Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Francisca Antman

Second Advisor

Nicholas Flores

Third Advisor

Janet Jacobs

Abstract

Initially motivated by the known disparities in socioeconomic, educational, and health outcomes for American Indians in the United States, this study broadly addresses the ways that interracial marriage, as a proxy for cultural assimilation, affects the health of minorities, and American Indians in particular. Increasing diversity and connectedness in the United States necessitates better understandings of the potential benefits and consequences of cultural assimilation between diverse populations. Analysis of health outcomes in relation to American Indians’ interracial marriages with whites proved inconclusive. Despite the ambiguous outcomes for American Indians, results show a low-level but significant negative correlation between minority marriages to whites (as compared to endogamous marriages) and a lower probability of poor health. Controls for physical, socioeconomic, and environmental factors suggest that this correlation is also statistically significant at the population level (although this should not be interpreted as proving causality). So, assimilation into white culture appears to be correlated with better health outcomes for minorities, although my model cannot definitively prove that these changes are the result of a feeling of cultural belonging as opposed to the result of socioeconomic privileges of “belonging” to a specific racial group. Further analysis of specific health measures like mental illness, psychological stress, or depression in the context of interracial marriage could be highly useful in understanding the complex process of social and cultural assimilation.

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