Relational Assimilation and Declining Ethnic Distinction: The Case of Ethnic Restaurants

Christina Diaz , University of Arizona
Peter Ore, University of Arizona

Theories of immigrant assimilation increasingly recognize that Americans adopt—and even embrace—aspects of migrant culture. We contribute to this growing discussion by asking whether local Asian and Hispanic populations influence the cultural landscape of communities. Here, we rely on ethnic restaurants as they reflect local preferences for goods and services that were once characterized as belonging to a single ethnic group. We also ask whether chain and non-chain restaurants exhibit distinctive relationships to the co-ethnic population. To answer these questions, we combine county-level data from the decennial U.S. Census, the American Community Survey (ACS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the Voting and Elections Collection from CQ Press, and Reference USA—a proprietary database of nearly 24 million U.S. businesses. Preliminary results identify a strong, positive association between the size of the local ethnic population and estimated number of non-chain restaurants, and virtually no correlation with chain eateries.

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 Presented in Session 7. Migration & Urbanization