Ethnic Attrition

After moving to the U.S., research has shown that some ethnic groups fare better than others.

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June 1, 2017 – Online MCAT CARS Practice

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

After moving to the U.S., research has shown that some ethnic groups fare better than others. Specifically, research has suggested that Asian immigrants tend to do better once arriving in the U.S.—quickly earning college degrees and climbing the economic ladder—than Hispanic immigrants. But it’s also true that as some immigrant families become more assimilated, children and grandchildren may cease to identify with their country and ethnicity of origin. And that can make the data used to determine progress a bit more difficult to accurately interpret, according to a new paper from National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study’s authors, Brian Duncan and Stephen J. Trejo, identify this phenomenon—when future generations no longer identify with the race or ethnicity of their parents or grandparents—as “ethnic attrition.”

Most methods for evaluating how different ethnic groups are faring require only self identification and the country of an individual’s birth, with little data about the immigration status of previous generations. Thus when the children and grandchildren of immigrants don’t identify themselves as a part of a particular ethnic group, data about economic progress can be skewed. The lack of ethnic identification among descendants is pretty important because the most significant progress in socioeconomic mobility happens across generations—from parents, to children, to grandchildren—not within one individual’s lifespan.

In order to get a better picture of immigrant groups, the authors parse detailed data from the Current Population Survey, which asks individuals not only about their country of birth, but their parents as well (information not provided to other surveys such as the Census or the American Community survey). By putting together more than a decades’ worth of CPS data the authors are able to piece together a more robust three-generation portrait of families that includes the more concrete measure of country of origin, in addition to subjective identification. (The data is nevertheless limited for capturing the third generation because researchers included only biological children of married parents.)

They find that attrition is fairly common among the children and grandchildren of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Ninety-nine percent of first-generation Hispanic immigrants identify with their ethnicity, compared to 82 percent of the third generation.The decline in identifying with the country of one’s family is even more precipitous for Asian Americans. About 96 percent of first-generation Asian immigrants participated in ethnic identification, but by the third generation that number was only 58 percent. Attrition also differs based on country of origin, for instance Cubans and Indians are less likely to ethnically identify, while Mexican and Chinese immigrants are more.

These patterns are not random but follow along socioeconomic divides. The researchers note that educational achievement is often the best way to predict economic attainment and class. They find that more educated Hispanics who are second and third generation immigrants are less likely to ethnically identify. But the reverse was true for Asians, a group where the less educated cohort was more likely to cast off their ethnic identifiers. The authors suggest that findings such as this may cause an underestimation of the performance of Hispanic Americans in the U.S. and an overestimation of the success of Asian Americans, since the most educated, economically successful are either largely left out of the data representing a specific group, or make up a disproportionately large share of it.

The authors hypothesize a few causes for ethnic attrition. For starters, the differences in how the children and grandchildren of immigrants identify may have origins based on the ethnic makeup of the other members of their family. Ethnic identification is more persistent among the second- and third-generation immigrants when more of their familial line hails from a particular country. For instance, having two sets of grandparents who immigrated from China, or if both parents parents hail from Mexico, an individual is more likely to also identify with their parent’s ethnicity than if their parents intermarried with other ethnic groups. This fact along with a disparity in the propensity to marry outside of one’s culture may also help explain the differences in what groups of Hispanic and Asian Americans choose to identify or not. Hispanics who intermarry tend to have higher educational attainment than those who marry within their same culture, but for Asians the opposite is true. When added to the fact that intermarriage generally decreases ethnic identification, the result is that second- and third-generation Hispanics who have been more successful in upward socioeconomic mobility may not be included in counts of intergenerational mobility.

These rates of identification are important when considering the statistical and demographic characterizations of ethnic and immigrant groups. For instance, according to the study, the high-school dropout rate among third-generation immigrants is 25 percent higher for those who identify as Mexican. But nearly one-third of third-generation immigrants whose families hail from the country don’t even identify as Mexican, creating a potentially negatively skewed picture of the third-generation Mexican immigrant drop-out rate. That’s why the authors suggest involving more care and nuance in both obtaining and extrapolating data about immigrant populations and their ability to thrive in the U.S.

Adapted from theatlantic.

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This was an article on Anthropology.

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31 Comments


  1. Ethnic attrition = loss of IDing with culture in younger generations, important because IDing with culture associated with diff educational outcomes

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  2. assimilation increasing, data complex about ethnic identification

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  3. There has to be careful obtainment of immigrant information when conducting statistics because the results may be skewed. The passage discusses “ethnic attrition”, such that an individual who comes from immigrant grandparents or parents, tend to not identify themselves with their original ethnic identity once they begin to assimilate with U.S. society.
    The passage mentions particular reasons of why this may be so, and the differences between Asian immigrants and Hispanic immigrants.

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  4. MIP: ethinic attrition (not identifying with heritage) affects data. tone=neutral

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  5. MIP: ethnic attrition = Hispanics Hispanics –> migrate better) and assimilation = confusing data

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  6. Racial studies may be skewed by how people identify themselves. Author introduces statistics about Asians and Mexicans then introduces instances when identification likely altered the surveys. At the end author advocates consideration of these rates of identification.

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  7. Extrapolating information from ethnic group studies proves to be difficult given the ethnic attrition across consecutive generations.

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  8. Ethnic attrition is an important factor for researchers to consider when studying immigrants economic attainment

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  9. Ethnic attrition is an important phenomenon that significantly impacts the statistics and data about ethnic mobility within the Asian and Hispanic communities.

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  10. Ethnic attrition= affects data collection

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  11. ethnic attrition def. = when indiv. do not identify themselves as minor eth. anymore.
    this result affect the statistical data (can be skewed)
    more careful interpretation is required to achieve accurate data.
    comparison b/w mexican and asian.

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  12. Ethnic attrition = loss of identification of one’s ethic group. It is impacting current data on social and educational status for Asians and Hispanics, with more educated hispanics less likely to identify and less educated Asians less likely to identify

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  13. MI: some ethnic groups =/= identify w/ their origins + skews data regarding how ethnicities are doing in USA

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  14. MIP: Data about immigrants in USA skewed by factors effecting ethnic ID (or lack thereof= ethnic attrition). Suggest more care and nuance for better picture.
    Tone: neutral

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  15. Theme: Asian immigrants assimilate better than Hispanic immigrants after moving to US but Asian immigrants are more likely to stop identifying with their ethnicity. Poses a problem as when Asian Americans do not identify as being ethnic Asians any more, it can be hard to track the socioeconomic mobility across generations, so we cannot properly evaluate how ethnic minorities are faring in US.
    Tone: Informative (author tries to caution readers), neutral
    Only way to get a clearer picture is to provide parents’ immigration status as well
    Ethnic attrition higher in Asians compared to Hispanics; more educated Hispanics less likely to ethnically identify while educated Asians more likely to identify (findings might be skewed, underestimating Hispanics and over-estimating Asians)
    Evidence for ethnic attrition: Ethnic identification more persistent if more ethnic family members are present; Intermarriage dilutes ethnicity and results in lower identification which is dependent on ethnicity as well so culture plays a part too (evidence: Hispanics who intermarry…for Asians the opposite is true)
    Such ethnicity studies need to be more mindful in obtaining and extrapolating data on how ethnic groups thrive in the US when participants no longer identify with their own ethnicity. Author probably wants to caution against taking the information too liberally for readers.

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  16. Ethnic attrition skews data on multigenerational racial success. Different races report their ethnicity differently, and have varying skewed levels of success.

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  17. MI: EA skews SES data of immig>>> less ed asns=intermarry=no id=skew
    tone: neut

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  18. Ethnic attrition contributes error in analyzing intergenerational mobility.

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  19. Data regarding immigration not always accurate b/c later generations omit country of origin for variety of reasons, final sentence author finally makes point that conclusion of study is researchers should be more attentive and make more of an attempt to correctly identify their subjects’ country of origin

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  20. MI: Ethnic attrition skews the conclusions obtained from surveys studying socioeconomic advancement and education among Hispanic and Asian immigrants.

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  21. It is diffuclt to trace success of immigrants due to lack of identification through span of generation. M

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  22. measuring ethnic attrition= difficult

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  23. MIP: Ethnic attrition varies for different cultural groups + leaves some groups better off than others

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  24. Many factors affect ethnic attrition = country of origin, level of education, intermarriage.

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  25. Current day metrics reveal valuable trends of ethnic attrition across multiple races, and collecting this data has called into question the validity of education achievement studies of certain cohorts.

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  26. MIP: Ethnic attrition skews immigrant data. Tone: Neutral

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  27. Ethnic attrition = Asian opposite to Hispanics , Tone: Neutral

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  28. MP: It’s difficult to see progress if individuals that migrated because of how they classify themselves as well as bias in who responds to these surveys
    Tone: neutral

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  29. Main Idea: Ethnic Attrition may be biased in data due to the various patterns about ethnic identification that comes about with different cultures based on their socioeconomic status. Author gives stats about two ethnic groups-Asians and Hispanics- in relaying this point. Author suggests to find an alternative method to extrapolate data.

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  30. Ethnic attrition=lose identification from parents and/or grandparents.
    Ethnic attrition is sensitive to ethnic+socio economic condition+education level+other causes.

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  31. Ethnic attrition is an effect of the ethnicity of parents, and educational achievement is based off of ethnicities in the household.

    Reply

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