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Journal Article

Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration

Richard Alba and Victor Nee
The International Migration Review
Vol. 31, No. 4, Special Issue: Immigrant Adaptation and Native-Born Responses in the Making of Americans (Winter, 1997), pp. 826-874
DOI: 10.2307/2547416
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2547416
Page Count: 49
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Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration
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Abstract

Assimilation theory has been subject to intensive critique for decades. Yet no other framework has provided the social science community with as deep a corpus of cumulative findings concerning the incorporation of immigrants and their descendants. We argue that assimilation theory has not lost its utility for the study of contemporary immigration to the United States. In making our case, we review critically the canonical account of assimilation provided by Milton Gordon and others; we refer to Shibutani and Kwan's theory of ethnic stratification to suggest some directions to take in reformulating assimilation theory. We also examine some of the arguments frequently made to distinguish between the earlier mass immigration of Europeans and the immigration of the contemporary era and find them to be inconclusive. Finally, we sift through some of the evidence about the socioeconomic and residential assimilation of recent immigrant groups. Though the record is clearly mixed, we find evidence consistent with the view that assimilation is taking place, albeit unevenly.

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