Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration

CSII Publications

The Mexican Origin Middle Class in Los AngelesAgius Vallejo

By Jody Agius Vallejo
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
University of Southern California

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The dawn of the new millennium has been rife with controversy over the context of the new immigration, especially the growing proportion of America’s population with Mexican roots. Because Mexicans comprise the largest proportion of immigrants and are typically low-wage labor migrants, the “browning” of America has led scholars, politicians and the American public to increasingly postulate about how immigrants and their children will incorporate into American society. Absent from the dominant narrative of nativists are reflections on successful middle-class Mexican Americans.

Jody Agius Vallejo examines an understudied population, the Mexican-origin middle class, and asks two central questions. First, are middle-class Mexicans experiencing straight-line assimilation into the white middle-class or are they incorporating as racialized minorities? Second and more broadly, what does it mean to be Mexican and middle-class in a society that holds a narrow view of what it means to be Mexican? Agius Vallejo addresses these questions, through examining a new economic indicator of incorporation, looking at how middle-class Mexican Americans identify ethnically, and assessing the role that ethnic community plays in integrating middle-class Mexicans into American society. Agius Vallejo argues that scholarly research and media depictions are biased towards the downwardly mobile, greatly contributing to the idea that the Mexican-origin population is monolithic in terms of class, education, income and occupation, and thus, they are inaccurately reflecting the various paths of incorporation that Mexican immigrants and their children may follow into the middle class. 

The Author

Jody Agius Vallejo is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California and a CSII Affiliated Scholar. She specializes in immigration and immigrant integration, race/ethnicity and the Mexican-origin population. Her current research examines patterns of mobility and socioeconomic incorporation among the Mexican-origin middle class in Southern California. She has been published in City & Community, Ethnicities, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Social Forces, Political Science Quarterly, and Sociological Forum. Her most recent publication,“Latina Spaces: Middle-Class Ethnic Capital and Professional Associations in the Latino Community,” documents the incorporation of middle-class Latinas in Southern California. Agius Vallejo received her Ph.D in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine.