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Segmented Assimilation Theory: A Reformulation and Empirical Test

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionXie, Yu, and Emily Greenman. 2005. "Segmented Assimilation Theory: A Reformulation and Empirical Test." PSC Research Report No. 05-581. August 2005.

Segmented assimilation theory has been a popular explanation for the diverse experiences of assimilation among new waves of immigrants and their children. In this paper, we review the theory as it is currently articulated in the literature and propose a more restricted reformulation of the theory that yields sharp, empirically falsifiable hypotheses. Our reformulation is based on the idea that segmented assimilation theory is really about the differential outcomes of micro-level assimilation behaviors, depending on macro-level social conditions. We then test the empirical implications of the revised theory with respect to the well-being of immigrant children, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. Our empirical analyses yield two main findings. First, for immigrant adolescents living in non-poverty neighborhoods, we find assimilation to be positively associated with educational achievement and psychological well-being but also positively associated with at-risk behavior. Second, there is little empirical evidence supporting our reformulation of segmented assimilation. We interpret these results to mean that future research would be more fruitful focusing on differential processes of assimilation rather than differential consequences of assimilation.

Country of focus: United States.

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