Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Carl Bowman

Degree Award Date

Spring 1990


Mainstreaming, Mexican-Americans, Communities, Assimilation, Harrisonburg, interviews


Family, Life Course, and Society | Migration Studies | Sociology


The United States is characterized by cultural pluralism, despite its ideal of minority assimilation. This study describes the acculturation process of Mexican Americans in the Harrisonburg, Virginia area. Twenty-six Mexican American couples were interviewed using qualitative research methods. The couples were assessed for degree of assimilation and potential for upward mobility. Defined as improving one's socioeconomic status within or across generations, upward mobility predicts the immigrant's entrance into mainstream America. As primary immigrants, the Mexican Americans in this study displayed only the first stages of assimilation. Acculturation rather than structural assimilation was occurring since the Mexican culture dominated, the immigrants' employment consisted of manual, unskilled jobs, and education levels were low. Generally, the findings reveal that 1) the adult Mexican Americans have experienced little assimilation with the children exhibiting higher degrees of acculturation, 2) those individuals with the greatest potential for upward mobility are the most acculturated, and 3) assimilation directly influences an individual's ability to exercise control over the factors in his or her life.