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Durable Ethnicity

Mexican Americans and the Ethnic Core

Edward Telles and Christina A. Sue

Publication Date - 22 August 2019

ISBN: 9780190221492

270 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Mexican Americans are unique in the panoply of American ethno-racial groups in that they are the descendants of the largest and longest lasting immigration stream in US history. Today, there are approximately 24 million Americans of Mexican descent living in the United States, many of whose families have been in the US for several generations. In Durable Ethnicity, Edward Telles and Christina A. Sue examine the meanings behind being both American and ethnically Mexican for contemporary Mexican Americans. Rooted in a large-scale longitudinal and representative survey of Mexican Americans living in San Antonio and Los Angeles across 35 years, Telles and Sue draw on 70 in-depth interviews and over 1,500 surveys to examine how Mexicans Americans construct their identities and attitudes related to ethnicity, nationality, language, and immigration. In doing so, they highlight the primacy of their American identities and variation in their ethnic identities, showing that their experiences range on a continuum from symbolic to consequential ethnicity, even into the fourth generation. Durable Ethnicity offers a comprehensive exploration into how, when, and why ethnicity matters for multiple generations of Mexican Americans, arguing that their experiences are influenced by an ethnic core, a set of structural and institutional forces that promote and sustain ethnicity.


  • Rooted in a large-scale longitudinal and representative survey of 1,500 Mexican Americans living in the American West across 35 years
  • Examines what ethnicity means and how it is negotiated in the lives of multiple generations of Mexican Americans
  • Draws on in-depth interviews to examine the individual ethnic strategies and demonstrate that integration is often a back and forth process that varies by individual rather than a one-way movement
  • Written by leading social scientists on immigration, race, and ethnicity

About the Author(s)

Edward Telles is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His most recent book is Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race and Color in Latin America, based on the multinational and multidisciplinary Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA), which he directed. He also wrote Race in Another America, 2004, which won the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the American Sociological Association, the Otis Dudley Duncan Award for the best book in Social Demography and several other awards; Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race, 2008 with Ortiz, also won the Duncan Award, as well as the Best Book Award from the Pacific Sociological Association.

Christina A. Sue is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research is in the areas of comparative race/ethnicity, race mixture/multiracialism, Latino/a integration, immigration, and gender, with a regional focus on Latin America and the United States. In 2013 she published Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico (Oxford University Press) which examines how national ideologies in Mexico influence Mexicans' understandings of racism, race mixture, and blackness.


"Telles and Sue open up new directions for scholarship on this topic." -- Bridget Eileen Rivera, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity - American Sociological Association

"[T]he authors do much more than merely challenge assimilationism. They offer a better framework to account for what is lacking in assimilationist literature, presenting ethnicity and mainstream culture as headed in the same direction." -- Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

"Durable Ethnicity helps us understand how some people can be both and yet still be fully American. In short, Durable Ethnicity pushes us to see what its respondents see: a more inclusive America." -- Nicole Trujillo-Pagan, American Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

    Preface: Background to the Study of Mexican Americans
    Chapter 1: Introduction
    Chapter 2: Mexican American
    Chapter 3: Mexican American
    Chapter 4: Spanish Language
    Chapter 5: Attitudes about Immigration
    Chapter 6: Conclusion
    List of Tables
    List of Figures
    Appendix: Roster of Respondents

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