Ethnicity and Ethnic Identification

  • David A. Gerber
  • Alan M. Kraut


While immigrants continue to be psychologically and practically involved in their homelands and develop the transnational ties to make that possible, they also must make lives for themselves in the host societies they have entered as newcomers. One of the most important mechanisms that exist for facilitating these adjustments is the ethnic group, which brings people together on the basis of common origins, memories, and such common cultural traits as language. Ethnic groups are not simply based on the past, however, for they are creations of present needs in a new society, in which immigrants often face prejudice, poverty, social isolation, and confusing cultural differences. There is nothing stable, let alone inevitable, about the ethnic group. Different groups of immigrants have produced ethnicities that are characterized by wide varieties of intensity and densities of organization, which may include houses of worship, newspapers, schools, insurance societies, and fraternal organizations, but may not have any of these institutional structures at all. What seems necessary, moreover, for the immigrant generation is not necessarily needed by its more assimilated children. If they want to retain ethnicity at all, the second and later generations may take the ethnic group in other directions that represent needs and goals more appropriate to the lives of those who are not foreign to, but instead at home in, a new society.


Ethnic Identity Immigrant Group American History Host Society Asian American Woman 
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Suggestions for Further Reading

  1. Alejandro Portes and Rubén Rumbaut, Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  2. Elizabeth Pleck, Celebrating the Family: Ethnicity, Consumer Culture, and Family Rituals (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  3. John J. Bukowczyk, And My Children Did Not Know Me: A History of Polish Americans (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  4. Mary C. Waters, Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  5. Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life: The Role of Race, Religion, and National Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).Google Scholar
  6. Richard Alba, Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  7. Stephen Cornell and Douglas Hartman, Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World (Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press, 1998).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David A. Gerber and Alan M. Kraut 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Gerber
  • Alan M. Kraut

There are no affiliations available

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