"Ethnic Identity" by Richard D.              Alba

Ethnic Identity The Transformation of White America Richard D. Alba

Publication date:
29 Jan 1992
Yale University Press
390 pages: 229 x 152mm

Ethnicity is a central theme of the American experience. In this book, Richard D. Alba examines the changing role of ethnicity in the lives of Americans from a broad range of European backgrounds. Alba shows that while the ethnic origins of white Americans have less and less import in such measurable areas as educational and occupational achievement and marriage, they are still salient in more subjective ways.
Using data from in-depth interviews with more than five hundred people, Alba examines the impact of ethnicity on food, friendships, organizational memberships, encounters with prejudice, and children's sense of identity. He shows how the specific ethnic backgrounds of white Americans have diminished in objective importance as intermarriage between Americans of different European origins increases and ethnically mixed ancestry becomes more prevalent. Ethnic identity among this group is increasingly symbolic, an attachment to a few cultural traditions, imposing little cost on everyday life. However, says Alba, ethnicity has emerged on the American scene in a new way with the formation of a new ethnic group based on ancestry from all parts of the European continent. This new group--which Alba calls the "European Americans"--has its own myths about its place in American history and its relation to the American identity. Its emergence has repercussions for racial minorities and new immigrant groups from Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

"An outstanding scholarly achievement that combines careful analysis of unique data with rigorous conceptualization and imaginative interpretations. It is a highly important contribution to our emerging understanding of the rapidly changing ethnic scene in American society."?Robin M. Williams, Jr., Henry Scarborough Professor of Social Science, Emeritus, Cornell University

"A major work on the dynamics and complexities of ethnic collectivities in American society. Analytically compelling, it has much to tell us, on both theoretical and empirical grounds, about the transformed meanings of ethnicity among white Americans."?Professor Robert K. Merton, Columbia University

"An important book about descendants of the original European immigrants."?Alan Wolfe, New Republic

"Excellent. . . . Does much to deflate claims that ethnic loyalties are a control factor in American politics."?Andrew Hacker, New York Review of Books

"It is a pleasant surprise to find a book about the ethnic identities of Americans of European descent. . . . A useful analysis of what white Americans think about their European origins, and the book is worth reading for that. . . . The findings of Prof. Alba's own research are always interesting and sometimes surprising."?Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance

"Sophisticated fieldwork and quantitative analysis."?Wilson Quarterly

"Alba has some important and startling news to tell about ethnic change."?Lawrence Auster, Chronicles

"Essential for the student of the ethnic experience."?Library Journal

"[Alba] moves beyond structural measures of socioeconomic status and intermarriage to explore what remains of ethnic identity, culture, and attachments among Americans of European ancestry."?Charles Hirschman, Contemporary Sociology

"[An] important book. . . . A major contribution. . . . Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America gives the results of the first survey of a random sample to be conducted specifically on the issue of ethnic identity among native-born, later-generation whites. While the book is grounded in this path-breaking survey, Alba also gives a terrific overview of theoretical approaches to ethnic identity and makes a new argument about the future of that ethnicity. . . . The complexity and importance of the research Alba has conducted as well as the accessibility of the writing and the topicality of the subject should ensure a wide audience for the book, including scholars in sociology, anthropology, political science, and American studies. No one who wants to understand contemporary American ethnicity should miss this ground-breaking work."?Mary C. Waters, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

"A substantial contribution to the literature of ethnicity in America."?Fred Rotondaro, International Migration Review

"Richard Alba's work Ethnic Identity provides an extraordinary amount of intriguing data."?Elliott Robert Barkan, Society

"A sociological study based on survey data from Albany, New York, Ethnic Identity asks what has happened to ethnicity as a viable and authentic experience among white Americans. . . . Alba's book seeks to make sense of the weakening of objective categories of ethnic behavior and the continuing significance attributed to it by Americans of immigrant origin. . . . Ethnic Identity offers a valuable addition to the literature and deserves the attention of historians and sociologists alike."?Hasia Diner, American Studies International

"Given that relatively little is written on American ethnicity using real data, this survey is a welcome addition to the fold. . . . This book provides considerable evidence that just when you think ethnicity is disappearing, it pops up in some other form as an important aspect of American identity."?William C. McCready, American Journal of Sociology

"Ethnic Identity should be required reading for all scholars of ethnicity and ethnic relations. It is a detailed and insightful investigation of the subjective aspects of ethnicity in a large segment of the American population. The findings and interpretations challenge previous theoretical frameworks, in particular, the assimilationist framework. The interpretations and speculations will add new grist to the growing and vigorous debate on ethnicity and its meaning and future in American society."?Gillian Stevens, Social Forces

"Let no one dare hold forth on ethnicity in America without reading Richard Alba's elegant and incisive book?an indispensable contribution to the current discussion of multiculturalism."?Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"[Alba] develops a strong and logical argument for the changes occurring in ethnic identity for the white community. This book will be of interest to investigators of ethnic relations."?Scott S. Keir, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

"An important book on the subject of ethnic diversity in America . . . Alba's book gives us a lot to think about."?Harold J. Abramson, Journal of American Ethnic History

"Thoroughly researched and well written."?Terry E. Huffman, Great Plains Sociologist