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Unformatted text preview: Article: “Testing Huntington: Is Hispanic Immigration a Threat to
Authors: Jack Citrin, Amy Lerman, Michael Murakami, and Kathryn
Issue: March 2007
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University Press at [email protected] . | | Articles Testing Huntington: Is Hispanic
Immigration a Threat to
Jack Citrin, Amy Lerman, Michael Murakami, and Kathryn Pearson Samuel Huntington argues that the sheer number, concentration, linguistic homogeneity, and other characteristic of Hispanic immigrants will erode the dominance of English as a nationally unifying language, weaken the country’s dominant cultural values, and
promote ethnic allegiances over a primary identiﬁcation as an American. Testing these hypotheses with data from the U.S. Census
and national and Los Angeles opinion surveys, we show that Hispanics acquire English and lose Spanish rapidly beginning with the
second generation, and appear to be no more or less religious or committed to the work ethic than native-born whites. Moreover, a
clear majority of Hispanics reject a purely ethnic identiﬁcation and patriotism grows from one generation to the next. At present,
a traditional pattern of political assimilation appears to prevail. thnic diversity married to a heightened consciousness of race, language, religion, or group culture
poses challenges to national unity.1 By celebrating
“difference,” identity politics raises questions about what
deﬁnes us as a nation. Immigration is the engine of increased diversity in contemporary nation-states. By stimulating a steady inﬂux of immigrants from Latin America
and Asia with high fertility rates, the Immigration and
Nationality Act of 1965 has transformed the ethnic composition of the United States. Increased assertiveness about
group identities in the aftermath of the civil rights movement and increased immigration has crushed the “liberal
expectancy” that modernization would overcome the divisiveness of ethnic ties.2 In this context, anxieties about the
national commitment to e pluribus unum have resurfaced.
Immigration reform is currently on the political agenda,
although there is no consensus about what approach to
What are the consequences for the country’s sense of
social solidarity and common identity? The burgeoning
literature on this topic can be divided into two camps: the E Jack Citrin is Professor of Political Science at University of
California, Berkeley ([email protected]). Amy Lerman
is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at University of
California, Berkeley ([email protected]). Michael
Murakami is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at University of California, Berkeley ([email protected])
and Kathryn Pearson is Assistant Professor Political Science
at University of Minnesota ([email protected]).
DOI: 10.1017/S1537592707070041 gloomy Cassandras who worry about the creation of a
balkanized “alien” nation and the sanguine Pollyannas who
say that we’ve been here before and that the experiences of
today’s immigrants will resemble those of their European
predecessors in the American melting pot.3
The latest entry in this debate is Samuel Huntington’s
highly publicized and much reviewed Who are We? Challenges to America’s National Identity. Huntington leans
strongly to the Cassandra end of the continuum. He
believes that American national identity is undergoing
destabilizing changes with threatening implications for
America’s national cohesion and capacity to articulate and
achieve collective goals. And he believes immigration from
Mexico is the main, though not the only, source of the
Huntington states that American identity is deﬁned not
by race or ethnicity but by the fusion of its democratic
political creed and an “Anglo-Protestant” culture that combines the English language, religious commitment, individualism, a strong work ethic, and a sense of obligation
“to try and create a heaven on earth.” 4 We were a people
deﬁned by pervasive adherence to these values. Who we
are and who we are becoming is unclear as America’s national
identity crumbles due to a loss of cultural unity.
Huntington delineates three speciﬁc threats to American national identity. As already noted, “the single most
immediate and most serious challenge to America’s traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing
immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico.” The sheer extent of immigration and high birth rates
among Latinos who share a language and religion and
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 31 | | Articles | Testing Huntington who are concentrated in the country’s southwest region
close to their country of origin means they will not assimilate like their European predecessors or Asian contemporaries. Huntington’s somber worst case scenario for the
future is that America will split into two de facto nations:
an English-speaking “Anglo-America” and a Spanishspeaking “Mexamerica” that, like Quebec in Canada,
regards itself as a distinct society.5
Immigration aside, identity politics and cultural relativism are a second threat, fueling a systematic assault on
the “Anglo-Protestant” culture by rejecting individualism
in the name of group rights. Finally, Huntington argues
that declining patriotism among the leading bureaucratic,
business, and intellectual elites in the United States is a
challenge to the country’s historic sense of its own uniqueness. The growing adherence of these groups to cosmopolitan values downplaying the signiﬁcance and validity
of national loyalty conﬂicts with the traditional patriotism of the overwhelming majority of the general public,
thereby undermining political trust and cohesion.
Huntington’s critics charge that it is wrong to claim AngloProtestant culture as the core of American national identity. Even if this were once true, American values and customs
have evolved as the country’s population has changed. In
Nathan Glazer’s phrase, “origins are overtaken by subsequent events.” A second line of criticism largely accepts
Huntington’s characterization of American identity, but
challenges the pessimistic prediction about the adaptability and assimilation of Hispanic immigrants.6 And if today’s
immigrants are moving to embrace fundamental American
customs and values, then the vision of a culture clash along
ethnic lines is overdrawn, if not wholly unfounded.
Our purpose is an empirical investigation of Huntington’s prognosis regarding the assimilation of Hispanic immigrants. As Peter Skerry (2005) points out, Huntington’s
critics ignore the fact that Huntington bases his argument
about the corrosive effects of Mexican immigration on
testable ideas about the interplay of cultural, structural,
and political factors.7 Here we outline his causal propositions regarding the impediments to assimilation and test
them with available data about the behavior, values, and
identiﬁcations of Hispanics in the United States. In so
doing, we evaluate the strength of the centrifugal forces
identiﬁed by Huntington and shed light on the political
interventions that may inﬂuence a sense of common
national identity.8 The article sidesteps the issues of whether
an “Anglo-Protestant” culture deﬁnes American identity,
whether the civic creed alone can sustain a nation’s sense
of community and solidarity, and whether assimilation is
beneﬁcial for immigrants and society as a whole. Its unique
contribution is to ground the debate over Huntington’s
prognosis about the consequences of demographic changes
projected to make Hispanics 25 percent of the United
States population by 2050 in a sustained empirical analysis of the integration of recent immigrants.
32 Perspectives on Politics What Is Assimilation?
To assimilate means to become similar to. This deﬁnition
leaves open the questions of who is being made similar to
whom, with regard to what, and how. In the context of
immigration, assimilation means the creation of greater
homogeneity in society through the attenuation of ethnic
differences. Change can be in more than one direction, of
course, and many commentators on the American melting pot argue that its cultural content changes as new
words become part of the common lexicon and new traditions penetrate mainstream popular culture. Huntington himself distinguishes between the melting pot and
tomato soup metaphors for American society. In the former case, immigrants change American culture by diluting the original ingredients in the pot; in the latter, the
tomato taste continues to dominate even as new spices are
sprinkled in. His preferred model of assimilation entails
adoption of the “American” way of life—learning English;
adhering to the Anglo-Protestant culture of religious commitment, individualism, and the work ethic; and identifying oneself psychologically as a patriotic American.
Although he refers brieﬂy to structural assimilation—
the large-scale entry of native minorities and immigrants
into the main economic and social institutions of the “host”
society through education, economic mobility, and
intermarriage—Huntington’s focus is cultural and political assimilation.9
If assimilation means the erosion of ethnic differences,
then by any deﬁnition it is a process that occurs over time.
The standard “straight line” hypothesis predicts that successive immigrant generations, whatever their national origins, will increasingly resemble the native-born Americans
of European, or, in Huntington’s case, Anglo-Protestant
origin, who are the presumed carriers of mainstream
national values.10 In other words, assimilated thirdgeneration Hispanic Americans should be more similar to
native-born whites than to recent immigrants from Latin
America, and the same should be true for individuals with
ancestry from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and so forth.
Huntington’s claim is that the assimilation of people of
Mexican ancestry will be substantially less widespread and
slower than for individuals from other nations. If Huntington is right, then when Americans of Hispanic and
other origins are compared, even among the second and
third generations the Hispanics should be less likely to be
monolingual in English, less committed to the individualist ethos of self-reliance and hard work, less likely to
identify themselves as Americans, and less patriotic. Huntington’s Theory of Mexican
Although large-scale immigration of individuals from different cultures is an obvious challenge to the sense of shared
identity that is the foundation of nationhood, America | | has faced this challenge before and successfully absorbed
diverse groups of newcomers. Huntington, however,
emphasizes the contingency of cultural change as it applies
to the future trajectory of Mexican immigrants. Assimilation, in the sense of the attenuation of distinctions based
on ethnicity or natural origin, is not inevitable. Patterns
of communication and socialization affect assimilation,
and the relative weight of pro and anti-assimilation forces—
cultural, structural, and political—might vary across groups
and over time.
To begin, the cultural similarity between an immigrant
group and the mainstream should affect the ease and speed
of assimilation. Huntington posits a wide gulf between
the dominant values of an individualistic, Protestant America and a family-centered, Catholic Mexico. But even if
this cultural divergence exists, it resembles the value conﬂict between immigrants from Catholic Italy and AngloProtestants a century ago, and that conﬂict seemingly was
dissolved by assimilation. So why should Huntington
believe that Mexican immigrants will deviate from this
One important reason he offers is that today’s immigrant wave is much less diverse than in the past. More
than half of today’s immigrants come from Spanishspeaking countries and so arguably have less of an incentive to learn English than the polyglot immigrants who
rubbed shoulders in the cities a century ago. And Huntington identiﬁes a number of additional structural factors that inﬂuence the persistence of cultural differences
and impede political assimilation:
• Immigrants come from a contiguous country, making it easier to travel back and forth and retain ties to
their country of origin;
• The persistence of the migratory ﬂow provides continuous inputs of traditional values and customs;
• A large number of illegal Mexican immigrants are
unwilling or unable to participate in mainstream social
and political institutions;
• The concentration of Hispanic immigration in enclaves near the Mexican border reinforces the capacity to sustain a social and economic life conducted in
Huntington thus posits a negative relationship between
the persistence of ethnic enclaves and assimilation. The
concentration of Mexican immigrants in enclaves near the
border will facilitate the maintenance of the Spanish language and traditional “Mexican” values, as will the increased
availability of newspapers and television in that language,
school segregation, and the dominance of ethnically homogeneous friendships. On the other hand, dispersion, residential mobility, and contact with other ethnic groups
enhance the need to learn English as well as new norms
and values. Politics—laws, institutions, and practices—inﬂuence the
costs and beneﬁts, and therefore the ease, of assimilation.
The Americanization movement of the early twentieth
century expedited assimilation by insisting on Englishonly education. The restrictive immigration laws of 1921
and 1924 also made assimilation more likely by interrupting the inﬂow of people still rooted in their original
cultures. On the other hand, formal and informal discrimination both impede structural assimilation and undermine the desire of immigrants to identify with the host
country. In this regard, the passage and enforcement of
civil rights legislation were forces for assimilation.12
Huntington argues that current political trends are, on
balance, hostile to assimilation. The incentive to naturalize
is reduced by laws and court decisions that have diminished the legal and welfare beneﬁts of citizenship. The ofﬁcial policy of turning a blind eye to dual citizenship allows
immigrants to divide their political attention and loyalties.
Bilingual education and a multicultural curriculum mean
that public schools are no longer promoting national identity or patriotism.13 It is unfashionable if not retrograde in
most intellectual circles today to defend Americanization,
prompting Nathan Glazer to write in 1997 that assimilation has become a “dirty word.” And once the normative
pressure to identify as an American is reduced, it should
not be surprising if immigrants make less of an effort to
assimilate. Identity politics pushes in the direction of ethnic mobilization rather than national identiﬁcation and the
presence of large numbers of immigrants in what once were
Mexican territories fosters an irredentist ideology claiming
these areas as legitimately Mexican, not American.14
Huntington’s analysis implicitly rests on a theory of
how incentives and patterns of social contacts, crossethnic interactions, and communication ﬂows inﬂuence
value change. While many critics simply dismiss his argument as wrong-headed, the underlying presuppositions
are plausibly grounded in social psychology and resemble
those laid out by Karl Deutsch in his seminal Nationalism
and Social Communication. 15 The fundamental empirical
issue, then, is whether the forces hypothesized to work
against assimilation are sufﬁcient to overcome the inclusive power of American political norms and popular culture that facilitated assimilation in the past. In addressing
this, we return to the question of “assimilation to what.”
Here one can distinguish between “thin” assimilation, consisting of speaking English, supporting America’s constitutional ideals, and psychological identiﬁcation as an
American “ﬁrst” or “thick” assimilation, which additionally involves, in Huntington’s view, religious convictions
and adherence to the Protestant ethic.16 In the following
analysis we attempt to cover both bases, but are handicapped by the surprising lack of data regarding acceptance
of cultural as opposed to political values. As a result, we
concentrate on language use, self-identiﬁcation, and patriotism. This is a signiﬁcant task not just for considering
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 33 | | Articles | Testing Huntington the status of American national identity but in terms of
the potential implications for understanding the underpinnings of immigrant integration elsewhere. Clearly,
globalization and multiculturalism are challenging the
nation-state in Western Europe as well as in the United
States. Data and Method
The most recent information from the U.S. Census largely
conﬁrms Huntington’s portrayal of the pattern of immigration into the United States. Growth in the Hispanic
population accounts for almost half of the country’s total
population growth, and about one in seven individuals
now claim Hispanic ethnicity.17 The inﬂux of newcomers
continues to be heavily Mexican in origin, with an unprecedented forty percent of recent immigrants coming from
Mexico alone. In addition, the relative youth and higher
birth rates among recent Mexican immigrants are sustaining the increase in the size of the Latino segment of the
U.S. polity. On the other hand, Huntington does not
analyze the 2000 Census data showing that over the 1990s
(and beyond) Hispanics were dispersing throughout the
nation and moving into more integrated neighborhoods.18
In light of these trends, testing Huntington’s views
about the political implications of Mexican immigration
is more relevant than ever, but is it feasible? Data limitations present one formidable obstacle. Empirical analysis
of Huntington’s assertions sometimes entails comparing
Mexican immigrants to other Hispanic newcomers, sometimes to contemporary migrants from Asia and elsewhere, and sometimes to earlier European immigrants in
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. U.S. Census data
are a logical source for these comparisons, but the Census only provides indicators of language use, as well as
measures of structural assimilation such as occupation,
residential context, education, and intermarriage. No political variables are included. Moreover, Census deﬁnitions
of ethnicity have shifted over time, and, even more signiﬁcantly, recent Censuses do not permit disaggregation
of the population into more than two full immigrant
generations (the ﬁrst and all subsequent generations), a
necessity for the study of assimilation over time. Public
opinion surveys are a potential source of evidence about
cultural and political assimilation, but as yet there exists
neither an extended time series nor samples that include
large enough numbers of the relevant immigrant groups
to enable one to track and compare trajectories of
Knowledge about the implications of today’s immigration for the future of American national identity can only
derive from knowledge of generations to come. The second and third generation immigrants in current surveys
are not the offspring of the immigrants fully exposed to
the demographic, economic, and political forces to which
34 Perspectives on Politics Huntington assigns causal signiﬁcance. Solid inferences
about the future and about trends over time cannot be
based on cross-sectional data. Huntington could always,
and not unfairly, discount evidence of assimilation now
by saying that he is talking about now plus thirty years.
And even if one established that the grandchildren of late
twentieth century Latino immigrants did not replicate the
behavior of their historical counterparts whose families
migrated a hundred years earlier, it would be unclear
whether this was because the ﬁrst generation of the two
sets of immigrants differed in values and other resources
or because of differences in the economic, technological,
or political environment. Jennifer Hochschild adds that
prediction in this domain is “a fool’s game” because the
future will be partly controlled by unforeseeable policy
choices.19 In 1960, no scholar would have predicted the
ethnic composition of the United States in 2000, because
this outcome was largely due to the unanticipated consequences of immigration reform.
Nevertheless, some bets are safer than others. Another
forty-year interruption in the ﬂow of immigrants like the
one beginning in the 1920s is unlikely to occur. Due to
ethnic differences in age and family size, the growth in the
Hispanic portion of the population should continue even
if new policies stem the tide of Mexican immigration.
And there is no sign that the ofﬁcial embrace of cultural
diversity as an ideal is loosening. This suggests that the
ceteris paribus assumption required in projecting the future
from contemporary data has some merit. In particular,
evidence about the relatively young component of the
current second generation of Latino immigrants, those
thirty and under at the turn of the twenty-ﬁrst century,
should have probative value given that this group was
socialized during the period of massive Mexican immigration and political multiculturalism that has animated
Accordingly, we rely on evidence from the Pew Hispanic Center’s Latino Surveys conducted in 2002 and 2004,
the Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard
University Latino Survey conducted in 1999, the American National Election Studies (ANES), the 1994 General
Social Survey (GSS), and the Los Angeles County Social
Surveys (LACSS) conducted by UCLA from 1994 through
2002. The 2002 Kaiser/Pew Latino Survey and the 2004
Pew National Survey of Hispanics: Politics and Civic Participation are both national random-digit dialed (RDD)
telephone surveys of Latinos 18 and older, highly stratiﬁed with geographically disproportionate oversamples. The
surveys were administered in either English or Spanish, at
the discretion of the respondent. The Hispanic samples
are broken down by country of origin and include 2,929
Hispanic respondents in 2002 and 2,288 in 2004. The
2002 survey includes a comparison sample of 1,008 nonHispanic whites and 171 black respondents. The Washington Post/Kaiser/Harvard Latino Survey was conducted | | by the ICR Survey Research Group and is a stratiﬁed,
disproportionate RDD national sample of adults 18 and
over. Respondents included approximately 2,500 whites,
550 blacks, 60 Asians, and 1,010 Latinos. The wellknown NES and GSS are national surveys conducted by
the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan and the National Opinion Research Center at the
University of Chicago respectively.
The continuing salience of ethnicity in Los Angeles, an
extraordinarily diverse community, makes the LACSS particularly useful for studying the interplay between national
and ethnic identities. Perhaps most importantly, Los Angeles County is a population center in the area of the country where Huntington fears anti-assimilation pressures are
strongest.20 It is close to the Mexican border, whites are a
minority of its population, its Hispanic population is overwhelmingly Mexican in origin, and identity politics in
Los Angeles is so potent that the city often is described as
an “ethnic cauldron” (Sears et al. 1999). The LACSS is a
random-digit-dialed, computer-assisted telephone survey
of a representative sample of adults living in Los Angeles
County. By pooling surveys from various years it is possible to obtain a sufﬁcient number of respondents from
minority groups for multivariate analysis. It is also possible to sub-divide Hispanic respondents according to their
nativity and citizenship status. Forever English?
Notwithstanding Churchill’s quip that the United States
and England are two countries separated by a common
language, learning English has always been a marker of
belonging to America. Indeed, the combination of ethnic
heterogeneity and linguistic homogeneity distinguishes the
American experience with immigration. Until now, the
vast majority of third generation immigrants, whatever
their country of origin, have become monolingual in
English, and language use has been widely regarded as
essential for social acceptance and economic mobility
whether one advocates “thin” or “thick” assimilation.21
Huntington acknowledges that Hispanic immigrants generally learn English. What concerns him is the continued
use of Spanish, particularly in areas bordering Mexico. He
worries that the ongoing inﬂux of Spanish speakers and
the emergence of bilingual enclaves will undermine
America’s cultural and political unity.
What is the evidence regarding language use and the
political implications of bilingualism? Recent U.S. Censuses ask people whether they speak only English at home.
Those who say they speak another language are then asked
how well they speak English. Figure 1 reports the proportions who either speak only English or speak English very
well in the 1980 and 2000 Censuses, with residents grouped
both by their ancestral country of origin and whether they
are foreign-born, native-born living with immigrant par- ent, or native-born living outside an immigrant household. Immigrants and their offspring from Englishspeaking countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, Great
Britain, Jamaica, and India are omitted from the analysis.
Both the 1980 and 2000 Census data show that knowledge of English is much lower among residents born in
Mexico than among any other immigrant group. In the
2000 Census, only 24 percent of Mexican immigrants say
they speak only English or speak English very well, compared to 39 percent of other Hispanic immigrants and 40
percent of immigrants from China, Korea, Japan, or Vietnam. However, the children of Mexican immigrants learn
English quickly. In the 2000 Census, 50 percent of the
native-born living in households of Mexican-born immigrants either spoke only English or spoke English very
well. This intergenerational rate of linguistic assimilation
among the offspring of Mexican immigrants surpassed that
of every other immigrant group. And ethnic differences in
English-speaking ability continue to diminish between generations. When one compares those in the “all other” category in ﬁgure 1, a group that includes both adult second
generation immigrants and third or fourth generation
immigrants, the gap between people of Mexican ancestry
and others is very small: 86 percent of those with families
originally from Mexico speak only English or speak English
very well, compared to 94 percent of people of Asian origin.
Moreover, the data from the 1980 and 2000 Censuses
are virtually identical. Indeed, contra Huntington, the pace
of linguistic assimilation among recent Mexican immigrants seems to be more rapid than in the past. The 25
percent increase in English-speaking ability between Mexican immigrants and their native-born offspring living at
home reported in the 2000 Census is seven percent greater
than the equivalent generational change reported in 1980.
Two decades of steady, large-scale immigration in a geographically concentrated area has not slowed the rate of
linguistic assimilation among those of Mexican ancestry.
Mexican immigrants may know less English than newcomers from other countries when they arrive in the United
States, but the trajectory of their progeny’s assimilation
resembles that of their European predecessors of a century
ago, and their rate of linguistic assimilation is on par with
or greater than those of other contemporary immigrant
The 2002 and 2004 Pew National Survey of Latinos
contained a battery of questions about language use. These
surveys also permit a more reﬁned differentiation between
ﬁrst, second, and third generation residents than is possible with Census data. To measure language use, we constructed a Language Dominance Index based upon four
questions asking how comfortable respondents felt both
reading and speaking English and Spanish, respectively.22
Respondents were considered “English dominant” if they
indicated high proﬁciency in English and were substantially more comfortable using English than Spanish,
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 35 | | Articles | Testing Huntington Figure 1
Linguistic assimilation of Mexican and other immigrants Bars indicate the percentages who speak only English at home or who speak English “very well.”
“All Others” indicates all respondents of a given ancestry who are neither foreign-born nor of the second generation living with
*Other Latino includes those of South American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban ancestry.
**Asian includes those of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese ancestry. Indians were excluded due to the extremely high
English proficiency among first-generation immigrants.
***European (non-English speaking) includes those of German, Italian, Polish, and Russian ancestry.
Source: Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, 1980 and 2000 Census 1% samples. “Spanish dominant” if they displayed the opposite pattern, and “Bilingual” if they were equally comfortable
speaking both languages.
Table 1 describes the pattern of language use among
Hispanics, grouped by age, education, and residential context within generations. The dominant ﬁnding is the linguistic assimilation of Hispanic immigrants from one
generation to the next, regardless of age, educational attainment, or the ethnic makeup of their residential environment.23 Only 6 percent of ﬁrst generation immigrants are
English dominant, compared to 32 percent of the second
generation and 71 percent of third generation Hispanics,
only 2 percent of whom are Spanish dominant. Interestingly, the impact of age within immigrant generations is
quite weak, but it is notable that the younger members of
the second generation, those socialized in the post-1970
era of more immigration and burgeoning multiculturalism in public policy, are no more likely to be bilingual
36 Perspectives on Politics than the older members of that immigrant generation.
This ﬁnding runs counter to Huntington’s suggestion that
the retention of Spanish is on the rise. Within the second
generation, there is some evidence of “segmented” assimilation, with 24 percent of those lacking a high school
education remaining Spanish dominant compared to just
3 percent of those who had attended college. By the third
generation, however, the connection between language use
and educational attainment is greatly attenuated. These
survey-based data conform to the results of recent sociological analyses of census data in Alba and Nee and Bean
and Stevens, but with the advantage of the ability to distinguish among ﬁrst, second, and third generations.24
Huntington correctly predicted that living in a community with a high concentration of other Hispanics makes
it easier for third generation immigrants to retain knowledge of Spanish. In the third generation, virtually no
one is Spanish dominant regardless of where they live. | | Table 1
Language use among Hispanics
Language Dominance (%)
1st generation 2nd generation 3rd generation Educational attainment
1st generation 2nd generation 3rd generation Hispanic concentration*
1st generation 2nd generation 3rd generation Bilingual Spanish
Dominant Chi-Square Total N 7
1,113 Less than HS
HS or GED
More than HS
Less than HS
HS or GED
More than HS
Less than HS
HS or GED
More than HS
50% and more
50% and more
50% and more
565 18–29 years
55 years +
55 years +
55 years +
Total Source: Pooled 2002 Kaiser/Pew Latino Survey and Pew 2004 National Survey of Latinos.
*Hispanic concentration refers to the percent of respondents’ county population that was Hispanic according to the 2000 U.S.
Census. Source for this portion is the 2002 Kaiser/Pew Latino Survey only.
* significant at p < .05; ** at p < .01; *** at p < .001. However, 40 percent of third generation Hispanics living
in counties with more than 50 percent Hispanic residents are bilingual, compared to 13 percent of their counterparts living in counties with less than 10 percent
Hispanics. Learning English is virtually inevitable for the children
and grandchildren of immigrants. On the other hand,
retaining one’s “original” language may be a separate phenomenon with different underpinnings. To analyze and
compare the determinants of the two processes more
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 37 | | Articles | Testing Huntington Table 2
Predictors of English acquisition and
Percent Hispanic in County
10 to 25
25 to 50
50 to 100
Cox & Snell R Squared
−2 Log Likelihood
N Bilingual v.
1,129 Question wording:
The following four questions were used to construct the language dominance measure:
1) “Would you say you can carry on a conversation in Spanish, both understanding and speaking—very well, pretty well,
just a little, or not at all?”
2) “Would you say you can read a newspaper or book in
Spanish—very well, pretty well, just a little, or not at all?”
3) “Would you say you can carry on a conversation in English,
both understanding and speaking—very well, pretty well, just
a little, or not at all?”
4) “Would you say you can read a newspaper or book in
English—very well, pretty well, just a little or not at all?”
* significant at p < .05; ** at p < .01; *** at p < .001.
Source: Kaiser/Pew Latino Survey 2002. rigorously, we conducted multivariate analyses of the 2002
Pew sample of Hispanic respondents. Two separate equations are estimated and the results reported in table 2. The
ﬁrst (column 1 in table 2) estimates the effects of various
background factors on being bilingual rather than Spanish dominant; the second (column 2) of being English
dominant rather than bilingual. Because the dependent
variables are dichotomous, logistic regression models are
estimated. The predictors in these models are age, education, and income and their inclusion helps control for
38 Perspectives on Politics variation in some of the factors that affect initial knowledge of English as well as later opportunities and ability to
learn it. To estimate generational effects, dummy variables
for being in the second or third generation are included
(ﬁrst generation is the excluded category). To test
Huntington’s suggestion that Mexican immigration is
unique, we add a dummy variable for being of Mexican
ancestry (vis-à-vis other Hispanics). If he is correct, then it
should yield a negative and statistically signiﬁcant coefﬁcient, signifying that Mexicans do use English less than
Hispanics from other countries. Residential context (the
percentage of the population in the respondent’s county
that is Hispanic, assessed by dummy variables with less
than 10 percent Hispanic as the baseline category) is
included as a predictor in the model to determine whether
the concentration of Hispanics in ethnic enclaves diminishes the probability of learning English or facilitates the
retention of Spanish among people who can speak English.
The coefﬁcients in the ﬁrst column of table 2 are additional evidence that the dominant use of Spanish by Hispanics declines rapidly from one generation to the next.
Controlling for age, education, income, and residential
context, second and third generation Hispanics are much
more likely than immigrants to speak English well. The
elderly are more likely than younger Hispanics to speak
Spanish, while more formal education is a major factor in
feeling comfortable speaking and reading English. The
signiﬁcant coefﬁcient for the Mexican dummy variable
conﬁrms that those of Mexican ancestry are more likely to
be Spanish dominant than Hispanics from other countries. Finally, the fact that the coefﬁcients for the residential context dummy variables all are statistically insigniﬁcant
indicates that the process of learning English is unaffected
by the number of Spanish speakers in one’s residential
environment. The background of the Hispanic residents
matter, but even so, English acquisition is pervasive.
The results for the equation estimating the likelihood
of being bilingual rather than monolingual in English are
somewhat different (see column 2 in table 2). Second and
third generation Hispanics are much less likely to retain
use of Spanish than immigrants, as is well known, and the
loss of Spanish-speaking ability is unaffected by the age,
education, or income of these cohorts. Bilingualism is more
widespread among Hispanics of Mexican ancestry. However, residential context only fosters retention of Spanish
among Hispanics living in counties where more than half
the population is of like ethnicity, and this group comprises only 13 percent of the nation’s Hispanic population
(as calculated from 2000 Census data). The integration of
Hispanic immigrants into the American mainstream, a
process enhanced by their growing geographic dispersion,
seems to diminish the proportion of those ﬂuent in Spanish.
Attitudes toward language policy as well as current patterns of language use are relevant for assessing the future
status of English in American society. If support for | | Table 3
Public opinion on language policy
3rd generation +
= 5,131) Bilingual
Favor Oppose 48.5%
= 2,829) Teaching Classes
Some in Native
Language All Classes in
English 58.6% 41.4%
(N = 1,703) 64.7 35.3
(N = 958) 53.1 46.9
(N = 135) 73.5 26.5
(N = 1,542) 77.5 22.5
(N = 1,056) 65.9 34.1
(N = 279) 60.4 39.6
(N = 164) 64.7 35.3
(N = 4,491) Question wording:
“Do you favor a law making English the official language of the United States, meaning government business would be conducted
in English only, or do you oppose such a law?”
“How do you feel about bilingual education? Are you strongly in favor of it, somewhat in favor of it, somewhat opposed to it, or
strongly opposed to it?” (Responses strongly and somewhat in favor were combined and responses somewhat and strongly
opposed were combined.)
“There are several different ideas about how to teach children who don’t speak English when they enter our public schools. Please
tell me which of the following statements best describes how you feel: all classes should be conducted only in English, have classes
in their native language just for a year or two until they learn English, or many classes should be in Spanish or other languages all
the way through high school?”
Source: 1994–2000 LACSS. Spanish acquiring the status of an ofﬁcial language becomes
widespread as Hispanic immigration continues to grow,
for example, Huntington’s specter of a Quebec-like Mexamerica gains some credence. Prior research predictably
shows that Hispanics are more hostile than other ethnic
groups towards “English-only” policies.25 Support for bilingualism in education and other government programs provide an opportunity to express a psychological attachment
to their ethnic roots. This symbolic dimension of language policy preferences brings one closer to the cultural
values, attachments, and identiﬁcations of primary concern to Huntington. On the other hand, linguistic minorities generally accept that English is the country’s common
language and that learning English is essential for getting
ahead economically in the United States.
The Los Angeles County Social Surveys (LACSS) from
1994–2000 asked three questions about language policy:
whether or not English should be the ofﬁcial language of
the United States, the degree of support for bilingual
education, and whether or not classes in public schools should all be taught only in English or not (see table 3).
Pooling these surveys permits comparison of the policy
preferences of Hispanics, both immigrants and nativeborn, with those of whites, blacks, and Asians. In addition, the vast majority of Hispanic respondents in the
LACSS are of Mexican ancestry, the group of most concern to Huntington.
The results reveal both signiﬁcant ethnic differences
and the potency of assimilative forces. Hispanics, by far
more than any other group, oppose declaring English as
the ofﬁcial language of the country, favor bilingual education, and believe that at least some classes should be taught
in a student’s native language. However, these positions
ﬁnd their strongest support among ﬁrst generation immigrants. By the third generation, Hispanics’ preferences on
these issues more closely resemble those of whites and
blacks than those of ﬁrst generation Hispanic immigrants.
Particularly striking is the ﬁnding that third-generation
Hispanics are slightly more likely to oppose bilingual education and believe that all classes should be taught in
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 39 | | Articles | Testing Huntington English than are blacks with no particular attachment to
Spanish or any other foreign language.
Because the pooled LACSS sample includes relatively
few respondents interviewed in Spanish, these results probably are skewed in the direction of support for according
symbolic status to English.26 But the fact that the linguistically unassimilated, who we know are relatively new to
the United States, understandably are more supportive of
bilingualism does not undermine the points that generational change is occurring and that the trend is toward
agreement that English should be the nation’s common
language. The 1996 GSS found that more than 85 percent of the Hispanics in their national sample agreed that
speaking English was very or fairly important for making
someone a “true American.” 27 Moreover, the 2002 Pew
National Hispanic Survey shows that Hispanics in every
immigrant generation, whether they come from Mexico
or elsewhere in Latin America, and whether they were
interviewed in Spanish or English, almost universally believe
that one needs to learn English in order to succeed in
America. Indeed, 93 percent of the ﬁrst generation immigrants interviewed in Spanish agreed that it was important to learn English, compared to 84 percent of the
presumably more assimilated third generation respondents interviewed in English.
The incentives to assimilate by learning and using
English remain intact for the current wave of Hispanic
immigrants despite its unprecedented volume, uninterrupted ﬂow, and geographic concentration. The process
of linguistic assimilation conceivably could be interrupted, but the data available now suggest that the rise of
a self-sufﬁcient sub-population speaking mainly Spanish—
the fuel for the ﬁre that Huntington fears may consume
American national identity—is not a serious threat, and
that the privileged status of English as the country’s sole
common language remains secure. Identity Choice: National, Ethnic,
Huntington writes “the ultimate criterion of allegiance is
the extent to which immigrants identify with the United
States as a country . . . and correspondingly reject loyalties
to other countries and their values” (2004b: 241). Like
other nationalists, he insists on the priority of identity
with the nation over all other foci of afﬁliation. Along
these lines, the British politician Norman Tebbitt proposed the “cricket test” for national identity, proclaiming
that the failure of British citizens of South Asian or West
Indian origin to cheer for the English team when it played
India, Pakistan, or Jamaica meant that their strongest identiﬁcation was with their country of origin and not their
physical and political home.28 Linda Chavez echoed this
in criticizing the Latino fans who rooted for Mexico and
booed the American national anthem at an international
40 Perspectives on Politics soccer match in Los Angeles.29 In rebuttal, Amartya Sen
argued that the “fan’s test” does not prove that nationality
and ethnicity were competing identities, arguing that American immigrants can cheer for the Mexican, Nigerian, or
South Korean soccer team in the World Cup and still
fulﬁll all the responsibilities of citizenship.30
How Americans balance their national and ethnic identities is at the core of the ongoing debate over whether the
American melting pot is “working” or can “work again.” 31
If the assimilation model of American ethnic group relations remains accurate, then over time today’s immigrants
and their offspring should come to identify themselves as
Americans ﬁrst and members of a particular ethnic group
second. Ethnic differences in patriotism should be relatively small and primarily reﬂect a group’s length of tenure
in the United States. But to the extent that minorities
retain a strong sense of ethnic identity, as Huntington
fears, the demographic diversity fostered by immigration
and national solidarity do indeed collide, making e pluribus unum less feasible.
The 2002 Pew Latino Survey asked respondents if they
preferred to describe themselves primarily as someone from
their country of ancestry, such as Mexico, as a Latino/
Hispanic, or as an American.32 Among foreign-born Hispanics, only 7 percent identify themselves ﬁrst as an
American, compared to 68 percent who primarily identify
with their country of ancestry. This disparity diminishes
among Hispanics born in the United States who have
foreign-born parents: 31 percent identify themselves as
American while 43 percent describe themselves as their
country of ancestry. By the third generation, the proportion of respondents choosing American as their primary
identiﬁer is a small majority (56 percent), and only 23
percent describe themselves primarily in terms of their
ancestral country. If self-description as an American is a
criterion of national identity, then the assimilation of Hispanics is proceeding, but not complete. For Huntington,
language use is implicated in choosing to identify as a
Mexican rather than an American. “There is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by
an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican-Americans will share
in that dream and in that society only if they dream in
Figure 2 shows that in each Hispanic immigrant generation, speaking English increases the tendency to identify oneself as an American. Even in the third generation,
the small number of respondents whose primary language
is Spanish chose to describe themselves as either “Latino/
Hispanic” (66 percent) or in terms of their country of
ancestry (33 percent). The failure to become comfortable
speaking English does seem to correlate with a failure to
adopt a purely “American” identity. Since most nativeborn Hispanics do know English well, however, the behavior of bilingual respondents is a more relevant test of
Huntington’s argument about the long-term impact of | | Figure 2
Identity choice of Hispanics by generation and language dominance Question wording:
You have said that you describe yourself as an American, a Latino/Hispanic, and as a (Respondent’s/Parent’s country of origin). In
general, which of the terms that you use to describe yourself is the term you use first?
The following four questions were used to construct the language dominance measure: 1) “Would you say you can carry on a
conversation in Spanish, both understanding and speaking—very well, pretty well, just a little, or not at all?” 2) “Would you say you
can read a newspaper or book in Spanish—very well, pretty well, just a little, or not at all?” 3) “Would you say you can carry on a
conversation in English, both understanding and speaking—very well, pretty well, just a little, or not at all?” 4) “Would you say you
can read a newspaper or book in English—very well, pretty well, just a little or not at all?”
Source: Kaiser/Pew Latino Survey 2002 Hispanic immigration on American national identity. In
this regard, ﬁgure 2 provides a reassuring result. Bilingual
respondents are more similar to English-speaking than
Spanish-speaking Hispanics. By the third generation, bilingual Latinos prefer an American identity to either of the
other two identity choices. This result remains unchanged
in a regression analysis that includes age, income, education, residential context, and language use as predictors of
self-identiﬁcation.34 In addition, while the intention to
become an American citizen increases identiﬁcation with
the United States, fully 90 percent of the mainly Spanishspeaking foreign-born respondents sampled either are U.S.
citizens or intending to apply for citizenship.
The large number of Hispanic respondents preferring
to label themselves as Latino/Hispanic can be viewed as
partial support for Huntington’s concern. Still, the mean- ing of this question is ambiguous, as it could easily be
interpreted as asking for a census classiﬁcation rather than
an emotional afﬁliation. Another, more explicitly political
measure of identity choice is the LACSS question, “When
you think of social and political issues, do you think of
yourself mainly as a member of a particular ethnic, racial,
or nationality group, or do you think of yourself as just an
American?” The 1995, 1999, and 2000 LACSS surveys
expanded this dichotomous choice by asking people who
ﬁrst said they thought of themselves as “just American”
this follow-up: “Which of the following is most true for
you: just an American or both American and (ethnicity)?”
As table 4 shows, given this opportunity to adopt a
hyphenated identify, most whites do not take it: 75 percent of them continued to call themselves “just an American” and only 20 percent, most of whom are immigrants,
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 41 | | Articles | Testing Huntington Table 4
Political identity choice by race and
Born in U.S.
Asian Both Ethnic
121 Question text: “When it comes to political and social matters,
how do you primarily think of yourself: just as an American,
both as an American and (ethnicity), or only as (ethnicity)?”
Note: Columns present the percentage of each racial group
with the indicated response. Rows may not total 100% due
to rounding error.
Source: Pooled 1995, 1999, and 2000 LACSS. shifted to the “both” category. By contrast, only a minority of blacks (28 percent) did not budge from the “just an
American” identity. Among African-Americans, what
W.E.B. Dubois called the double consciousness of being
American and black is the modal identity choice: 55 percent of black respondents choose the hyphenated, or “both”
response category as their preferred self-identiﬁcation.35
More Hispanics (32 percent) than blacks (17 percent) opt
for the purely ethnic identity and just 11 percent of Hispanics say they think of themselves as “just an American.”
The contrast between blacks and the other two ethnic
minorities is largely explained by differences in immigrant
status. Among the native-born Hispanics, an American
identity (25 percent) far outstrips a purely ethnic identity
(11 percent). The opposite holds for those who are noncitizens: a purely ethnic identity is far more common (50
percent) than American identity (3 percent). Once again,
assimilation is ongoing, and the immigrant status of Hispanics and Asians is far more important in determining
how they balance their national and ethnic identities than
is their position in a supposedly rigid American racial and
ethnic hierarchy. The more integrated into American society by virtue of nativity, citizenship, or time spent in the
United States, the less likely one is to identity in purely
ethnic terms.36 Patriotism
The core meaning of patriotism is simply the love of one’s
country. The foundations of this diffuse emotional attachment and how it is expressed may vary among people who
agree on the importance of their national identity. We do
not venture here into the thicket of terms developed to
distinguish among variants of patriotism and instead focus
42 Perspectives on Politics only on affective identiﬁcation, using survey items that
ask about love for and pride in America as well as a leading national symbol, the ﬂag.
Table 5 reports the results from the American National
Election Study (NES) and LACSS surveys. The evidence
of pervasive patriotism and emotional attachment to symbols of nationhood is clear. In the 2002 NES conducted a
year after 9/11, 91 percent of the sample said their love for
the United States was either “extremely” or “very” strong,
up from 89 percent ten years earlier. A slightly lower proportion in 2002, 85 percent, said they felt extremely or
very proud when they saw the American ﬂag, an increase
of six percent from 1992. In 2004, despite partisan differences over the war in Iraq, overall evidence indicates strong
patriotic sentiment among whites, blacks, and Hispanics.
Patriotism is less widespread and intense among blacks
than whites, but the NES results (although admittedly
based on a relatively small number of Hispanic citizens)
conﬁrm the ﬁnding of the National Latino Election Study
conducted in 1989: adjusting for background factors and
English-speaking, patriotism among Hispanics, including
the foreign-born, is as high as among white Americans.
The LACSS surveys also asked questions about love of
country, pride in America, and feelings about the ﬂag, and
pooling responses from these surveys provides evidence
about the political assimilation of recent immigrants lacking in the national data. As in the nation as a whole,
patriotism is the predominant outlook in Los Angeles
County: 94 percent of the survey respondents there either
agreed or strongly agreed that they “loved” the United
States, and 79 percent said they found “the sight of the
American ﬂag moving.” In the pooled 1994 and 1997
LACSS samples, 69 percent of the respondents said they
felt extremely or very proud to “be an American.” While
this proportion is substantially lower than the 86 percent
giving this answer in a 1994 General Social Survey (GSS)
national sample, the difference is partially due to the presence of numerous recent Hispanic and Asian immigrants
in the Los Angeles samples. For these respondents, who
are not American citizens, reference to “being an American” is ambiguous at best, so it is not surprising that only
35 percent of Hispanic non-citizens expressed pride in
this status compared to 79 percent of native-born Hispanics. The question “would you be proud to be an American?” might have elicited quite a different answer. The
data in table 5 make it clear that the psychological incorporation of immigrants is ongoing. Native-born Hispanics express the same level of attachment to the United
States as whites and the patriotic outlook of naturalized
Hispanics in the Los Angeles samples is similar to that of
those born in the United States.
Even clearer evidence of the development of a strong
national identity among the offspring of recent immigrants comes from the multivariate regression analyses of
scores on a Patriotism Index constructed from answers to | | Table 5
Patriotism by race and ethnicity
How strongly do you
love America? 1 How much pride
in the American flag? 2 How proud
to be American? 3 NES
’94, ’97 92
(N = 1,747)
(N = 1,064)
(N = 437)
(N = 1,739)
(N = 1,058)
(N = 823)
(N = 994)
— Non-native citizen — — — — — — — Non-citizen — — — — — — — 89
(N = 548)
Native citizen Total 1. % is the percentage who gave an “Extremely” or “Very” response to the question “How strong is your love for your country . . .
Extremely Strong, Very Strong, Somewhat Strong, or Not Very Strong.”
2. % is the percentage who gave an “Extremely” or “Very” response to the question “When you see the American flag flying does
it make you feel . . . Extremely Good, Very Good, Somewhat Good, or Not Very Good?”
3. % is the percentage who gave an “Extremely” or “Very” response to the question “How proud are you to be an American . . .
Extremely Proud, Very Proud, Somewhat Proud, or Not Very Proud?” the LACSS questions about ﬁnding the American ﬂag
moving and love for America.37 After adjusting for differences in age and years of formal education, native-born
Hispanics had signiﬁcantly higher scores on this measure
of patriotism than whites. Do Strong National and Ethnic
In the limited case of an ethnically homogeneous society,
nationality and ethnicity completely overlap, and the possibility that national and ethnic identities clash is moot.
They are one and the same, so patriotism and feeling close
to your own ethic group are bound to go together. Japan
is Japanese, so the idea of a loyal, but hyphenated Japanese
identity has no meaning there.
In ethnically diverse societies, however, the matter of
reconciling one’s national and ethnic identities is more
complex. The civic nation envisions a common identity
founded on political ideals as the best guarantor of national
unity. Accordingly, France today is insisting on imposing
the republican values of egalitarianism and secularism on
an increasingly diverse society by banning religious symbols such as the Islamic veil, Jewish yarmulke, or Christian cross from being worn in public schools. The French
mock the American advocates of multiculturalism for pan- dering to ethnic diversity in a way that undermines the
meanings of nationality and citizenship.
Huntington shares the French anxieties about the risks
of institutionalizing diversity, suggesting that giving in to
identity politics, as expressed in demands for a “muscular
version” of cultural differences, will mean the erosion of
patriotism and feelings of national solidarity among minority groups. Those who share this view predict and fear that
strong ethnic identiﬁcations and attachment to the nation
will clash rather than reinforce one another. The implication for nationalists is to stress the importance of cultural
unity and the value of assimilation. Strong multiculturalists similarly envisage a negative association between
national and ethnic identities among minorities, but they
welcome the outcome, arguing that cultural assimilation,
culminating with the offspring of immigrants identifying
with mainstream Americans, is a form of subordination
that must be resisted.
An alternative possibility, however, is that most Americans, whatever their ethnic background, endorse the motto
of e pluribus unum and the idea of sharing a common
culture that evolves as newcomers add elements of their
cultural heritage to the American way of life. Even if
their own immigrant roots are in the distant past and
attachment to their culture heritage has faded away, Americans might still acknowledge that an egalitarian “festival
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 43 | | Articles | Testing Huntington multiculturalism”—the acceptance of growing diversity
in song, food, dance, and cultural heroes—helps deﬁne
America’s identity as a nation of immigrants. In this pluralistic version of the melting pot, ethnic allegiances and
patriotism are complementary rather than competing
There is evidence that most Americans regard cultural
assimilation and cultural pluralism as mutually compatible. The 1999 Harvard/Kaiser/Washington Post Latino
Survey asked respondents in all ethnic groups how important it is “for different racial and ethnic groups to change
so that they blend into the larger society, as in the idea of
a melting pot of cultures” and “for different racial and
ethnic groups to maintain their distinct cultures.” The
dominant outlook is that both acculturation and preserving a distinct ethnic heritage are important. Among Hispanics as a whole, 78 percent opted for the value of both
assimilation and pluralism. Language use is unrelated to
this outlook. In fact, Spanish-dominant respondents were
more likely than the English-dominant to agree to the
importance of “blending in” as well as maintaining one’s
distinct cultures. There also is very little variation between
generational categories, with 79 percent of foreign-born
Hispanics expressing this viewpoint, versus 76 percent of
the native-born. A large majority of both whites (68 percent) and blacks (75 percent) agree with this position.
While this is not direct evidence of acculturation, it is
noteworthy that the value of participating in a common
culture is widely accepted by Hispanic immigrants.
To explore further whether national and ethnic identities collide, table 6 presents the relationship between patriotism and identity choice. The data from Asian respondents
in the LACSS are omitted due to the paucity of cases.
Table 6 presents a simple cross-tabulation between the
tripartite identity choice item and mean scores on a Patriotism Index created from two items: 1) Do you strongly
agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement: “I ﬁnd the sight of the
American ﬂag moving,” and 2) “How proud are you to be
an American . . . extremely proud, very proud, somewhat
proud, or not very proud?” In all three ethnic groups,
those identifying themselves as Americans have the highest patriotism scores. However, the difference between the
“just American” and “both” groups is very small and the
main gap in the level of patriotism is between these groups
and respondents who deﬁne themselves in purely ethnic
Further evidence that national and ethnic identities are
not irreconcilable is shown in a summary Ethnic Identity
Index based on questions about how often one thinks of
oneself as a member of one’s ethnic group; how close one
feels to others in one’s ethnic group; and how strongly one
identities with others in one’s ethnic group. This measure
of ethnic identiﬁcation is statistically unrelated to patriotism. As table 7 shows, in the LACSS data, when the
44 Perspectives on Politics Table 6
The relationship between identity choice
and patriotism, by race and ethnicity
N = 445
N = 200
N = 456 Identity Choice Mean Score on
Patriotism Index* Just American
Just ethnic group
Just ethnic group
Just ethnic group 4.5
3.8 *The patriotism index ranges from 0–5 and is constructed as
the mean of the responses from the following two items:
1) Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement: “I
find the sight of the American flag moving.”
2) “How proud are you to be an American . . . extremely
proud, very proud, somewhat proud, or not very proud?”
Source: pooled 1999 and 2000 LACSS. Patriotism Index is regressed on the Ethnic Identity Index
the unstandardized regression coefﬁcients are statistically
insigniﬁcant among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. The
only nuance is that among naturalized Hispanic immigrants there is a modest, positive relationship between patriotism and ethnic identiﬁcation. The fact that the
hyphenated identity chosen by most minority group members in the United States does not collide with patriotism
but is instead quite compatible with a strong “love of
country” should assuage Huntington’s deepest worry. If
the generational trends in linguistic assimilation and selfidentiﬁcation described here persist—and this is an important if—then the present pattern of immigration is not a
dire challenge to American national identity. The Anglo-Protestant Ethic
Huntington asserts that declining acceptance of the “AngloProtestant Ethic” is a major challenge to traditional national
identity and identiﬁes the failure of recent Hispanic immigrants to adhere to this cultural foundation as a cause of
this challenge. For Huntington, American culture is not a
malleable collection of various cultural inﬂuences, as the
melting pot model of multiculturalism would suggest, but
rather a reﬂection of the culture established by those who
originally settled the country. He states that if the country
had been settled not by seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury British Protestants but by “French, Spanish, or
Portuguese Catholics” America would have a culture more | | Table 7
Relationship between patriotism and
strength of ethnic identiﬁcation
(N = 1,246)
(N = 493)
(N = 1,094)
Born in U.S.
(N = 331)
(N = 231)
(N = 525)
(N = 213) Bivariate Regression
(.086) The first entry in each cell is the unstandardized bivariate
regression coefficient with the patriotism index as the dependent variable and the ethnic identity index as the independent variable. The second entry in parentheses is the
corresponding estimated standard error.
*The ethnic identity index ranges from 0–3 and was constructed as mean of the three ethnic identity questions listed
at the bottom of Table 4. The patriotism index ranges from
0–5 and was constructed as the mean of two items indicated
at the bottom of Table 6.
** significant at p < .01
Source: pooled 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2002 LACSS. akin to “Quebec, Mexico or Brazil.” 38 Instead, it retains
the cluster of values of its Anglo-Protestant founders: “the
Christian religion, Protestant values and moralism, a work
ethic, the English language, British traditions of law and
justice, and the limits of government power.” 39 Huntington argues that Hispanic immigrants come to America
lacking these commitments and fears that they do not
adopt them once in the United States.
The 2002 Pew Hispanic Survey asks several questions
about religious beliefs. Contrary to Huntington’s suggestion that Hispanics do not possess the same “religious
commitment” as other Americans, these data reveal no
major ethnic differences. Sixty-one percent of whites and
79 percent of blacks, when asked, respond that religion is
either “very important” or the “most important” thing in
life. The Hispanic sample falls between the two, ranging
from 70 percent in the ﬁrst generation to 65 percent in
third generation Hispanics. The same pattern holds for
church attendance, another measure of religiosity. Blacks
(29 percent) are more likely to attend church more than
once a week than whites (16 percent). Hispanics as a whole
appear to attend church about as often as white respon- dents, with those of Mexican ancestry slightly more likely
than whites or others to report going to church at least
once a week. Because most Hispanics are Catholics, it is
possible that their religious background and commitment
might undermine rather than reinforce attachment to
American symbols and values. However, extensive comparisons of identity choice, patriotism, and language use
among both Hispanic and other Catholics and Protestants (not shown) consistently found no major differences. In fact, national data from both the NES and GSS
conﬁrm Huntington’s observation that religion and patriotism go together. And there is no evidence that Hispanic
immigrants and their offspring are quicker to abandon
either God or country than other Americans.
There is a surprising lack of evidence comparing the
basic values and work ethic of immigrants and other Americans. The 2002 Pew survey includes several questions
regarding the value of work, but their meaning is ambiguous. For example, respondents were asked whether “you
can be more successful in American workplaces if you . . .
[are] willing to work long hours at the expense of your
personal life.” Forty-seven percent of whites said that they
agreed with this statement, compared to 39 percent of
blacks and 27 percent of Hispanics. Whether this is an
opinion about the willingness to work or about the likelihood of hard work paying off is unclear. Among Hispanics, however, the belief that working hard at the expense
of family would help one get ahead was strongly related to
immigrant status. Only 21 percent of immigrants agreed
with the statement, compared to 40 percent of third generation Hispanics. On the other hand, when asked whether
success at work in America comes from doing “what is
best for yourself rather than what is best for others,” arguably an indicator of belief in the virtue of self-interest,
Hispanics were more likely to agree than whites by a margin of 59 percent to 30 percent. Among Hispanics, immigrants were by far the most likely to agree, conforming in
this way to the stereotypical “hard working immigrant.”
The absence of evidence regarding the values of Hispanics suggests that looking at how others, including
employers, regard the reliability and competence of immigrant workers could be informative. The 1990 GSS asked
a national sample to compare the work ethic of whites,
blacks, and Hispanics. White respondents describe whites
as more hardworking than either Hispanics or blacks, with
blacks the most likely to be characterized as lazy. Interestingly, residential context appears to matter in predicting these
attitudes, but in a complex way. The larger the proportion
of blacks living in a respondent’s state, the lazier blacks are
perceived to be. The inverse holds for images of Hispanics,
though: the more Hispanics in one’s state, the more hardworking whites consider members of this ethnic group.40
Additional evidence comes from data regarding the opinions of employers. One study suggests that employers
prefer to hire whites, but will prefer Hispanic to black
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 45 | | Articles | Testing Huntington employees.41 However, other research indicates that Hispanics are deemed more hardworking than either whites
or blacks. A series of interviews with hiring personnel at
170 ﬁrms in Los Angeles County found that Hispanics
were consistently viewed as superior to white or black
employees in their dedication, attitude, and work ethic.42
While more systematic data regarding individualist values
certainly would be valuable, the available evidence, fragmentary as it is, belies the fear that today’s Hispanic immigrants are unprepared to work hard. An Early Balance Sheet
What has this preliminary test of Samuel Huntington’s
projection revealed? Before answering, several important
caveats should be noted. First, as mentioned at the outset,
cross-sectional data about the present cannot provide deﬁnitive answers about the trajectory of assimilation in the
future. A further difﬁculty is that even the ability to look
backward and consider how closely the assimilation of
contemporary Hispanic immigrants is replicating the pattern of change among the European and East Asian immigrants of the early twentieth century is impossible due to
the absence of survey data and the shifting categorizations
of ethnicity employed by the U.S. Census. Language use
is the one domain where comparison with the past is possible, and here the evidence is that the traditional march
by successive generations toward monolingualism in
English is recurring. Even here, however, the balance of
forces that tilts toward assimilation rather than group difference may change in the context of demographic and
political trends we cannot anticipate.
Another important caveat is that much of the evidence
reported here excludes consideration of illegal immigrants
who mainly come from Mexico. The number of illegal
immigrants is difﬁcult to estimate, but this group clearly
comprises a signiﬁcant segment of Mexican immigrants.
Illegal immigrants are less educated, more likely to work
in agriculture and other low-wage jobs, more likely to
speak Spanish, and more likely to live in ethnic enclaves.
In short, illegal immigrants are less likely than other immigrants or native-born Hispanics to become integrated into
mainstream society or to view themselves as members
of the American political community. Their underrepresentation in this study of Hispanics means that we
have overestimated the extent of linguistic and political
assimilation of ﬁrst-generation immigrants. At the same
time, given the disengagement of illegal immigrants from
participation in American politics, their presence may not
register much on the kinds of changes in national identity
and national policy that Huntington is projecting.
As noted earlier, the evidence presented here clearly
establishes that the acquisition of English and the loss of
Spanish occur rapidly beginning with the second generation of Hispanic immigrants. While the initial level of
46 Perspectives on Politics English-speaking is lower among Mexican than other immigrants, the rate of linguistic assimilation between generations is at parity if not more rapid for this group. Moreover,
whereas residential concentration in ethnic enclaves contributes to the retention of Spanish, this does not slow the
learning of English, and bilingual Hispanics are more similar in their political self-concept to English-dominant than
While data allowing us to test the extent to which Hispanic immigrants are adopting what Huntington calls the
“Anglo-Protestant Ethic” are limited, in terms of both professed importance of religion and church attendance, Hispanics appear to be no more or less religious than whites.
Nor do they exhibit a lower commitment to the importance of working hard to get ahead.
Huntington contrasts several future scenarios for the
United States, with a culturally uniﬁed nation committed
to revitalizing the melting pot and reafﬁrming the traditional creed and “Anglo-Protestant ethic” as one possibility, and a bifurcated nation with English-speaking and
Spanish-speaking entities confronting each other much as
the two Canadian “solitudes” as another.43 If “Mexamerica” comes to pass, he suggests, its citizens will give their
primary loyalty to Mexico rather than the United States.
At present, however, the evidence regarding attitudes of
the general public in the United States points to a sustained belief in the value of an overarching national identity. A clear majority in all ethnic groups, including
Hispanics, choose to deﬁne themselves as “just an American” if the alternative is a purely ethnic label. Majorities
in all three ethnic minority groups tend to shift to a hyphenated “ethnic-American” identity if they are given the opportunity to make that choice by survey researchers. But this
self-designation seems to be a kind of halfway house on
the path of political assimilation, functioning much as the
hyphenated-American identities tended to in the early and
mid-20th century for many European immigrant families.
Patriotic sentiment among Hispanics is pervasive. While
blacks and non-citizen Hispanics express slightly less patriotism than whites, after adjusting for differences in age
and education native-born Hispanics actually evidenced
higher levels of patriotism. And neither a tendency to refer
to oneself as a Hispanic-American rather than “just an
American” nor a strong sense of ethnic identiﬁcation diminished expressions of patriotism. National and ethnic identities are not on an unavoidable collision course.
The theory underlying Huntington’s image of challenges to American identity presumes strong connections
among the structural, cultural, and political dimensions
of immigrant assimilation. Clearly, these relationships are
not iron-clad; American blacks remain to some extent
structurally unassimilated despite their linguistic and
cultural assimilation. Huntington shares the fears of
scholars such as Alejandro Portes and Richard Rumbaut
that the mismatch between the skills and education of | | Hispanic immigrants and the demands of the American
economy may result in “segmented” rather than “straightline” assimilation, with lower status groups in the second
and third generations remaining socially and culturally
isolated.44 The data analyzed here do not address this
possibility, although we can observe that among Hispanics the young and better-educated are, unlike among whites
or blacks, more identiﬁed with America and more patriotic, underscoring the importance of high quality public
education. With each successive generation, social, economic, and emotional ties to Mexico diminish. What
this suggests is that assuring upward mobility for new
immigrants and their children is one effective response to
the challenges Huntington envisages.
Things may change, but the balance of evidence available at present suggests that Mexican immigration is not
the threat to American national identity that Huntington
and others assert. Huntington may be on ﬁrmer ground
in pointing to diminishing nationalism and patriotism
among the country’s academic, business and media elites,
including their Anglo-Protestant segment. Ironically, then,
to the extent that assimilation is the acceptance of the
values of the dominant groups in society as one is exposed
to the messages of social institutions like schools, colleges,
and the mass media, the impact of globalization and the
embrace of multiculturalism among elites might ultimately mean that Americanization may no longer include
commitment to the ideal of “one nation, after all.” 45 Notes
1 Chandra 2005, Horowitz 1985, Macedo 2000.
2 Glazer and Moynihan 1975.
3 Brimelow 1995, Jacoby 2004, Barone 2001, Alba
and Nee 2003.
4 Huntington 2004a, 32.
5 Huntington 2004a; 32; 2004b, 246 and 251–256;
6 Jacoby 2004, Glazer 2004, Brooks 2004, Alba and
7 Skerry 2005.
8 Huntington 2004b, chapter 11.
9 Gordon 1964.
10 Alba and Nee 2003, Portes and Rumbaut 2001.
11 Huntington 2004b, 222–230.
12 Alba and Nee 2003, 54.
13 Huntington 2004b, 202–203.
14 Ibid., 219, 230.
15 Deutsch 1953.
16 Salins 1997.
17 U.S. Census Bureau Press Release, June 9, 2005.
18 Skerry 2005, 87.
19 Hochschild 2005, 81.
20 However, only the 1994 and 2000 LACSS surveys
had interviews conducted in both Spanish and 21
22 23 24
39 English, so the pooled sample largely excludes the linguistically unassimilated.The distribution of responses
probably is affected by this sampling problem, but the
consistent evidence from both national and local
data regarding the trajectory of preferences across immigrant generations makes us conﬁdent about the
results regarding the process of assimilation.
Alba and Nee 2003, Salins 1997, Barone 2001.
The following four questions were used to construct
the language dominance measure: 1) “Would you say
you can carry on a conversation in Spanish, both
understanding and speaking—very well, pretty well,
just a little, or not at all?” 2) “Would you say you
can read a newspaper or book in Spanish—very well,
pretty well, just a little, or not at all?” 3) “Would
you say you can carry on a conversation in English,
both understanding and speaking—very well, pretty
well, just a little, or not at all?” 4) “Would you say
you can read a newspaper or book in English—very
well, pretty well, just a little or not at all?”
An earlier version of this article (Citrin, Lerman,
and Murakami 2004) reported virtually identical
results with other indicators of language use, including “speaking only English at home,” language of
interview, and having children who speak “only
English” with their friends.
Alba and Nee 2003, Bean and Stevens 2003.
Citrin, Green, Reingold, and Walters 1990; Tatalovich 1995.
We also note that the number of Asians in the sample is small and all were interviewed in English, so
although most Asian respondents in the LACSS
were foreign-born they were linguistically assimilated
and perhaps more exposed to dominant political
rhetoric than the Asian community as a whole.
Citrin, Wong, and Duff 2001.
The context in which this self-description was demanded is not speciﬁed in the survey question.
Huntington 2004b, 256.
For reasons of space, these data are not reported but
will be made available by the authors on request.
Again, we note that the predominance of linguistically assimilated Hispanic and Asian respondents are
affecting these frequencies, but the conclusion remains that each succeeding generation is less likely
to identify in purely ethnic terms.
Again the results of this analysis are not included for
reasons of space but will be provided upon request.
Huntington 2004b, 59.
March 2007 | Vol. 5/No. 1 47 | | Articles
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