Looking Down or Looking Up: Status and Subjective Well-Being among Asian and Latino Immigrants in the United States


  • This article has benefited from the helpful advice of Edward Telles, Delia Baldassarri, Sara McLanahan, and Douglas Massey, as well as participants in Princeton's Joint Degree Program in Inequality seminar. The author is grateful for support from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.


Foundational theories of international migration rest on the assumption that immigrants maintain reference groups in their country of origin even after settling in a new place, while the transnationalism perspective suggests that immigrants maintain a dual frame of reference. This article uses the nationally representative National Latino and Asian American Survey to test the location of immigrants’ reference groups. I find that the relationship between various measures of subjective social standing and subjective well-being suggests that immigrants maintain simultaneous reference groups in both the United States and the country of origin, supporting transnational theories, and refuting earlier theories.