Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

International Relations

Advisor's Name

Patricia L. Price

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Damian J. Fernandez

Advisor's Name

Gail M. Hollander

Advisor's Name

Alex Stepick

Keywords

Latino Studies, Urban Geography, Miami, Immigrant incorporation, Ethnic and racial identity, Civic engagement

Date of Defense

6-9-2010

Abstract

Immigrant incorporation in the United States has been a topic of concern and debate since the founding of the nation. Scholars have studied many aspects of the phenomenon, including economic, political, social, and spatial. The most influential paradigm of immigrant incorporation in the US has been, and continues to be, assimilation, and the most important place in and scale at which incorporation occurs is the neighborhood. This dissertation captures both of these integral aspects of immigrant incorporation through its consideration of three dimensions of assimilation – identity, trust, and civic engagement – among Latin American immigrants and American-born Latinos in Little Havana, a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Miami, Florida. Data discussed in the dissertation were gathered through surveys and interviews as part of a National Science Foundation-funded study carried out in 2005-2006. The combination of quantitative and qualitative data allows for a nuanced understanding of how immigrant incorporation is occurring locally during the first decade of the twentieth century.

Findings reveal that overall Latin American immigrants and their American-born offspring appear to be becoming American with regard to their ethnic and racial identities quickly, evidenced through the salience and active employment of panethnic labels, while at the same time they are actively reshaping the identificational structure. The Latino population, however, is not monolithic and is cleaved by diversity within the group, including country of origin and socioeconomic status. These same factors impede group cohesion in terms of trust and its correlate, community. Nevertheless, the historically dominant ancestry group in Little Havana – Cubans – has been able to reach notable levels of trust and build and conserve a more solid sense of community than non-Cuban residents. With respect to civic engagement, neighborhood residents generally participate at rates lower than the overall US population and ethnic subpopulations. This is not the case for political engagement, however, where self-reported voting registration and turnout in Little Havana surpasses that of most benchmarked populations. The empirical evidence presented in this dissertation on the case of Latinos in Little Havana challenges the ways that identity, trust, and civic engagement are conceptualized and theorized, especially among immigrants to the US.

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