This knowledge synthesis provides an up-to-date assessment of how the acculturation experiences of the children of immigrants influences their social identities. While other factors affect identity development, this synthesis focuses on the interface between identity and intergroup relations. Most post-1965 immigrants encounter economic circumstances and a “color” barrier that complicate the acculturation process. How these structural forces affect the pathway towards becoming a Canadian or an American is a far-reaching issue. For groups that are able to achieve economic parity with Whites and encounter little racism, their “ethnicity” could recede across generations. Hence, recent immigrants could eventually adopt unhyphenated identities based on a sense of belonging to the host community. In multicultural countries, however, such identificational assimilation is unnecessary for successful incorporation. The children of recent immigrants could instead opt for bicultural identities. The troubling possibility are situations where barriers to immigrant incorporation motive a reactive ethnic solidarity. In these cases, ethnic identity could reflect social divisions and perhaps even ethnic conflict within society.

Bibliographic Notes

This policy brief was prepared by Christoph M. Schimmele, University of Victoria.