Are Black Immigrants A Model Minority: Race, Ethnicity and Social Mobility in the United States
Morrison, Mosi A.
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Social science research has consistently documented that Afro Caribbeans outperform African Americans in terms of labor market outcomes and socioeconomic status. Explanations for these disparities have typically focused on the human capital and cultural differences between the two groups. Unfortunately, these explanations do not consider how racial dynamics might shape these disparities. Thus, the primary goal of this dissertation is to systematically investigate the roles of human capital, culture and racial dynamics in influencing socioeconomic disparities between African Americans and Afro Caribbeans in the United States. In order to do this, I draw upon data from the National Survey of American Life, which includes a representative sample of whites (N=1,006), African Americans (N=3,570) and the first national oversample of Afro Caribbeans (N=1,623). First, I assess the role of immigrant selectivity. Next, I examine the degree to which black ethnic disparities are a result of Afro Caribbeans having higher levels of model minority cultural attitudes and behaviors than African Americans. Finally, I explore the role of US race relations. I find that attributes associated with immigrant selectivity and attitudes and behaviors associated with being a model minority explain as much as 20 percent of the black ethnic disparities. Unexpectedly, controlling for these factors often results in an increase in black ethnic disparities. Finally, I find that as much as 54 percent of the disparity is due to the labor market rewarding these two groups differently for having the same levels of the attributes under study. I offer, the differential racialization thesis as a possible motive or explanation for this differential treatment. Specifically I argue that despite having the same racial phenotype, African Americans and Afro Caribbeans are racialized differently in the US. Accordingly, employers are less critical and more accepting of Afro Caribbeans than they are of African Americans. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for our understanding of race, ethnicity and social mobility.