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Racial Conflict and Ethnic Issues in the United States: The Melting Pot and the Color Line

Publication Abstract

Farley, Reynolds. "Racial Conflict and Ethnic Issues in the United States: The Melting Pot and the Color Line." PSC Research Report No. 91-224. July 1991.

This essay briefly reviews the status of racial and ethnic groups in the United States at present in an attempt to describe what has been accomplished in terms of assimilation and what remains to be done. Questions about the future of studies of race and ethnicity as an important focus of sociological inquiry have been raised in recent years. In order to address such questions, it is necessary to have a base of information about the contemporary status of racial and ethnic groups, a data base which the main body of this paper provides.

To describe the country's racial and ethnic composition, the paper uses answers to the Spanish-origin, race and ancestry questions in the Census of 1980. Descriptive statistics are offered as indicators of patterns of assimilation.

While the author recognizes that social science forecasts are often inaccurate, trends from this century will strongly influence what occurs in the next. In an effort to discern these trends, social scientists are likely to focus on two areas. First, thanks to the availability of new data and many developments in both modeling and data processing, we have an increasing ability to monitor racial and ethnic trends, such as residential segregation, earning, occupational achievement and attitudes about government policy. Second, we may see a reexamination of our theories. If many Asians and Latin Americans are assimilated, Park's theories of assimilation may be reformulated and refined for the twenty-first century. If the black-white color lines persist, we may see the further development of theories which seek to explain this racial divide, perhaps building upon ideas of racial formation or emergent ethnicity. Also, because of differential gains between the sexes within racial minority groups, the most provocative social theories to emerge in the future may be those which simultaneously explain gender, ethnic and racial change.

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