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On the Costs of Being American Indian: Ethnic Identity and Economic Opportunity

  • Author(s): Snipp, C. Matthew
  • et al.

This paper examines the assimilation of American Indians, specifically in relation to the role that economic discrimination has played in making American Indians one of the poorest groups in American society. The relationship between assimilation and discrimination is particularly important in this context. As assimilation increases, discrimination should decrease and the economic position of the assimilated group, American Indians, should improve. Conversely, those groups least assimilated into American society bear the brunt of racial and ethnic discrimination, and their economic position should be correspondingly lower than more assimilated minorities.

American Indians are a particularly interesting group among whom to examine these ideas. This is because it is possible to identify, in empirical data,distinct groups of persons with American Indian background that are more or less assimilated into American society. In studying the ways in which assimilation and discrimination affect the economic standing of American Indians, this research will address two closely related questions: 1) to what extent are American Indians assimilated into mainstream culture, and to what extent are different levels of assimilation manifest in different types of American Indian ethnic identities; and 2) what are the economic "penalties" assessed on persons who decline to assimilate into the mainstream culture?

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