Probing Change in Racial Self-identification: A Focus on Children of Immigrants

Thomas J. Mowen, Richard Stansfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Recent studies have shown that racial identification varies across context and time. Although sociologists recognize many contextual factors associated with racial group membership, relatively little attention has been given to understanding the specific factors—such as self-perceptions, socioeconomic incentives, and family pressures—that relate to changes in racial self-identification, especially among children of immigrants individuals who may have a relatively high propensity for inconsistency in racial identification. Using two waves of data from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study and guided by social identity theory, the authors seek to (1) explore the prevalence of changes in racial self-identification over time within this sample and (2) understand the mechanisms that may contribute to changes in self-identification. The results indicate that self-esteem, self-worth, and family cohesion are related to an individual’s reporting a change in racial identification between waves. Socioeconomic status and depression are not related to changes in racial identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-337
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Race and Ethnicity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • children of immigrants
  • ethnicity
  • identity theory
  • race
  • racial identification


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