The Social Context of Racial Boundary Negotiations: Segregation, Hate Crime, and Hispanic Racial Identification in Metropolitan America

Michael T. Light, John Iceland

Sociological Science, February 08, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a4

How the influx of Hispanics is reshaping the U.S. racial landscape is a paramount question in sociology. While previous research has noted the significant differences in Hispanics’ racial identifications from place to place, there are comparatively few empirical investigations explaining these contextual differences. We attempt to fill this gap by arguing that residential context sets the stage for racial boundary negotiations and that certain environments heighten the salience of inter-group boundaries. We test this argument by examining whether Hispanics who live in highly segregated areas and areas that experience greater levels of anti-Hispanic prejudice are more likely to opt out of the U.S. racial order by choosing the “other race” category in surveys. Using data from the American Community Survey and information on anti-Hispanic hate crimes from the FBI, we find support for these hypotheses. These findings widen the theoretical scope of the roles segregation and prejudice play in negotiating racial identifications, and have implications for the extent to which Hispanics may redefine the U.S. racial order.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Michael T. Light: Purdue University.  Email: mlight@purdue.edu

John Iceland: Department of Sociology and Criminology, Pennsylvania State University. Email: jdi10@psu.edu

Acknowledgements: An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting for the Population Association of America in San Francisco in 2012. The authors thank Sal Oropesa for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We also thank Andrew Raridon for his research assistance.

 

  • Citation: Michael T. Light and John Iceland. 2016. “The Social Context of Racial Boundary Negotiations: Segregation, Hate Crime, and Hispanic Racial Identification in Metropolitan America”. Sociological Science 3: 61-84.
  • Received: October 20, 2015.
  • Accepted: November 28, 2015.
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Mario Small
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a4

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