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Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Previous research on spatial assimilation has described ethnic enclaves as places withmany recently arrived immigrants and fewer socioeconomic resources. As immigrants become more assimilated, they move to more affluent neighborhoods in proximity to Anglos. However, recent studies on resurgent ethnicity challenge the idea of the spatial assimilation by suggesting that Asian immigrants and subsequent generations continue to live near co-ethnics, despite gaining socioeconomic status. The transition from traditional ethnic enclaves to resurgent ethnic communities or ‘ethnoburbs’ indicate shifting understandings of what ethnic communities mean to Asian Americans. Although, Asian Americans are, on average, attaining higher socioeconomic status, the emergent importance of ethnic communities may still offer a social and physical space for engaging with ethnic practices. This indicates that Asian Americans are finding pathways to assimilation that allow them to retain their ethnic practices. Spatial assimilation theory remains important when considering Asian American residential patterns. However, weakening links between suburbanization and acculturation, weakening native-born advantages, and the growth of suburban Asian communities indicate that Asian Americans may not fit as neatly into the spatial assimilation model as previously thought. As the population of second-generation Asian Americans grows, understanding how they engage with ethnic practices has broader implications for understanding assimilation within an American mainstream which embraces ethnic distinctions. This research addresses the question: How do contemporary ethnic communities contribute to ethnic practices of second-generation Asian Americans?

I interviewed 20 second-generation Asian Americans and found that ethnic communities shaped how they were able to engage and maintain ethnic practices in a way that still allowed them to belong to the American mainstream. Many described that as they found ethnic communities, they felt a renewed sense of desire to reconnect with their ethnic practices and gained confidence in what it means to be Asian. However, moving forward many are looking for more diverse communities and see the importance of racial and cultural diversity in their friend groups and neighborhoods. Future research should expand the study population to include considerations for how Asian Americans, who are unable to assimilate, may engage with ethnic practices given their ethnic communities, or lack thereof. It is especially important to consider how those who are low income and have low socioeconomic status engage with ethnic practices in ways that do or do not lead to upward mobility and assimilation.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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