Nominal versus variable approaches for understanding group differences

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What produces and sustains inequality in socioeconomic position and integration across immigrant groups? Luthra, Soehl and Waldinger engage with this core sociological question in their book “Origins and Destinations”. They argue that nominal approaches, which compare and contrast whole national origin groups, are insufficient. Rather, they implement a variable approach. They use data on second generation immigrants living in New York and Los Angeles in the late 1990s to explore empirically what it is about immigrant groups that confers advantages and disadvantages to their offspring in the United States. Rather than comparing whole groups, they use measured data about each group’s characteristics and circumstances to help explain group differences. I describe their innovative approach and provide suggestions for how future research might build on it, such as by accounting for more variation in the context of reception, or by extending the temporal dimensions of inquiry across three or more generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2279-2284
Number of pages6
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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