Home > Identity > Notes from Ruben Rumbaut’s “The crucible within: Ethnic identity, self-esteem, and segmented assimilation among children of immigrants”

Notes from Ruben Rumbaut’s “The crucible within: Ethnic identity, self-esteem, and segmented assimilation among children of immigrants”

Abstract: “The formation of ethnic self-identities during adolescence was studied among children of immigrants from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Their psychosocial adaptation and cultural assimilation are also examined … Focusing on the formation of ethnics self-identities during adolescence, this article examines the psychosocial adaptation of children of immigrants from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The data is drawn from a survey carried out in the San Diego and Miami metropolitan areas of over 5,000 children of immigrant attending the eighth and ninth grades in local schools …”

Info: This article was printed in The International Migration Review, Winter 1994, Volume 28, Issue 4; page 748. 


The following are my notes/summary statements from the article. I need to type them up before I can even respond the piece, but one question already persists. 

QUESTION: How will the title of my blog, “Examining the Latino Student Experience at the University of Colorado, Boulder” affect my subjects? And, do I even know what I’m talking about when I use the phrase Latino?


  • Formation of ethnic identities = “social portraitsI like this phrase
  • Assimilation can involve the process of Americanization (this process may involve the disintegration of home life/traditions)
  • Immigration Commission presented 42-volume report to U.S. Congress in early 1900’s
  • “…one-size-fits-all panethnic labels – such as Asian, Hispanic, Black – are imposed willy-nilly by the society at large to lump ethnic groups together …”
  • Class, not color, shaped the fates of the ‘white ethnics‘ – Italians, Poles, Greeks, Russian Jews, and many others …”
  • 1990s: “Research about these new immigrants and refugees has focused largely on the situation of first-generation adults. However, much less is known about their children, even though the are already a very visible presence in the schools and in the streets of many American ocmmunities, and even though they will form an increasingly important component of hte American population and society.”
  • “… the concept of identity – which, like ethnicity was not in common use as recently as 1950 – was developed by an immigrant, Erik H. Erikson.”
  • Paths of assimilation can lead in different directions: one path may lead into white middle-class, another path may lead to assimilation into the inner city underclass
  • Students in this study had to be either foreign born or U.S. born with at least one foreign-born parent, most respondents were either 14 or 15 yrs old
  • “Who is Cuban, Filipino, Haitian, Laotian, or Mexican turns out to be a complicated methodological problem rather than a simple matter of fact.” [Mostly because of intermarriages]
  • Less than 4 percent of American-born Mexicans identified as American (the lowest proportion of any group)
  • “The Hispanic identity label appears to be tied to Spanish language use among the less sizable and more recently arrived Latin American immigrant groups and to decline very rapidly from the immigrant 1.5 generations to the nonimmigrant second generation.”
  • “Among the 757 Mexican-origin youth, a very substantial number (123) identified as Chicano, virtually all of them U.S.-born and all of them in California …”
  • Latin American students put in the least amount of time on homework
  • The student rankings in math test scores generally reflect the socioeconomic status of their parents.”
  • “The Laotians, Cambodians, and Mexicans on the other hand, exhibit notably lower aspirations than all other groups.”
  • “… Mexican respondents exhibit significantly higher scores on the familism values scale than any other group …”
  • “Jamaican and Mexican youths are the least likely to feel embarrassed by their parents.”
  • Two-thirds of Mexicans reported having felt discriminated against
  • ” … Mexicans and especially the Indochinese showed the lowest global self-esteem scores …”
  • “Respondents self-identifying as American are much more likely to be U.S.-born males, with at least one U.S.-born parent who also self-identifies as American, living in smaller households and higher social status families.”
  • Mexicans and Filipinos are less likely to call themselves mainstream Americans
  • “Hispanic self-identification is significantly more likely to be made by females: who are foreign-born, living in the U.S. less than 10 years, whose English is poor but whose Spanish is very good …” etc.
  • Chicano self-identification is significantly more likely to be made by males who are U.S. born and who close friends are also U.S. born” – [“… the lower their GPAs and the lower their educational and occupational aspirations, the greater the odds of their identifying as Chicano”]
  • Females = lower self-esteem and higher levels of depressive symptomatology
  • “The father’s level of education (but not the mother’s) is significantly and positively related to self-esteem.”
  • English language competence and educational achievement measures are significantly and positively related to self-esteem and psychological well-being.”
  • Knowledge of English in particular showed a very strong positive association with self-esteem …”
  • “Having been discriminated against elevates depressive symptoms significantly – although interestingly, it does not have a significant effect on self-esteem.”
  • “The daughters of immigrant parents are more likely than sons to be involved in such conflicts and instances of parental derogation …”
  • “Language and education are central issues in the relationship of immigrant parents and their children which may spark conflict and derogation between them.”
  • Ethnic self-identification is a gendered process.” [Girls were much more likely to choose additive or hyphenated national identity …]
  • ” … in line with expectations drawn from classic assimilation theory, acculturation strongly affects the process of identificational assimilation. Being born in the United States greatly increases the propensity for an assimilative self-definition …”
  • “Perceptions of discrimination affect the way children define their ethnic identities. Those who have experienced being discriminated against are less likely to identify as American …”
  • “The determination of dissimilative racial or panethnic self-identities … [has] relatively little to do with acculturative processes …”
  • “Children’s psychosocial adaptation is shaped by the family context … the children’s ethnic self-identities strongly tend to mirror the perceptions of their parents’ (and especially their mother’s) own ethnic self-identities.”
  • ‘Becoming American’ takes different forms, has different meanings, and is reached by different paths.”

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