What shall I call myself? Hispanic identity formation in the second generation

Alejandro Portes, Dag MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


This article explores the ethnic self-identification of second-generation children whose immigrant parents came to the US from Latin America. The focus of the analysis is the adoption of the pan-ethnic label, 'Hispanic', in contrast to national designators and non-hyphenated American identities. Using data from a recent large survey of children of immigrants in south Florida and southern California, the analysis explores the determinants of ethnic self-identities and the potential consequences of the adoption of one of these symbolic levels on children's self-esteem, educational expectations and perceptions of discrimination. The findings indicate the children who adopt the Hispanic level are the least well assimilated: they report poorer English skills, lower self-esteem and higher rates of poverty than their counterparts who identify themselves as Americans or as hyphenated Americans. Theoretical and policy implications of findings as they bear on prospects for successful adaptation of second generation youth are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-547
Number of pages25
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Assimilation
  • Hispanic
  • Identity
  • Pan-ethnicity
  • Second-generation immigrants
  • Self-identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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