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Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos More Likely to Identify as Republicans?

James McCann, Visiting Scholar
October 3, 2014

In a blog entry earlier this month at the site of the always-engaging Washington Post Monkey Cage, Spencer Piston of Syracuse University suggested that “lighter-skinned Latinos are more likely than darker-skinned Latinos to identify as Republican.” Some days later, Karthick Ramakrishnan of UC Riverside responded that even if skin complexion and partisanship are correlated, Latinos are on the whole Democrats. As he puts it, “the Democratic Party has a sizable net advantage in party identification, even among lighter-skinned Latinos. This is a point that can be easily overlooked when we focus on the direction of the relationship between skin tone and partisanship, without paying attention to absolute levels of partisanship among Latinos.”

In this brief remark, I wish to circle back to the possible correlation between skin tone and partisan identification among Latinos. Is there in fact such a relationship? The 2012 American National Election Study offers scant evidence of this. Approximately 450 self-identified Latinos took part in the face-to-face household portion of this study. At the end of the survey, interviewers noted the skin tone of each of these respondents based on a ten-point scale (1=very fair complexion, 10=very dark complexion). The correlation between skin tone and the standard seven-point measure of party identification is -.065, which implies that Latino citizens with fairer skin lean slightly more towards the Republicans—or, as Karthick Ramakrishnan would have it, are slightly less committed to the Democrats. But this correlation does not rise to the level of statistical significance using standard benchmarks (p=.165). If sampling weights are applied to the data, which the ANES strongly recommends, then the correlation drops to -.038 (p=.585).

Does Skin Color Influence How Minorities Will Vote?

October 2, 2014

In a recent article for the Washington Post, political scientist Spencer Piston argued that lighter-skinned Latinos and Asians in the U.S. are more likely to vote Republican. Noting that party identification among these two groups has been weaker than that of whites and African Americans, Piston suggests that lighter-skinned Asian Americans and Latinos may be less likely to experience racial discrimination, and therefore less likely to automatically align themselves with the Democratic Party, which has historically been thought to better represent minorities that face discrimination. He references several graphs that indicate trends toward GOP support in lighter-skinned minorities, and states, “For example, in the 2012 election for Senate, the darkest-skinned Latinos are estimated to have a 98 percent chance of voting for the Democrat, whereas the lightest-skinned Latinos are estimated to have a 43 percent chance.”

Former RSF Visiting Scholar Karthick Ramakrishnan responded to these claims in a follow-up piece for the Post, arguing that light-skinned minorities are unlikely to grow the ranks of the Republican Party. While confirming that light-skinned Latinos have historically been more predisposed toward the GOP than their darker-skinned counterparts, Ramakrishnan says there is “no evidence of a net migration of light-skinned Latinos toward the Republican Party.” He further states, “In addition to losing on party identification, Republicans have also lost on presidential vote choice among Latinos and Asian Americans, regardless of skin tone.”

RSF Grantees and Scholars at International Migration Review Symposium

August 27, 2014

On September 30, 2014, several RSF grantees and scholars will deliver remarks at a symposium marking the fiftieth anniversary of the International Migration Review. Symposium participants include former RSF visiting scholar Jennifer Lee (UC Irvine), incoming scholar Richard Alba (CUNY Graduate Center), grantee Nancy Foner (CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College), and grantee Katharine Donato (Vanderbilt).

Co-edited by Jennifer Lee, the anniversary issue of IMR features a collection of multidisciplinary articles that explore persisting and emerging topics and trends in the field of international migration. At the all-day symposium, Lee will moderate a panel discussion, “Diversity of Outcomes in Destination Societies,” where participants Alba, Foner, and Donato will present papers on a range of topics including a comparative study of immigration to North America and Western Europe and an investigation of how gender and marital status affect the global labor force.

Former Visiting Scholar Ramakrishnan Appointed to California Commission on APIA Affairs

August 5, 2014

Former RSF Visiting Scholar and grantee Karthick Ramakrishnan (University of California, Riverside) has just been appointed to the California Commission on Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs. The Commission works to elevate the political, economic, and social issues of Asians and Pacific Islanders by contributing to and strengthening how state government addresses the needs, issues, and concerns of the diverse and complex Asian and Pacific Islander American communities.

In his time in residence at the Foundation, Ramakrishnan examined immigrant civic engagement and its implications for social and political inequality in several U.S. and Canadian cities. He looked at at immigrant participation in mainstream and ethnic organizations, asking whether such behavior serves as a way for immigrants to combat inequality and improve their social position. With Irene Bloemraad, he co-authored the RSF publication Civic Hopes and Political Realities, which explores these same themes.

Ramakrishnan is additionally a former research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and holds memberships in the Association of Asian American Studies and the University of California Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Multicampus Research Program.

Mass Deportations and Latino Voters

May 20, 2014

With the Foundation’s support, political scientists Alex Street and Chris Zepeda-Millán, in collaboration with Michael Jones-Correa, conducted an online survey of more than 1200 second generation Latinos to test whether socialization experiences are shaped by the responses of parents, children, and other political actors to the unique situation of U.S. citizens with undocumented parents. Among other consequences, they explore the effects of knowledge of deportations among second generation Latinos, especially on the evaluations of Democratic and Republican parties.

They “find that when young Latino citizens become aware of the Obama administration’s deportation policies, they view the Democratic Party as significantly less welcoming. Given that partisan attachments formed by young adulthood tend to persist through voters’ lives, this suggests that current deportation policies have the potential to alienate Latino voters from the Democratic Party for decades.”

Disaster Recovery and the Vietnamese Community in New Orleans

April 22, 2014

This feature is part of a new RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the ongoing research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

The damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina unevenly impacted the residents of New Orleans along racial and class lines. While many scholars and politicians have focused on the lack of federal aid to low-income black neighborhoods in the wake of the disaster, Visiting Scholar Mark VanLandingham’s research examines a lesser known community—that of the Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in New Orleans in the 1970s. In his time in residence at the Foundation, VanLandingham is investigating the sources and limits of resilience within the Vietnamese American community in New Orleans, with a special focus on the community’s recovery during the post-Katrina era.

In a new interview with the Foundation, VanLandingham discussed the impact of the hurricane on this community, looking in particular at the combination of cultural and material advantages that may have aided the disaster recovery of the Vietnamese.

Q. Your research examines the Vietnamese immigrant community, which was largely overlooked in the post-disaster coverage of Hurricane Katrina. You found that overall this group fared better than other groups in the recovery. How do we measure “recovery” and what did the Vietnamese community’s post-disaster recovery look like in comparison to other groups in New Orleans?

RSF Author Catherine Lee Discusses the Role of Families in U.S. Immigration Policies, Past and Present

January 16, 2014

Today, roughly 70 percent of all visas for legal immigration are reserved for family members of permanent residents or American citizens. Family reunification—policies that seek to preserve family unity during or following migration—is a central pillar of current immigration law, but it has existed in some form in American statutes since at least the mid-nineteenth century. In her 2013 RSF book, Fictive Kinship: Family Reunification and the Meaning of Race and Nation in American Immigration, sociologist Catherine Lee delves into the fascinating history of family reunification to examine how and why our conceptions of family have shaped immigration, the meaning of race, and the way we see ourselves as a country.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Lee discusses some of the groundbreaking research from her book and offers recommendations for future immigration policies. To learn more about Fictive Kinship or to purchase a copy, click here.

Q. As you point out in your book, family reunification has long been a guiding theme of U.S. immigration policy and has significantly influenced the changing demographics of the country. Can you give some examples of how family reunification policies have shaped the way we think about race and ethnicity in the U.S. today?

A Chance for Immigration Reform in the New Year

January 10, 2014

In a move that could signal the end of the deadlock on immigration reform that stifled Congress for the better part of 2013, Speaker of the House John Boehner has indicated his willingness to address immigration laws. As the New York Times reports, though Boehner continues to voice reservations about a single, comprehensive bill to create additional pathways to U.S. citizenship, he also condemned the hardline stance of conservative Tea Party groups opposed to any immigration compromises.

Republicans have increasingly struggled to find a balance between appeasing their conservative constituents while also attempting to court Latino voters. According to the New York Times, Romney won only 27% of the Latino vote in the 2012 presidential election due to his views on immigration. But the Democratic Party has also suffered for its failure to implement significant immigration reform. A September 2013 Pew study showed that the Obama administration deported more immigrants annually than the George W. Bush administration, and that 59% of Latinos disapproved of Obama’s handling of deportations.

The 2013 RSF book Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality, co-edited by David Card and Steven Raphael, explores the rapid rise in immigration to the U.S. since the 1960s and analyzes the economic and political shifts that have occurred as a result of this increase—including changes in the national poverty rate, labor market fluctuations, and the evolution of immigration policies. In his chapter, “Immigration Enforcement as a Race-Making Institution,” sociologist Douglas Massey traces the surge in deportations, border patrol budgets, and border enforcement agents over the last several decades:

Working Paper: Immigrant Assimilation into U.S. Prisons, 1900-1930

June 6, 2013

With the Foundation's support, Carolyn Moehling and Anne Morrison Piehl have released a working paper on historical patterns of immigrant incarceration. Here is the abstract:

The analysis of a new dataset on state prisoners in the 1900 to 1930 censuses reveals that immigrants rapidly assimilated to native incarceration patterns. One feature of these data is that the second generation can be identified, allowing direct analysis of this group and allowing their exclusion from calculations of comparison rates for the “native” population. Although adult new arrivals were less likely than natives to be incarcerated, this likelihood was increasing with their years in the U.S. The foreign born who arrived as children and second generation immigrants had slightly higher rates of incarceration than natives of native parentage, but these differences disappear after controlling for nativity differences in urbanicity and occupational status. Finally, while the incarceration rates of new arrivals differ significantly by source country, patterns of assimilation are very similar.

New Research Studies Impact of Religious Groups on Immigrants

April 11, 2013

Religious and nonreligious organizations may have a similar impact on the ability of immigrants to acclimate to life in the U.S., despite the organizations’ different motivations for providing charitable services, according to new research from Rice University and the Russell Sage Foundation.

“There’s been a lot of discussion as to whether religious organizations offer some special or unique benefit to immigrant groups that will help them better adapt to American society,” said the study’s lead author, Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program. “We wanted to see at the organizational level whether there was any practical difference between these two groups.”

The study examined the behavior of two Mexican-American organizations, one religious and one nonreligious. The two groups identified different motivations for providing job placement, language and financial services to immigrants: The religious organization said its religious convictions necessitated service to the local community, whereas the nonreligious organization cited its commitment to at-risk groups. However, the study showed that there was was little difference in the impact of the two organizations – both sought to provide outreach and services to their respective communities.

The study’s co-author, Michael Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology and Kinder Institute co-director, noted that although there is little difference between the organizations at the present time, that may change in the future.

“There may be significant changes as these organizations deal with second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans,” Emerson said. “These individuals might have different concerns, so the mission and services provided by these organizations very well may change.”

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