Book Chapter

Rock, rap, or reggaeton?: assessing Mexican immigrants' cultural assimilation using Facebook data

Stewart, I. B., Flores, R. D., Riffe, T., Weber, I., Zagheni, E.

In: Liu, L., White, R., Mantrach, A., Silvestri, F., McAuley, J., Baeza-Yates, R., Zia, L. (Eds.): Proceedings of the World Wide Web Conference WWW 2019: May 13-17, 2019, San Francisco, CA, USA, 3258-3264 (2019)
New York: ACM.

ISBN 978-1-4503-6674-8, DOI:10.1145/3308558.3313409


The degree to which Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are assimilating culturally has been widely debated. To examine this question, we focus on musical taste, a key symbolic resource that signals the social positions of individuals. We adapt an assimilation metric from earlier work to analyze self-reported musical interests among immigrants in Facebook. We use the relative levels of interest in musical genres, where a similarity to the host population in musical preferences is treated as evidence of cultural assimilation. Contrary to skeptics of Mexican assimilation, we find significant cultural convergence even among first-generation immigrants, which problematizes their use as assimilative “benchmarks” in the literature. Further, 2nd generation Mexican Americans show high cultural convergence vis-à-vis both Anglos and African-Americans, with the exception of those who speak Spanish. Rather than conforming to a single assimilation path, our findings reveal how Mexican immigrants defy simple unilinear theoretical expectations and illuminate their uniquely heterogeneous character.