Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, v, 194 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Joanna Dreby

Committee Members

Elizabeth Popp Berman, Nancy Denton


Chinese Americans, Marriage, Intermarriage, Chinese American families, Racially mixed families, Trait intercorrelations

Subject Categories



Previous efforts applying a one-identity-at-work model suggest that upward mobility serves as an engine for marital assimilation. This model allows for the identification of immigrant conditions for integration. However, it does not fully explain the racial and gender asymmetry associated with intermarriage. I am applying an intersectionality approach to addressing issues concerning when and how group differences affect the construction of marriageability, defined as marital boundaries based on us/ them distinctions. Drawing from interviews with 67 highly achieving, Chinese-speaking immigrants and their children residing in the San Diego area, I present evidence illustrating the interactive effects among race, ethnicity, nation, class, and gender. I found that although the immigrants from Taiwan are very similar to Chinese ones in terms of appearance, socioeconomic status, and cultural traditions, the former generally views the latter as unmarriageable them rather than marriageable us because of the group’s strong feelings and expressions of Taiwanese national identity. Yet, both groups show similar patterns in terms of redrawing their marital boundaries along race, class, and gender lines. Generally, white supremacy makes the immigrants embrace white people regardless of their class differences but disapprove darker-skin ones. Yet, one’s middle or upper-class background can make his/her undesirable racial and ethnic difference less visible. More important, the immigrants’ essentialist approach to care manifested by their evaluations of their in-law’s performance has sufficient power to undo marital boundaries, suggesting that gender trumps race and class on the family level. Finally, I found that morality serves as source of legitimacy for the immigrants’ marital preferences. I identify dynamic movement between marital and moral boundaries by showing an arbitrary relationship among perceived moral traits and group difference perceptions.

Included in

Sociology Commons