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The Social Structural Determinants of Ethnic Group Behavior: Single Ancestry Rates Among Four White American Ethnic Groups

Barbara Tomaskovic-Devey and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey
American Sociological Review
Vol. 53, No. 4 (Aug., 1988), pp. 650-659
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095856
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Social Structural Determinants of Ethnic Group Behavior: Single Ancestry Rates Among Four White American Ethnic Groups
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Abstract

We criticize traditional ethnicity research for treating indicators of observed ethnic behavior as reflections of cultural values. Other researchers who argue that behavior is the result of structural opportunity suggest an alternative approach to ethnicity but may underestimate the potential importance of culture. We propose a general parsimonious model of ethnic behavior that describes group behavior as constrained by three aspects of social structure--demographic opportunity, economic opportunity, and cultural heritage. A simple illustration of a method guided by this structural model is presented through the comparison of single ancestry rates for four white American ethnic groups (Italian, Polish, Slovak, Hungarian). We conclude that there are no differences in single ancestry rates between three of the four groups after structural opportunity has been controlled. Only the Slovaks demonstrate differences in single ancestry rates, after demographic and economic opportunity have been controlled. We suggest that those differences are the product of either historically unique demographic and political-economic experience not detected in our models or some unique cultural heritage or a combination of the two.

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