People who identify with an ethnic group share common cultural characteristics (e.g., nationality, history, language, religion, etc.). Ethnic groups participate in rituals, customs, ceremonies, and other traditions to help preserve shared heritage (Kottak & Kozaitis, 2012). Ethnic group culture affects where and how we live (e.g., single- vs. multi-generation households). Ethnic group cuisine and dietary habits affects how our bodies grow and develop. Ethnic group lifestyle habits promote certain activities that relate to physical well-being and sport (Kottak & Kozaitis, 2012).
Not all people see themselves as belonging to an ethnic group or view ethnic heritage as important to their identity. People who do not identify with an ethnic identity either (1) have no distinct cultural background because their ancestors come from a variety of cultural groups and offspring have not maintained a specific culture but instead have a blended culture, or (2) they lack awareness about their ethnic heritage (Kottak & Kozaitis, 2012). It may be difficult for some people to feel a sense of solidarity or association with any specific ethnic group because they do not know where their cultural practices and traditions came from and how their cultural behaviors adapted over time.
Race-Ethnicity and Religion
The patterns of religious identity among major racial and ethnic groups vary significantly. According to Jones (2017) and as shown in Figure 1.3.14, nearly 70% of white Americans identify as Christian, and 3/4 of African Americans identify as Christian. More than 1/4 of white Americans are Evangelical Protestant, with 1/5 identifying as Protestant (non-Evangelical), and less than 1/5 are Catholic. Over the past few decades, the Catholic religious denomination has become less white and more Latinx. A greater percentage of African Americans identify as Protestant (nearly 70%) with only 6% identifying as Catholic. Latinx are also predominantly Christian, with almost half identifying as Catholic and only 1/4 identifying as Protestant. Amongst Asian Americans Pacific Islanders (AAPI), more than 1/3 identify as Christian and more than 1/4 are not affiliated with a religious denomination. As AAPI reflect the most religious diversity of all the groups featured in the above figure, more than 1/10 of AAPI identify as Hindu and a lesser amount identify as Buddhist or Muslim, approximately 6% in each respective group.
These enclaves offer economic opportunities to immigrants and mechanisms for maintenance of immigrant cultures, but also the potential exploitation of immigrant labor, often based on gender. The enclaves of Asian and Latinx immigrants emerging since the 1960s, compliments of the 1965 immigration policy, compare to earlier enclaves of Jewish and Italian immigrants at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. In recent decades, enclaves can potentially serve as agents for social mobility of immigrant populations. Enclaves may also hinder assimilation into mainstream U.S. culture. A preponderance of ethnic enclaves are found in urban and suburban parts of the country such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York. These enclaves can be characterized by a host of benefits and challenges.