Intermarriage and the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnic Identity and Human Capital for Mexican Americans

Brian Duncan, University of Colorado, Denver
Stephen Trejo, University of Texas at Austin

We investigate whether selective intermarriage and endogenous ethnic identification interact to hide some of the intergenerational progress achieved by the Mexican-origin population in the United States. Using microdata from the Current Population Survey, we analyze the extent and selectivity of ethnic attrition among second-generation Mexican-American adults and among U.S.-born Mexican-American youth. In particular, we directly assess the influence of endogenous ethnicity by comparing an “objective” indicator of Mexican descent (based on the countries of birth of the respondent and his parents and grandparents) with the standard “subjective” measure of Mexican self-identification (based on the respondent’s answer to the Hispanic origin question). For third-generation Mexican-American youth, we show that ethnic attrition is substantial and could produce significant downward bias in standard measures of attainment which rely on ethnic self-identification rather than objective indicators of Mexican ancestry.

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Presented in Session 175: Structural Influences on Race/Ethnic Identification