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Ethnic Identities, Language, and Economic Outcomes Among Dominicans in a New Destination


  • * Direct correspondence to Leif Jensen, Pennsylvania State University, 110B Armsby Building, University Park, PA 16802-6211 〈〉. Support for this research was provided by Russell Sage Foundation Project # 88-04-01, “Context, Identities, and Economic Outcomes: A Pilot Study of Dominicans in Reading, Pennsylvania.” Infrastructural support and funding for a special U.S. Census tabulation were provided by the Population Research Institute at Penn State, which has core funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD041025-03). Copies of computer code and printout are available on request. Confidentiality protection precludes dissemination of the survey data. We thank Robin Leon, Nancy Quiñónez, Eva-María Suárez Budenbender, Jason De León, Carlos Nye, Rob Griffin, and Amanda Martínez for invaluable fieldwork assistance. We thank Brett Lewis, Survey Research Center, Penn State, for his capable computer programming assistance. Remaining errors are our own.


Objective. This study examines how racial/ethnic self-identity interrelates with language ability, skin tone, and years in the United States and with indicators of socioeconomic attainment for Dominican immigrants in Reading, Pennsylvania, a new destination city that had a nearly 800 percent increase in the Dominican population between 1990–2000.

Methods. In-depth ethno-surveys conducted with a sample of 65 Dominican-origin adults are the basis for the descriptive analysis.

Results. Based on open-ended responses, nearly 43 percent of immigrants described themselves with a specific ethnic identifier (Dominican) and 41 percent use a more general panethnic identifier (Hispanic or Latino). Panethnic self-identity is interrelated with stronger language ability, lighter skin tone, and more years in the United States, and with better indicators of socioeconomic status.

Conclusion. Race/ethnic identity is an important component of Dominican immigrant assimilation in this new destination context.