Edward Telles Expands Study of Race and Inequality

January 25, 2012

edward tellesPrinceton University has published a fascinating profile of Edward Telles, a former RSF Visiting Scholar and co-author of Generations of Exclusions: Mexican Americans, Assimilation and Race. The article briefly explains the story behind the book:

When an old UCLA library was being retrofitted to meet earthquake-related building codes, workers found boxes in the basement with 1,200 surveys done in the 1960s of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans in San Antonio and Los Angeles.

Telles and fellow UCLA sociologist Vilma Ortiz decided to follow up with the original respondents, as the surveys provided unique information about assimilation unavailable through census data.

"People were writing about what was going to happen to Mexicans, often with no data," Telles said.

Telles and Ortiz interviewed nearly 60 percent (nearly 700) of the original respondents, and their children, looking at structural issues such as education and socioeconomic status, as well as cultural factors such as language, religion, intermarriage and political views. In Telles and Ortiz's 2008 book "Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation and Race," which won the American Sociological Association's awards for best book in the Latino and population sections, they concluded that Mexican Americans did not fit neat categories of assimilation or exclusion.

"There have been negative conceptions associated with this group that there had not been for many other groups of children of immigrants," Telles said.

Telles explained that culturally, Mexican Americans became part of the American melting pot, though not as quickly or fully as European immigrants, and the socioeconomic outcomes were much less certain. He noted that while education levels improved for the second generation — the children of immigrants — they leveled off or declined for future generations, with Mexican Americans having the lowest education levels among major ethnic and racial groups, slowing their assimilation in other areas such as occupation, wealth and residential integration.

"I sensed it from personal experience, but when it came out of the data it was really clear and it was really powerful," Telles said.

Read the full profile, which details Telles' current work on race relations in Latin America.

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