The Place of Cultural Explanations and Historical Specificity in Discussions of Modes of Incorporation and Segmented Assimilation
Levy Economics Institute Working Paper No. 240
24 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 1998
Date Written: July 1998
This paper serves as an opportunity to pull together some thoughts and questions about modes of incorporation as an explanation for ethnic differences in behavior. Specifically, I ask just what is the status of cultural explanations for ethnic behavior if ethnic behavior is approached from a modes-of-incorporation perspective. I ask this question both in connection with individuals of the immigrant generation as well as in connection with the second generation; the concern with the second generation leads me to consider the status of cultural explanations for ethnic behavior in connection with the related conception of segmented assimilation. My argument proceeds through four steps. 1) I note that the modes are introduced as a way out of being left with a large ethnic residual (or unexplained difference) from individual-level analysis and as one more way of contradicting the claim that the residual reflects the operation of independent cultural differences among groups. 2) I stress how far we can push the corollary that living in different modes can affect not only the structural opportunities available to a person but also the attitudes, values, and outlooks common in people from different groups. 3) I also stress the possibility that many specifics of an immigrant group's historical experiences are not captured by the modes of incorporation (as would be true of any typology), and that such historical specifics ignored by the typology might matter a great deal. Moreover, such historically specific features may involve cultural characteristics as well as other characteristics, cultural characteristics related not at all or only tangentially to the aspects of experience discussed in the typology of the modes. 4) A big question, from this perspective, then, is: how well do the modes in fact explain the residual ethnic differences unexplained by the individual-level variables? And how do we answer that question empirically?
JEL Classification: J61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation