Ethnic Capital and Intermarriage: A Case Study of American Jews

Publication Date: December 2006

Publisher: Association for the Sociology of Religion

Author(s): Benjamin Phillips; Sylvia B. Fishman

Research Area: Culture and religion; Social conditions

Keywords: Ethnicity; Intermarriage; Methodology

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Previous studies of ethnicity have focused on the role played by structural factors in assimilation and related processes. The utility of human and social capital in explaining analogous religious phenomena (e.g., religious switching and apostasy) suggests that similar actor-centered explanations may advance the understanding of ethnicity. We propose a model of ethnicity that integrates existing structure-centered approaches with the concepts of ethnic human and social capital in a soft rational choice theory framework. The usefulness of this approach is tested with respect to intermarriage among American Jews, who maintain an extraordinarily diverse array of socializing institutions and have wide variation in levels of ethnic capital. The inclusion of variables measuring ethnic capital provides a significant increase in explanatory power. It is suggested that this framework may be applicable for other ethnic groups and further research is recommended.

In Sociology of Religion 67:4, Spring 2006