From Multi-Racial Subjects to Multi-Cultural Citizens: Racial and Ethnic Identification and the Incorporation of the Immigrant Second Generation in the United Kingdom

Christel Kesler, Columbia University
Luisa Farah Schwartzman, University of Toronto

This study explores the relationship between “objective” immigrant ancestry and racial and ethnic self-identification in the United Kingdom, and how this relationship is mediated by socioeconomic factors. We identify the immigrant second generation in 1971 using information on parents’ and grandparents’ places of birth, and then examine how this second generation identifies in adulthood 30 years later. Findings suggest that one’s own education, particularly higher education, has an “ethnicizing” effect for those whose parents originated in both European and non-European countries, but parental SES only affects identification among children of immigrants from outside of Europe, and in this case, high-SES origins are “de-ethnicizing.” We argue based on these findings that well-to-do members of both groups use ethnicity as a symbolic identity, but inherited racial hierarchies are still prevalent among immigrants from the Global South.

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Presented in Session 159: Demography of Multiple Race Populations: New Research