Mexican Americans are Americans of Mexican ancestry. They account for 9% of the country's population: about 28.3 million Americans listed their ancestry as Mexican as of 2006. They are the largest illegal immigrants. Using data from March 2004, PHC estimated, and they also form the largest Hispanic or Latino group in the United States and contain the largest group of White Hispanics. Mexican Americans trace their ancestry to the modern day country of Mexico; most ultimately descend from a combination of peoples from Europe, especially Spain, and the indigenous peoples of Mexico.
Most Mexican American settlement concentrations are in metropolitan and rural areas across the United States, with the highest concentrations found in the Southwest.
Mexican Americans form the largest ancestral group in El Paso, where the population is more than 80 percent Mexican American, and Mexican.
Cities and counties that are predominantly Mexican and Mexican American are: El Paso; Corpus Christi, Texas; Laredo, Texas; Brownsville; Santa Ana, California; Denver; Fresno; San Antonio; Indio; Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.
While there is a significant Central American community within Los Angeles, and less so in Los Angeles County as a whole, Los Angeles is sometimes referred to as the world's largest Mexican city outside of Mexico. The combined proportion of Mexican Nationals, and Mexican Americans to all other Hispanic Nationalities in both Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County is more in the USA have seen the Mexican American population increase dramatically.
Growing populations, that consist mostly of recently arrived immigrants from Mexico, are also present in other parts of the rural Southeastern United States, in states such as Georgia, Oklahoma, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. A growing population is also present in urban areas such as Washington, D.C., New York City perhaps home to 260,000 Mexicans (whether immigrants and American-born) and are the third largest Hispanic national group in the city , Florida (esp. Miami and Tampa) and Philadelphia.
As early as 1813 the Tejanos who colonized Texas in the Spanish Colonial Period established a government in Texas that looked forward to independence from Mexico. As revealed by the writings of colonial Tejano Texians such as Antonio Menchaca, the Texas Revolution was initially a colonial Tejano cause. By 1831, Anglo settlers outnumbered Tejanos ten to one in Texas. The Mexican government became concerned by their increasing numbers and restricted the number of new Anglo settlers allowed to enter Texas. The Mexican government also banned slavery within the state, which angered slave owners. The Anglos along with many of the Tejanos rebelled against the centralized authority of Mexico City and the Santa Anna regime, while others remained loyal to Mexico, and still others were neutral.
Author John P. Schmal wrote of the effect Texas independence had on the Tejano community:
"A native of San Antonio, Juan Seguín is probably the most famous Tejano to be involved in the War of Texas Independence. His story is complex because he joined the Anglo rebels and helped defeat the Mexican forces of Santa Anna. But later on, as Mayor of San Antonio, he and other Tejanos felt the hostile encroachments of the growing Anglo power against them. After receiving a series of death threats, Seguín relocated his family in Mexico, where he was coerced into military service and fought against the US in 1846-1848 Mexican-American War.
Although the events of 1836 led to independence for the people of Texas, the Hispanic population of the state was very quickly disenfranchised to the extent that their political representation in the Texas State Legislature disappeared entirely for several decades."
Californios were Spanish speaking residents of modern day California who were either of Mexican or European descent and Native Americans who became integrated into the society before the California Gold Rush. Relations between Californios and Anglo settlers were relatively good until military officer John C. Fremont arrived in California with a force of 60 men on an exploratory expedition in 1846. Fremont made an agreement with Comandante Castro that he would only stay in the San Joaquin Valley for the winter, then move north to Oregon. However, Fremont remained in the Santa Clara Valley then headed towards Monterey. When Castro demanded that Fremont leave California, Fremont rode to Gavilan Peak, raised a US flag and vowed to fight to the last man to defend it. After three days of tension, Fremont retreated to Oregon without a shot being fired. With relations between Californios and Anglos quickly souring, Fremont rode back into California and encouraged a group of American settlers to seize a group of Castro's soldiers and their horses. Another group, seized the Presidio of Sonoma and captured Mariano Vallejo. William B. Ide was chosen Commander in Chief and on July 5th, he proclaimed the creation of the Bear Flag Republic. On July 9th, US forces reached Sonoma and lowered the Bear Flag Republic's flag then replaced it with a US flag. Californios organized an army to defend themselves from invading American forces after the Mexican army retreated from California. The Californios defeated an American force in Los Angeles on September 30, 1846, but were defeated after the Americans reinforced their forces in Southern California. The arrival of tens of thousands of people during the California Gold Rush meant the end of the Californio's ranching lifestyle. Many Anglo 49ers turned to farming and moved, often illegally, onto the land granted to Californios by the old Mexican government.
The United States first came into conflict with Mexico in the 1830s, as the westward spread of Anglo settlements and of slavery brought significant numbers of new settlers into the region known as Tejas (modern-day Texas), then part of Mexico. The Mexican-American War, followed by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, extended U.S. control over a wide range of territory once held by Mexico, including the present day borders of Texas and the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California.
Although the treaty promised that the landowners in this newly acquired territory would enjoy full enjoyment and protection of their property as if they were citizens of the United States, many former citizens of Mexico lost their land in lawsuits before state and federal courts or as a result of legislation passed after the treaty. Even those statutes intended to protect the owners of property at the time of the extension of the United States' borders, such as the 1851 California Land Act, had the effect of dispossessing Californio owners ruined by the cost of maintaining litigation over land titles for years.
While Mexican Americans were once concentrated in the states that formerly belonged to Mexico — principally, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas — they began creating communities in St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other steel producing regions when they obtained employment during World War I. More recently, Mexican immigrants have increasingly become a large part of the workforce in industries such as meat packing throughout the Midwest, in agriculture in the southeastern United States, and in the construction, landscaping, restaurant, hotel and other service industries throughout the country.
Mexican-American workers formed unions of their own and joined integrated unions. The most significant union struggle involving Mexican-Americans was the United Farm Workers' long strike and boycott aimed at grape growers in the San Joaquin and Coachella Valleys in the late 1960s. Its struggle propelled César Chávez and Dolores Huerta into national prominence changing from a workers' rights organization that helped workers get unemployment insurance to that of a union of farmworkers almost overnight.
Mexican American identity has also changed markedly throughout these years. Over the past hundred years Mexican Americans have campaigned for voting rights, stood against educational and employment discrimination and stood for economic and social advancement. At the same time many Mexican Americans have struggled with defining and maintaining their community's identity. In the 1960s and 1970s, some Latino and Hispanic student groups flirted with nationalism and differences over the proper name for members of the community — Chicano/Chicana, Latino/Latina, Mexican Americans, or Hispanics became tied up with deeper disagreements over whether to integrate into or remain separate from mainstream American society, as well as divisions between those Mexican Americans whose families had lived in the United States for two or more generations and more recent immigrants.
Per the 2000 U.S. Census, a plurality of 47.3% of Mexican Americans self identify as White, closely followed by Mexican Americans who self identify as "Some other race", usually Mestizo (European/Indian) with 45.5%. Respondents who claim two or more races accounted for 5.1%, Blacks for 0.7%, and all other races for 1.4%. Mexican Americans are predominantly of European and Indian descent.
Before the United States' borders expanded westward in the 19th century, New World regions colonized by the Spanish Empire since the 16th century held to a complex caste system (casta) that classified persons by their fractional racial makeup and geographic origin.
As the United States' borders expanded, the United States Census Bureau changed its racial classification methods for Mexican Americans under United States jurisdiction. The Bureau's classification system has evolved significantly from its inception:
For certain purposes, respondents who wrote in "Chicano" or "Mexican" (or indeed, almost all Hispanic origin groups) in the "Some other race" category were automatically re-classified into the "White race" group.
Throughout U.S. history, Mexican Americans have been legally but not socially classified as "White". Census criteria and legal constructions generally classify them as "White"; or "Indigenous".
In times and places where Mexicans were allotted white status, they were permitted to intermarry with what today are termed "non-Hispanic whites",. Mexican Americans could vote and hold elected office in places such as Texas, especially San Antonio. They ran the state politics and constituted most of the elite of New Mexico since colonial times. However, property requirements and English literacy requirements were imposed in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas in order to prevent Mexican Americans from voting. Some eligible voters were intimidated with the threat of violence if they attempted to exercise their right to vote.
They were also allowed to serve in all-white units during World War II. However, many Mexican American war veterans were discriminated against and even denied medical services by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs when they arrived home.
Mexicans are legally considered "White" because of early treaty obligations to Spaniards and Mexicans that conferred citizenship status at a time when white-ness was a prerequisite for U.S. citizenship.Although Mexican Americans were legally classified as "White" in terms of official federal policy, many organizations, businesses, and homeowners associations and local legal systems had official policies to exclude Mexican Americans. Throughout the southwest discrimination in wages were institutionalized in "white wages" versus lower "mexican wages" for the same job classifications.
Mexican Americans classified as "White", following anti-miscegenation laws in most western states until the 1960s could not legally marry African Americans, or Asian Americans. However, there's a documented trend of high intermarriage rates in the Mexican American community with Filipinos that most state laws exempted and Indian Americans from India or Pakistan (see Punjabi Mexican American for information about the subject).
In the United States, in states where Mexican Americans make up a large percentage of the population, such as California and Texas, illegal as well as legal immigrants from Mexico and Central America in addition to Mexican Americans combined often make up a large majority of workers in many blue-collar occupations: the majority of the employed men are restaurant workers, janitors, truck drivers, gardeners, construction laborers, material moving workers, or perform other types of manual or other blue collar labor (Source, U.S. Census Bureau, American community survey data.). Many women also work in low wage service and retail occupations. In many of these places with large Latino populations, many types of blue-collar workers are often assumed to be Mexican American or Mexican or other Latino immigrants (Although a large minority are actually not. -Source, U.S. Census Bureau, American community survey data.) because of their frequent dominance in those occupations and stereotyping. Occasionally, tensions have risen between Mexican immigrants and other ethnic groups because of increasing concerns over the availability of working-class jobs to Americans and immigrants from other ethnic groups. However, tensions have also risen among Hispanic American laborers who have been displaced because of both cheap Mexican labor and ethnic profiling. African American workers in lower-wage jobs have been displaced by undocumented Mexican laborers and their neighborhoods have been transformed from majority black to majority latino, which has caused some racial tensions between African Americans and Mexicans in the Southwest US. Even legal immigrants to the United States, both from Mexico and elsewhere, have spoken out against illegal immigration. However, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in June 2007, 63% of Americans would support an immigration policy that would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship if they "pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs, learn English", while 30% would oppose such a plan. The survey also found that if this program was instead labeled "amnesty", 54% would support it, while 39% would oppose.
Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has said that the growth of the working-age population is a large factor in keeping the economy growing and that immigration can be used to grow that population. According to Greenspan, by 2030, the growth of the US workforce will slow from 1 percent to 1/2 percent, while the percentage of the population over 65 years will rise from 13 percent to perhaps 20 percent. Greenspan has also stated that the current immigration problem could be solved with a "stroke of the pen", referring to the 2007 immigration reform bill which would have strengthened border security, created a guest worker program, and put illegal immigrants currently residing in the US on a path to citizenship if they met certain conditions.
Mexican Americans have found themselves targeted by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan It is estimated that at least 597 Mexicans and Mexican Americans were lynched between 1848 and 1928 in the Southwest. Mexican Americans were lynched at a rate of 27.4 per 100,000 of population between 1880 and 1930. This statistic is second only to that of the African American community during that period, which suffered an average of 37.1 per 100,000 of population. Between 1848 to 1879, Mexicans were lynched at an unprecedented rate of 473 per 100,000 of population. More problematic still is the fact that, despite the recent flourishing of academic literature on lynching, scholars also persistently overlook anti-Mexican violence.
Since the majority of illegal immigrants in the U.S. have traditionally been from Latin America, the Mexican American community has been the subject of widespread immigration raids. During The Great Depression, the United States government sponsored a Mexican Repatriation program which was intended to encourage people to voluntarily move to Mexico, but thousands were deported against their will. More than 500,000 individuals were deported, approximately 60 percent of which were actually United States citizens. In the post-war McCarthy era, the Justice Department launched Operation Wetback.
In the 1940s, imagery in newspapers and crime novels portrayed Mexican American Zoot suiters as disloyal foreigners or murderers attacking White police officers and servicemen. Anti-zoot suiter sentiment sparked a series of attacks on young Mexican American males in Los Angeles which became known as the Zoot Suit Riots. The worst of the rioting occurred on June 9, during which 5,000 servicemen and civilians gathered in downtown Los Angeles and attacked Mexican-American zoot suiters and non-zoot suiters alike. The rioting eventually spread to the predominantly African American neighborhood of Watts.
During World War II, more than 300,000 Mexican Americans served in the US armed forces. Mexican Americans were generally integrated into regular military units, however, many Mexican American war veterans were discriminated against and even denied medical services by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs when they arrived home. In 1948, war veteran Dr Hector P. Garcia founded the American GI Forum to address the concerns of Mexican American veterans who were being discriminated against. The AGIF's first campaign was on the behalf of Felix Longoria, a Mexican American private who was killed in the Philippines while in the line of duty. Upon the return of his body to his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas, he was denied funeral services because of his race.
Mexican American school children, especially those of mestizo and mulatto descent, were subject to racial segregation in the public school system. They were forced to attend "Mexican schools" throughout the Southwestern United States.. In 1947, the Mendez v. Westminster ruling declared that segregating children of "Mexican and Latin descent" in Orange County and the state of California was unconstitutional. This ruling helped lay the foundation for the landmark Brown v Board of Education case which ended racial segregation in the public school system.
Mexican Americans were not selected as jurors in court cases which involved a Mexican American defendant in many counties in the Southwestern United States. In 1954, Pete Hernandez, an agricultural worker, was indicted of murder by an all-white jury in Jackson County, Texas. Hernandez believed that the jury could not be impartial unless members of other races were allowed on the jury-selecting committees, seeing that a Mexican American had not been on a jury for more than 25 years in that particular county. Hernandez and his lawyers decided to take the case to the Supreme Court. The Hernandez v. Texas Supreme Court ruling declared that Mexican Americans and other racial groups in the United States were entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In many areas across the Southwest, Mexican Americans lived in separate residential areas, due to laws and real estate company policies. This group of laws and policies, known as redlining, lasted until the 1950s, and fall under the concept of official segregation. In many other instances, it was more of a general social understanding among whites that Mexicans should be excluded. For instance, signs with the phrase "No Dogs or Mexicans" were posted in small businesses and public pools throughout the Southwest well into the 60's.
In modern times, organizations such as neo-Nazis, white supremacist groups, American nationalist and nativist groups have been known and continue to intimidate, harass and advocate the use of violence towards Mexican Americans and other ethnic Latinos in the population. Other organizations seeking to apprehend immigrants that have crossed into the United States illegally have also been accused of discrimination. It has recently been reported that members of Neo-Nazi organizations have indeed participated in demonstrations by the Minuteman Project and other anti-illegal-immigration organizations.In 2006, it was revealed that Laine Lawless, former Minuteman Project member and founder of Border Guardians (believed to be a nativist anti-immigration organization), sent emails to leaders of the National Socialist Movement (a neo nazi organization) in which she encouraged violence against "illegal immigrants" and Spanish speaking individuals.
In 2006, Time magazine reported that the number of hate groups in the United States increased by 33 percent since 2000, primarily due to anti-illegal immigrant and anti-Mexican sentiment.
According to FBI statistics, the number of anti-Latino hate crimes increased by 35 percent since 2003. In California, the state with the largest Mexican American population, the number of hate crimes committed against Latinos has almost doubled.
Barrow (2005) finds increases in average personal and household incomes for Mexican Americans in the 21st century. U.S. born Mexican Americans earn more and are represented more in the middle- and upper-class segments more than recently arriving Mexican immigrants. It should be noted, however, that Mexican Americans are not well represented in the professions. Most of the immigrants from Mexico come from the lower classes with lineage of family employed in lower skilled jobs. Thus, the kind of Mexican that arrives in the United States doesn't have a history of being involved in professions. Recently, some professionals from Mexico have been migrating, but to make the transition from one country to another it involves a lot of re-training and re-adjusting to conform to US standards--i.e. professional licensing is required. According to James P. Smith of the Research and Development Corporation, the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants tend to lessen educational and income gaps with native whites. Immigrant Latino men make about half of what native whites do, while second generation US-born Latinos make about 78 percent of the salaries of their native white counterparts.
Huntington (2005) argues that the sheer number, concentration, linguistic homogeneity, and other characteristics of Latin American 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, Citrin et al. (2007) show that Hispanics (in general but not Mexicans specifically) 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 non-Mexican American whites.
South et al. (2005) examine Hispanic spatial assimilation and inter-neighborhood geographic mobility. Their longitudinal analysis of seven hundred Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban immigrants followed from 1990 to 1995 finds broad support for hypotheses derived from the classical account of assimilation into American society. High income, English-language use, and embeddedness in American social contexts increased Latin American immigrants' geographic mobility into multi-ethnic neighborhoods. US citizenship and years spent in the United States were positively associated with geographic mobility into different neighborhoods, and coethnic contact was inversely associated with this form of mobility, but these associations operated largely through other predictors. Prior experiences of ethnic discrimination increased and residence in public housing decreased the likelihood that Latino immigrants would move from their original neighborhoods, while residing in metropolitan areas with large Latino populations led to geographic moves into "less Anglo" census tracts.
However, Mexican and Hispanic communities are said to became more culturally separate than ever by an increase of "enclavism" in the late 20th century, a new form of self-segregation among non-Anglo groups, especially in urban centers and older suburbs. It's been said that Mexican American and Anglo American communities throughout the history of the Southwestern states were like "separate worlds" as the U.S. and Mexico are separate countries, especially before the 1960s when residential segregation and discrimination became illegal.
Neighborhoods with a high percentage of individuals who claim Latino ancestry are commonly referred to as “barrios” or “colonias.” When translated from Spanish to English, barrio signifies “district” or “quarter” while colonia is the corresponding Mexican Spanish word.
A barrio has been defined as “a place where Latino immigrants can express communal culture and language within the larger American culture." In other words, the barrio is a sort of sanctuary for Spanish-speaking immigrants who may not yet be fully adjusted to the United States. In the barrio, they can converse in their native language, allowing one to communicate, find a job, and seek help with less pressure of speaking a second language. It is a place where Latino culture thrives and a source of comfort to a recent immigrant, as it would offer him or her a place to work and live while perfecting fluency of the English language.
However, some argue that the barrio also represents the inequality faced by many Mexican Americans in the United States. Barrios usually offer a lower quality of education, provide poorer jobs than other neighborhoods, and generally receive less government attention than wealthier neighborhoods.
Housing Market Practices
Studies have shown that the segregation among Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants seems to be declining. One study found that Mexican American applicants were offered the same housing terms and conditions as Anglo Americans. They were asked to provide the same information (regarding employment, income, credit checks, etc) and asked to meet the same general qualifications of their Anglo peers.
However, in this same study, it was found that Mexican Americans were more likely to be asked to pay a security deposit or application fee. While Anglo applicants were not asked to pay an extra sum either before moving into a unit or before having their application reviewed, Mexican American applicants were asked to provide this sum. Another interesting aspect of this study is that the Mexican American applicants were more likely to be placed onto a waiting list than the Anglo Americans applicants.
Real estate agents may use a variety of tactics to “steer” Mexican Americans away from predominantly Anglo neighborhoods. More negative comments may be made to Mexican Americans about the quality of the public school found closest to the unit advertised or the neighborhood surrounding the unit. This would create a greater interest in Anglo Americans, while “steering” Mexican Americans away from these neighborhoods.
Latino Segregation versus Black Segregation
Historically, Blacks have faced much harsher treatment concerning segregation than any other racial, ethnic, or ancestral group. When comparing the segregation of Mexican Americans to that of Black Americans, there are two important facts that one must understand.
First, “Latino segregation is less severe and fundamentally different than Black residential segregation." Studies have shown that the separation of Latinos is more likely to be due to factors such as lower socioeconomic status and immigration while the segregation of African Americans is more likely to be due to larger issues such as racism. While the segregation of both African Americans and Latinos can be explained by the fact that they are largely confined to blue-collar occupations and are therefore unable to accumulate enough wealth enabling a home outside of the ghetto/barrio, African Americans more often face segregation regardless of socioeconomic status. The segregation of Mexican Americans is less severe and can be seen as a intermediary phenomenon that may slowly become less and less apparent. While Asians and Amerindians may find themselves less segregated as they move up the socioeconomic ladder, many African Americans often continue to be spatially separated from Whites regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Secondly, the segregation towards African Americans and Amerindian Latinos is much more severe than it is for others of Spanish-speaking heritage. In other words, the darker ones skin, the most likely his or her chances of being confined to the barrio. A white Latino, for instance, would have an easier job finding residence within a white neighborhood than a non-white Latino. Thus, it may be concluded that the largest factor for the segregation of Latinos who immigrate to the United States is racism since the majority of Latino immigrants are non-white.
However, it is also important to note that Latino segregation patterns are moving closer to those of African Americans. The amount of Latinos confined to the barrio is increasing while the severity of Black segregation is decreasing.
Historically, Mexican American children have been forced to register at “Mexican schools”, where classroom conditions were poor, the school year was shorter, and the quality of education was substandard. Unlike their African American peers, who were at least partially desegregated during the Civil Rights era, this situation was permanent and remained a problem for much longer.
Various reasons for the inferiority of Mexican American education has been listed by James A. Ferg-Cadima including: inadequate resources, poor equipment, unfit building construction, shortened school year (see below), failure to prevent drop out, limited access to high school, a watered down curriculum, poor instruction, disproportionate suspension, expulsion, harassment and non-enforced attendance rules.
Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, both the Mexican American and African American school years were shortened. In 1923, the Texas Education Survey Commission found that the school year for these groups was 1.6 months shorter than the average school year. This may be connected to the fact that minority labor was needed during this time. As the agricultural field required the cheap labor provided by exploited minorities, it has been suggested that the minority school year was shortened to allow for these students to work instead of receive the extra 1.6 months of education.
Others have interpreted the shortened school year as a “means of social control." In other words, policies were implemented to ensure that Mexican Americans would maintain the unskilled labor force required for a healthy economy. A lesser education would serve to confine Mexican Americans to the bottom rung of the social ladder. By limiting the number of days that Mexican Americans could attend school and allotting time for these same students to work, in mainly agricultural and seasonal jobs, the prospects for higher education and upward mobility are slim.
There is a definite connection between the quality of education received by one group of people and their respective occupational statuses. As Latinos graduate from high school and attend college in much lower numbers than other social groups, they are restricted to service occupations. Many people have pushed for the need for increased education by increasing enrollment of Latinos in every level of advancement, from the attainment of a high school degree all the way to a graduate degree.
Immigration and Segregation
When an immigrant enters the United States, it is likely that he or she will seek shelter and occupation within an “immigration hub.”
Immigration hubs are popular destinations for Latino immigrants. They are increasing in size and continue to be highly segregated. The largest immigration hubs include Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The highly segregated areas of these cities have historically served the purpose of allowing immigrants to become comfortable in the United States, accumulate wealth, and eventually leave. The historical view of immigration hubs sees these cities as temporary starting points for immigrants. They are not expected to live their entire lives within the United States inside segregated areas. Rather, they are expected to accumulate enough wealth to start a life within the larger society.
This model of immigration and residential segregation, explained above, is the model which has historically been accurate in describing the experiences of Latino immigrants. However, the patterns of immigration seen today no longer follows this model. This old model is termed the standard spatial assimilation model. More contemporary models are the polarization model and the diffusion model.
The spatial assimilation model posits that as immigrants would live within this country’s borders, they would simultaneously become more comfortable in their new surroundings, their socioeconomic status would rise, and their ability to speak English would increase. The combination of these changes would allow for the immigrant to move out of the barrio and into the dominant society. This type of assimilation reflects the experiences of immigrants of the early twentieth century. Recent, more contemporary, models of residential segregation are the polarization model and the diffusion model are described below.
Polarization model suggests that the immigration of non-Black minorities into the United States further separates Blacks and Whites, as though the new immigrants are a buffer between them. This creates a hierarchy in which Blacks are at the bottom, Whites are at the top, and other groups fill the middle. In other words, the polarization model posits that Asians and Amerindians are less segregated than their African American peers because White American society would rather live closer to Asians or Amerindians than Blacks.
The diffusion model has also been suggested as a way of describing the immigrant’s experience within the United States. This model is rooted in the belief that as time passes, more and more immigrants enter the country. This model suggests that as the United States becomes more populated with a more diverse set of peoples, stereotypes and discriminatory practices will decrease, as awareness and acceptness increase. The diffusion model predicts that new immigrants will break down old patterns of discrimination and prejudice, as one becomes more and more comfortable with the more diverse neighborhoods that are created through the influx of immigrants. Applying this model to the experiences of Mexican Americans forces one to see Mexican American immigrants as positive additions to the “American melting pot,” in which as more additions are made to the pot, the more equal and accepting society will become.
The issue of overcrowding is closely related to the issue of segregation and immigration. As immigrants enter the country, they are likely to settle in areas where their friends, family, or simply other who share their culture, have settled. It is not uncommon for many members of families, extended families, or friends, to live in what is considered "overcrowded" conditions.
A large aspect of the segregation of Latinos within the United States is overcrowding. Rates of overcrowding among Latinos, especially in American suburbs, are high. The U.S. Census Bureau considers a residence to be overcrowded if there is more than one person per room
There are various explanations for overcrowding. One widely held belief about overcrowding is based on a stereotype of living in close proximity simply to cultural preference. To expand on that point, it is widely believed that immigrant Latino families live in dense households because of their desire to remain in close proximity with extended family. However, this view does not paint the entire picture. Some families may live under one roof by choice and it is possible that Latinos may have different cultural standards than other population groups, thus allowing them to be more comfortable living with extended family underneath the same roof. However, one cannot reduce all problems of Latino overcrowding to cultural preference, as this offers an incomplete understanding of the issue at hand.
Latinos may live in overcrowded conditions out of economic necessity and simply because they choose to live differently than others. Lack of affordable housing and a poor selection of well-paying occupations may combine to create the necessity of many living close together. Because one certain family may find very few opportunities for sufficient housing or find themselves without adequate funds for a house of their own, they may be forced to live in crowded conditions.