier survey-based research. In particular, the interviews point to the ways in which Mexican and Indian immigrants do perceive barriers to being seen and treated as fully American, particularly by race and language. In one interview, for instance, an Indian immigrant man in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, expressed his dismay at being questioned about where he and his parents were from:


I mean, it's a really weird question to ask because what about me looks like I have not grown up here? [emphasis added] You know, it's not the way I dress. I don't speak with an Indian accent. There's nothing that would give that impression that my parents would be [from] anywhere other than where their parents are—in this country. And so that's completely being based on something very superficial—not even superficial like the way you're dressed. It's something. . .


Related to, do you think, skin color?


Yeah—I mean, what else could it be? [emphasis added] You know, I don't speak with an Indian accent at all. I mean, I have a completely American accent and I speak like an American. . . . I mean, the thing that bothers me is that why would I be anything else? Why am I being thought of anything other than as American as this person? And why do they feel that it's okay to ask me that? I mean assume—there was so much assumption in that that was just very irritating and has set me on this whole journey where if I'm not American, what am I? Because I have grown up thinking I am American. And all of a sudden, I feel like I'm being surrounded by people that don't think that.

The questions this respondent was asked reminded him that despite the absence of any accent, the way he looks—including his skin tone and perhaps other markers of phenotype—place him apart. This raised subtle doubts for him about his ability to be fully accepted as American, even as he has always "grown up thinking" that he was, and despite [End Page 56] not feeling that he had another comparable identity to adopt instead.

In another interview, an Indian immigrant woman living in Chester County, Pennsylvania, was upset that her son, while playing with other children, had a boy say this to him:


"I don't like you all people here you should go back to your country." My son, he was not born in India and came here. So he thinks of himself as American. But other people don't treat him that way because of his skin color. [emphasis added]

This respondent worried that her son, despite having grown up in the United States and thinking of himself as American, will never be fully accepted as American, mainly because of his race and skin tone. Like the earlier respondent, this could potentially lead him to question his identity and attach to it less strongly in the future.

In our interviews, the U.S. born perceive the role of ascriptive characteristics in setting the boundary between Americans and immigrants as well. A U.S.-born African American woman interviewed in Philadelphia, for example, highlighted the additional role of language in excluding many immigrants from the boundaries of American identity:


I find that Americans are taken aback when people are speaking another language—I mean, people are communicating in another language—generally, Americans are. But for some reason—I don't know whether it's being terribly self-conscious that "They're speaking another language, are they talking about me," kind of thing. . . . I listen because it's interesting to me, but I find that other people . . . Americans—English-speaking . . . I mean, [native-] born Americans . . . seem to be taken aback by the fact that people are speaking another language in front of them as though somehow "This is America—you're supposed to speak English here."

Language, this woman noted, is what many U.S. born latch onto as the primary marker of insider-ness versus foreignness, thus potentially excluding some new immigrants from the boundaries of American identity.

Other interview respondents echoed these findings in different ways. Some of the U.S. born agreed that Americans fear immigrants, and did not see them as belonging to the country or being able to be American. In the words of one U.S.-born white woman living in Cobb County, Georgia, this sentiment was applied mostly to Hispanics (including Mexican immigrants):


There are so many negative attitudes about Hispanic people with this whole immigration thing, [that] people are coming in and they're taking our jobs and all that stuff. I think that's just pervasive in the way people talk about [Hispanics] . . . That you don't belong here, or that this is America and you're not American. [emphasis added]

In turn, our interview data also suggest that many of the immigrant respondents are attentive to such exclusion by natives. One Mexican immigrant respondent living in Philadelphia even argued against it, claiming that he had every much a right to think of this as his country as persons born in the United States do: "[I like] to live together with [different] people, and also . . . to get along with them. Why? For the simple reason that . . . very possibly this is my country, like it is theirs."7

Taken together, the interview excerpts provide a sense of the key fault lines between those included and those excluded from being considered fully American. In particular, they highlight language and skin tone as markers that exclude and potentially erode both Indian and Mexican immigrants' identifications as Americans; by contrast, lack of legal status and religion did not emerge in the interview data to the same degrees. Interestingly, some of these excerpts highlight critical negative interactions [End Page 57] between the native and foreign born, in which the latter's national identities are policed or called into question during interpersonal interactions. We therefore move on to explore how race, language, and other ascriptive status characteristics might serve as potential barriers to Mexican and Indian immigrants' adoption of American identity more fully in our survey data in the next section. Here we also give more attention to the potential role of immigrants' perceptions of welcome from the native born, to the extent that perceived welcome (as opposed to perceived unwelcome, hostility, or discrimination) may result in stronger (as opposed to weaker) American identification, and consequently, perhaps also greater citizenship acquisition or weaker desires to return to their countries of origin.

Multivariate Analyses Predicting American Identity

Do the significant ascriptive barriers that our immigrant interview respondents perceive to being considered by the U.S. born as fully American hold up in our larger SINAP survey sample? The multivariate models we present here are ordered logistic regression models, with the strength of respondents' identification as American serving as the dependent variable, response categories ranging from 0 (feeling not at all American) to 3 (very strongly American).8

American Identity

Three variables capture immigrants' alignment with widely held ascriptive definitions of American identity: respondents' knowledge of English (coded 0 to 3, a self-assessed measure ranging from knowing no English to being fluent in English)9, religion (coded as a dummy variable, 1 being Christian), and skin tone (coded 1 to 7, a self-assessed measure of skin tone, from lighter to darker skinned).10 We also asserted that current undocumented status could also be considered, under the current restrictive policy environment, an additional ascriptive dimension of American identity. We included a dummy variable coded 1 if the respondent was currently undocumented and 0 indicating otherwise.

Perceptions of Welcome

The model included two variables gauging respondents' perceptions of being welcomed—one by U.S.-born whites and the other by U.S.-born blacks. Respondents from each ethnic group was asked "Overall, when you think about [whites/blacks] in [greater Philadelphia/ Atlanta], how often do you feel welcomed by them?" The response categories ranged from not feeling welcomed at all to feeling very welcomed, coded 0 to 3.11 [End Page 58]

Control Variables

Age, gender (male coded 1), and percent life in the United States (calculated as time spent in the United States divided by age) were included as control variables because attachments to the United States vary by age and length of time in the United States (Schildkraut 2011; Theiss-Morse 2009), and because there are indications that immigrants' attachment to the country of reception, and their desire to return to their countries of origin, vary by gender (Jones-Correa 1998). The model also included a dummy variable to indicate whether the interview was conducted over the phone or face to face to control for differences in mode of interviewing that introduced some variation in sampling, which could be reflected in the results.12

Collinearity tests indicated that the variables included in the model are in no danger of being collinear.13 We estimated the model for all immigrant respondents together, and then separately for each immigrant group (Indian and Mexican). As an additional robustness check, we ran the models first including demographic characteristics only, then with demographic and ascriptive characteristics included, and then added welcoming variables. In addition, to check whether the effects of immigrants' perceptions of welcome by U.S. blacks and whites was affected by respondents' self-assessed skin tone, we ran the models including these interaction terms. The full models, both with and without interaction terms, are shown in table 1. Additional models—showing reduced models, are presented in table A4. The results are generally consistent across the models.

Results from the ordered logit models indicate that ascriptive attributes do indeed shape both immigrant groups' likelihood of identifying as American. For each immigrant group, only one of the demographic controls is significant; Indian respondents are likely to identify more strongly as American if they are older, whereas Mexican immigrants are more likely to identify as American if they are men. The results presented in table 1 also indicate that only one of the ascriptive attributes—knowledge of English—shapes both immigrant groups' likelihood of identifying as American (though for Mexican immigrants the effect of language ability is marginally significant). Our results indicate that English-language ability is associated with a stronger identification as American. For Mexican immigrants, self-assessed skin tone is a significant predictor of American identity as well. Holding the other variables in the model at their means, the predicted probability of feeling very strongly American increases 48 percentage points from those immigrants who indicated they spoke little or no English, to those who reported they spoke English very well. Mexican immigrants who assessed their skin tone as very dark (7 on a scale of 1 to 7) were 12 percentage points less likely to identify strongly as American than those who thought of themselves as having a very light skin tone (for this and other calculations of predicted probabilities, see table 2).

These results from the analysis of the survey data reinforce our qualitative findings. Knowledge of English, alongside age and gender, shapes Indian immigrants' national identifications, and both knowledge of English and skin tone shape that of Mexican immigrants. For neither group was undocumented status or religion a significant predictor of respondents' strength of American identification. Although perhaps surprising, this finding mirrors our qualitative interview data, in which few immigrant respondents referenced legal status or religion in reference to feeling excluded from American identity.

Other results from the model indicate the perception of being welcomed by the U.S. born is positive and significant for both Indian [End Page 59]

Table 1. Effects of Ascriptive Characteristics and Welcome on Immigrants' Identification as American
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Table 1.

Effects of Ascriptive Characteristics and Welcome on Immigrants' Identification as American

and Mexican immigrants, confirming that it does help mitigate the negative relationships between skin tone, language, and American identity. However, its effects play out somewhat differently for the two groups. Mexican immigrants' attachment to an American identity was shaped positively and significantly by their sense of being welcomed by both U.S.-born whites and blacks, whereas Indian immigrants' identification was largely shaped by their interactions only with whites, which were positive and significant in the model. Feeling welcomed often by U.S.-born whites increased the probability of Mexican immigrants' identifying as [End Page 60] very strongly American by 14 percentage points, but feeling welcomed by U.S.-born blacks increased it by 16 percentage points. For Indian immigrants, feeling often welcomed by whites increased the probability they identify as very strongly American by 11 percentage points.

Table 2. Changes in Predicted Probabilities
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Table 2.

Changes in Predicted Probabilities

The results presented are evidence that immigrant respondents experience at least some significant ascriptive barriers to being considered by the U.S. born as fully American, judged primarily by language and skin tone, a finding that dovetails with our qualitative findings. Second, these results show a significant positive relationship between immigrants' perception of being welcomed by the U.S. born and their identification as American. Together, these findings suggest that welcome by the U.S. born may help mitigate some of the negative effects of immigrants' ascriptive characteristics on their feelings of attachment to their identity as [End Page 61] Americans, in line with our expectations (though the results shown in table 1 do not show any significant effects of interactions between skin tone and welcome, at least with respondents' identification as American as the dependent variable).

Multivariate Analyses Predicting Citizenship and Return

We now direct our attention to whether immigrants' identification as American is in turn correlated with their decisions to take on U.S. citizenship, or their plans to eventually return to their countries of origin. In many ways, the models presented in this section mirror the design of the models. The dependent variable for the first model is citizenship (coded as a dummy variable, 1 indicating acquisition of U.S. citizenship). For the second model, the dependent variable is respondents' plans to return to their country of origin (also coded as a dummy variable, 1 indicating a desire to eventually return to live in the country of origin). Because the dependent variables are binary, we estimated logit models. Age, gender, percent life in the United States are included as control variables along with a dummy variable to indicate whether the interview was conducted over the phone or face to face. As before, variables capturing immigrants' alignment with widely held ascriptive definitions of American identity—respondents' knowledge of English, religion, and skin tone—are included in the models, as well as variables gauging respondent' perceptions of being welcomed by U.S.-born whites and U.S.-born blacks.14 Finally, American identity is included as a possible predictor of acquisition of citizenship. Because the option of citizenship is available only to those immigrants with the appropriate documents, undocumented migrants are not included in that model even though they are included in the second model for plans to return. Both models were run for both immigrant groups together, and then separately for each immigrant group (Asian Indian and Mexican). The results for citizenship acquisition are presented in table 3.15

As indicated in table 3, for all immigrants, and in the models run separately for both South Asian Indian and Mexican immigrants, age and the percentage of their lives spent in the United States are, unsurprisingly, both significant, positive predictors of acquiring U.S. citizenship. Our results also show that some of the ascriptive characteristics of immigrants matter in shaping their decision to acquire U.S. citizenship. For Mexican immigrants, for example, knowledge of English is significant, with an effect separate from time in the United States (which is controlled for in the model). The negative effects of immigrants' ascriptive characteristics are mitigated, however, by the perceived welcome of whites and blacks. Welcome by whites and blacks is significant, an indicator that they serve to counter the effects of the relationship between ascriptive characteristics and citizenship, just as they did for immigrants' identification as American. However, some of the direction of the effects are counterintuitive: the results indicate that immigrants' perceived welcome by blacks is positively associated with acquisition of citizenship, but immigrants perceived welcome by whites is negatively associated with naturalization as U.S. citizens. These findings are clarified by the interactions between welcome and skin tone in the model, which show that the effects of perceptions of welcome by whites on citizenship acquisition shifts depending on the self-assessed skin tone of the respondent. Darker-skinned respondents who perceived greater welcome by whites were also more likely to have become U.S. citizens. This was the case for both Mexican and Indian immigrants. Among Indian immigrants indicating they have a darker skin tone, however, a greater perceived welcome [End Page 62]

Table 3. Effects of Ascriptive Characteristics and Welcome on the Acquisition of Citizenship
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Table 3.

Effects of Ascriptive Characteristics and Welcome on the Acquisition of Citizenship

[End Page 64] from U.S.-born blacks was negatively associated with U.S. citizenship. Strength of American identity for its part predicts naturalization in the model for both groups together and for South Asian Indian immigrant respondents separately, but falls just over the .05 significance threshold for Mexican immigrant respondents. The key takeaway here is that although ascriptive characteristics do appear sometimes to affect the decision to acquire U.S. citizenship, and American identity has a positive association with citizenship among both immigrant groups, the role of welcome is complicated by skin tone.

In table 4, we present the results of six additional logit models predicting immigrant respondents' plans to return to their country of origin.16 The results indicate that for Indian immigrants, intent to return declines over time in the United States but remains significantly greater for men than for women. Here again, the findings indicate that certain ascriptive characteristics shape immigrants' decision making: specifically, undocumented migrants, both Mexican and Indian, are significantly less likely to indicate a desire to return to their countries of origin. Among Indian immigrants, those with darker skin tones were also significantly less likely to say they would consider a return to India. For Indian immigrants, the perception of being welcomed by U.S.-born whites also mattered, because welcome is negatively associated with the desire to return. Taking the analysis a step further, the models with interactions between perceived welcome by whites and skin tone indicate that Indian immigrants with darker skin tones who were welcomed by U.S.-born whites were significantly less likely to indicate that they planned on returning to India. Perceived welcome by U.S.-born blacks had no effect on immigrants' decision to return. Identification as American mattered for Mexican immigrants in particular: strength of American identity was negatively associated with an indication of return. The larger narrative here, then, is that ascriptive characteristics like skin tone and legal status play a role in shaping immigrants' decisions to stay in the United States or return to their countries of origin, but this is mitigated by their perceptions of welcoming by whites (but not blacks) and their identification as Americans.


The findings here support earlier, foundational work indicating that conceptions of American identity are very much shaped by ascriptive characteristics (Kinder and Kam 2009; Schildkraut 2001b, 2011; Theiss-Morse 2009; Wong 2010). Our findings also add to a significant literature focused on how Americans of non-European descent are marginalized by these ascriptive notions of identity (Cheryan and Monin 2005; Devos and Banaji 2005; Huynh, Devos, and Altman 2015; Huynh, Devos, and Smalarz 2011; Mukherjee, Molina, and Adams 2012; Pehrson and Green 2010). Here, we extend these lines of research by providing an empirical test of how immigrants' varying ascriptive characteristics, including legal status, influence their adoption of an American identity.

Moreover, this article provides a more nuanced take on the importance of immigrants' context of reception, with important theoretical and empirical implications. Sociologists of immigration have long argued that a receiving country's "context of reception" shapes new immigrants' incorporation paths and identity formation (Portes and Rumbaut 2014). This concept, though, has rarely been operationalized at the individual level. Cumulative interpersonal contacts arguably form the local context of reception as much or more as the broader policy or structural contexts that have been the focus in the literature thus far. Our findings demonstrate how the adoption of American identity is indeed moderated by immigrants' perceptions of their interactions with U.S.-born residents, in particular by their perceptions of welcome by U.S.-born whites and blacks. That is, although ascriptive characteristics (namely, race and skin tone and language) appear to raise barriers to being considered and considering [End Page 65]

Table 4. Plans to Return to Country of Origin, Mexican and Indian Immigrants
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Table 4.

Plans to Return to Country of Origin, Mexican and Indian Immigrants

[End Page 67] oneself American, perceptions of more welcoming individual-level interactions with the U.S. born can counter this, making both Indian and Mexican immigrants more likely to feel more strongly American.

Results from the multivariate analyses indicate that certain of immigrants' ascriptive characteristics—particularly language and skin tone—shape their identification as Americans. Darker-skinned immigrants and those with less knowledge of English are less likely to identify as American, even among immigrant groups that are very different across many other dimensions, corroborating findings by Schildkraut (2007b). Religion and legal status did not shape American identity, even for immigrants from two groups whose experiences are profoundly shaped by their marginalization by legal status (Mexicans) and their differences from the mainstream along religious lines (South Asian Indians). Aristide Zolberg and Long Witt Woon maintain that language, not religion, is the main dividing line between insiders and outsiders in the United States (1999). Our findings here suggest that language has not lost its relevance.

Although ascriptive characteristics shape immigrants' adoption of a national identity, perceptions of welcome also shape the likelihood that the foreign born identify as American. Here, however, the effects of who the foreign born feel welcomed by plays out differently for South Asian Indian and Mexican immigrants. Mexican immigrants' attachment to an American identity is shaped by their interactions with both native-born whites and blacks, whereas that of Indian immigrants is largely shaped by their interactions only with whites. Immigrants' class positions and how these influence both occupational and residential choices in a highly segregated American society likely account for these differences (Lee and Zhou 2015). Indian immigrants are more likely to consider white U.S.-born residents as their relevant peer group; Mexican immigrants, though their relationships with both whites and blacks might be more fraught, see both as relevant.

Similarly, our findings indicate differences in Indian and Mexican immigrants' decisions to adopt U.S. citizenship and to weigh a return to their countries of origin. Identification as American significantly influences Indian immigrants' decisions to become citizens. Mexican immigrants with a stronger attachment to an American identity are significantly more likely to indicate they plan to stay in the United States rather than return to their country of origin. The differences in results here may say less about the differences in effects of American identity for Mexican and Indian immigrants than they do about the relative distribution the options in these two groups: the large majority of Indian respondents having already adopted U.S. citizenship, and an equally large majority of Mexican respondents being, at one time or currently, undocumented (for details, see table A2). In any case, being undocumented or darker skinned diminishes immigrants' desire for return. Certainly, our findings here indicate that for both groups identification as Americans shapes further choices and behaviors, orienting them both toward and away from the United States.

This research opens important new lines of inquiry into immigrant incorporation and the micro-foundations of the context of reception, underlining the importance of the role that immigrants' ascriptive characteristics play in their adoption of national identities, and the ways in which this can be tempered by their interactions with the native born, particularly immigrants' sense of feeling welcomed. Certainly, some aspects of this study bear further exploration—looking more closely, for instance, at other measures of immigrants' positive and negative interpersonal interactions with the native born—but a critical area will be comparative research into the micro-level dynamics of incorporation in other settings, and in other countries. At a time when ascriptive aspects of national identities seem to be increasingly emphasized across a number of industrialized economies, it may be helpful to recognize that national attachments are also formed at the local level, through positive individual-level interactions between people, immigrants and U.S. born. [End Page 68]

Michael Jones-Correa

Michael Jones-Correa is President's Distinguished Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration at the University of Pennsylvania.

Helen B. Marrow

Helen B. Marrow is associate professor of sociology at Tufts University.

Dina G. Okamoto

Dina G. Okamoto is Class of 1948 Herman B. Wells Professor in the Department of Sociology and director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society at Indiana University Bloomington.

Linda R. Tropp

Linda R. Tropp is professor of social psychology at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Direct correspondence to: Michael Jones-Correa at, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Political Science, 214 Stiteler Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104;
Helen B. Marrow at; Dina G. Okamoto at; and Linda R. Tropp at
Table A1. SINAP Survey Sample Characteristics
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Table A1.

SINAP Survey Sample Characteristics

Table A2. Additional SINAP Survey Sample Characteristics for Mexican and Indian Immigrants
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Table A2.

Additional SINAP Survey Sample Characteristics for Mexican and Indian Immigrants

Table A3. Descriptive Statistics for Variables in the Models
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Table A3.

Descriptive Statistics for Variables in the Models

Table A4. Identification as American, Reduced Models
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Table A4.

Identification as American, Reduced Models

Table A5. Acquisition of Citizenship, Reduced Models
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Table A5.

Acquisition of Citizenship, Reduced Models

Table A6. Return to Country of Origin, Reduced Models
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Table A6.

Return to Country of Origin, Reduced Models


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1. Elizabeth Fussell, for one, has called for migration scholars to pay greater attention to intergroup contact in their studies of incorporation processes and public opinion (2014).

2. The sociologists Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou even characterize Mexican and Indian immigrants in the United States today as dually hypo-selected and hyper-selected, respectively. That is, whereas Indian immigrants have educational levels not only well above the nonmigrant population of India they leave behind but also above the U.S. population, Mexican immigrants have the inverse. Their mean college degree rate is less than that of the nonmigrant population in Mexico and they are poorly educated compared with the U.S. born, both whites and blacks (2015, 31).

3. Both metropolitan areas are approximately the same size (five to six million people each) and have racialized black-white histories that have been reshaped by recent immigrant arrivals. Although Philadelphia has had a more constant history of immigration than Atlanta, it is only since the 1980s that both metro areas have become home to diverse streams of post-1965 immigrants. Respectively, these new migration streams have transformed Philadelphia into a "re-emerging" immigrant gateway and Atlanta into a major new "emerging" immigrant gateway (Singer 2004; Singer et al. 2008). Indians and Mexicans constitute the two largest immigrant groups in both areas (for more demographic and historical detail, see tables A1 and A2), and Mexican and Indian immigrants play similar roles in both local economies—Mexicans a predominantly low-skilled, labor migrant group, and Indians primarily a highly skilled, professional one. Both groups show a pattern of greater suburban settlement and are more geographically dispersed than African Americans (Creighton and Katz 2007; Odem 2008). Taken together, these commonalities afford us an excellent opportunity to examine interactions among our four target groups in both metro areas.

4. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish for Mexican respondents, and in English for respondents from the other three groups. U.S.-born white and black samples were drawn through random-digit dialing (RDD) of landlines and cell phone numbers to minimize selection bias, in conjunction, for blacks, with an oversampling of high-density census tracts, based on American Community Survey (ACS) block-group level estimates. SINAP employed a stratified sampling design for the Mexican and Indian foreign-born samples, drawing a random sample, using surname dictionaries, from cell phone and landline lists, in conjunction with an oversampling of high-density census tracts based on ACS block-group level estimates of Mexican and Indian residential concentration.

5. Two hundred of the five hundred Mexican immigrants and forty-eight of the 503 Indian immigrants completed the surveys in face-to-face interviews rather than over the telephone. Because of the characteristics of respondents differed somewhat by mode of interview (by gender, education and employment), we controlled for mode of interview in our models.

6. The survey component had a response rate of 20 percent for all households with whom contact was made [AAPOR Response Rate 4, (I+P)/((I+P) + (R+NC+O) + e(UH+UO)], and a cooperation rate of 90 percent for all respondents contacted who also met our eligibility criteria [AAPOR Cooperation rate 4, (I + P)/((I + P) + R)]. Altogether, 2,006 individuals—including 503 U.S.-born whites, 502 U.S.-born blacks, 500 Mexican immigrants, and 501 Indian immigrants—responded to the survey, half of each sample being drawn from each of the two metropolitan areas.

7. Translated by the authors. The original Spanish is "Respondent: [Me gusta] convivir con la gente y al mismo tiempo, este . . . llevarme con ellos. iPor que? Por la sencilla razon de que . . . posiblemente este es mi pais como el de ellos."

8. The analyses use weighting to account for differences in age and sex of our sample relative to the actual distribution of these traits across the Philadelphia and Atlanta metropolitan areas.

9. Daniel Hopkins finds that it is immigrants' attempts at speaking English, not their language ability or accent, that is positively assessed by the U.S. born (2014). Unfortunately, SINAP does not include immigrants' self-assessment of their accent in English, so the effects of accent could not be included as part of this analysis.

10. Self-assessed skin tone is not the same as race. Although U.S.-born blacks and whites might more easily be assigned racial categories, immigrant Indians and Mexicans are not so easily categorized. Eighty-three percent of Indian respondents, for instance, chose Asian-South Asian as their race, the next largest group (9 percent) opting for Some Other Race. Among Mexican respondents, 71 percent chose Some Other Race as their preferred racial category, the next largest cohort, 14 percent, opting for white. The mean evaluation of self-assessed race also differed meaningfully across groups. The variable was coded from 1 to 7, running from lighter to darker skinned, yielding a mean for U.S.-born whites of 2.3 and for blacks of 4.5. The median response for both immigrant groups was closer to that of U.S. blacks than to that of U.S. whites. For Mexican immigrants it was 3.8, for Indians 4.3. The difference in median skin tone across the four groups is significant at p < .00.

11. In robustness checks not shown here, we added measures of perceived similarity to U.S.-born whites and to U.S.-born blacks, anticipating the possibility that respondents' perceived welcome simply reflects their feelings of similarity or dissimilarity with other groups. The addition of these additional controls was not significant, and did not change the results presented here.

12. See note 5: Two hundred Mexican immigrants and forty-eight Indian immigrants completed the surveys face to face rather than by telephone. We controlled for mode of interview in our models.

13. We used the collin postestimation package in STATA to check for multicollinearity. Collin calculates both the variance inflation factor for each variable in the model, and variable tolerance, defined as 1/VIF, to check on the degree of collinearity, the degree to which a variable could be considered as a linear combination of other independent variables. None of the VIF scores for the variables in the model came close to the level (10) at which we would be concerned about collinearity in the model. The mean VIF for the variables in the model is 1.66.

14. As a robustness check not shown here, we included measures of perceived similarity to respondents, again anticipating the possibility that respondents' perceived welcome simply reflects their feelings of similarity or dissimilarity with other groups. These controls were not significant and their inclusion no effect on the results presented here.

15. As an additional robustness check, we ran the models first including demographic characteristics only, then with demographic and ascriptive characteristics included. These results are presented in table A5. The results are stable across the two sets of results (table 3 and table A5).

16. As an additional robustness check, we ran the models first including demographic characteristics only, then with demographic and ascriptive characteristics included. These results are presented in table A6. The results are stable across the two sets of results (table A4 and table A6).

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