Sociology Ph.D. Dissertations

Jamaican Immigrant Union Formation Patterns: A Test of Assimilation Theories

Natalee Gooden, Bowling Green State University


This study tested competing theories of assimilation by examining the patterns of union formation (i.e. marriage, cohabitation, single, ethnic / racial intermarriage and ethnic / racial inter-cohabitation) among non-Hispanic American whites, non-Hispanic African Americans and Jamaican women aged 18 – 44 years in the year 2000. The study also examined how union formation patterns differ across groups of Jamaican women (i.e. born and living in Jamaica, 1st generation Jamaican immigrants, 1.5 generation Jamaicans, 2nd generation, and beyond).

It is important to study West Indian union formation patterns since the West Indian immigration rate has been increasing. The black West Indian population in the U.S. grew by about 67% between 1990 and 2000. The growth rate of the black West Indian population is greater than that of other established groups such as the Cubans and Koreans (Logan & Deane, 2003). This study focused specifically on Jamaicans since the bulk of the West Indian migrants is from Jamaica (Peach, 1995). Moreover, they represent both the diversity of modes of incorporation in the U.S. and the range of occupational backgrounds and immigrant status among contemporary immigrants (from professionals and entrepreneurs to laborers, refugees and unauthorized migrants).

I used the Reproductive Health Survey 2002 for the analysis of the Jamaican women in Jamaica and the Census 2000 (5% PUMS) for the analysis of non-Hispanic white American and non-Hispanic African women. I also used the National Survey of Family Growth 2002 (NSFG 2002) to assess data quality and for purposes of comparison.

I found that Jamaican women’s union formation patterns followed the segmented assimilation model where marriage rates tended to decline across generation and cohabitation rates tended to increase across generation that resembled more the union formation patterns of non-Hispanic African American women. Also, I found that out partnership increased across generation where Jamaican women had much greater odds of out partnering with a non-Hispanic African American partner compared to partnering with a non-Hispanic white American partner.