Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Annual income, hourly wages, and identity Among Mexican Americans and other Latinos

Mason, Patrick L. (2004): Annual income, hourly wages, and identity Among Mexican Americans and other Latinos. Published in: Industrial Relations , Vol. 43, No. 4 (2004): pp. 817-834.

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Abstract

This article examines heterogeneity and income inequality among Hispanic Americans. Two processes that influence Hispanic heterogeneity include acculturation and labor market discrimination because of skin shade/phenotype. I focus on Hispanics because of their variation in phenotype, color, nativity, and language usage and also because of their recent large-scale integration into a society that historically has been characterized by bipolar racial categories that are putatively based on phenotype. This process provides a natural experiment for appraising the relative importance of acculturation, discrimination, and income inequality. I use data from two periods, 1979 and 1989, to determine the stability of identity formation among Mexican-Americans and other Hispanics. I find strong incentives favoring acculturation among Mexican- and Cuban-Americans. Americans of Mexican and Cuban descent but less so Puerto Ricans are able to increase annual income and hourly wages by acculturating into a non-Hispanic white racial identity. However, neither the abandonment of Spanish nor the abandonment of a specifically Hispanic racial self-identity is sufficient to overcome the penalties associated with having a dark complexion and non-European phenotype.

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