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The Effect of Family Structure and Family Capital on the

Political Behavior and Policy Preferences of Latino

Immigrants in the United States
Iffigenia Barboza
Department of Political Science and Statistics
Michigan State University

Rohan Lloyd Williams

Department of Political Science
Michigan State University

October 3, 2004


1 Abstract
The assimilation model of acculturation posits that the values and customs of immigrant

groups will converge to that of the majority population with time. One consequence of

assimilation has been the institutional decline of the family among Latino immigrants. While

many have characterized the family as a political resource, especially with respect to time,

control and unequal status (Burns et. al., 1997), when discussing the political participation

of Latinos, scholarly discussion often overlooks the role that the family plays in political

socialization. This is especially surprising given the unique role of the family in determining

an individuals personal and social development and the well-established fact that most Latino

immigrants make decisions based primarily on how they will affect their family. Moreover, for

recent immigrants, the family is considered to be the dominant source of advice and support.

(Rumbaut, 1997). In Latino families, decision-making and allocation of household resources

are traditionally gender-based, but traditional family arrangements have been shown to

change with years spent in the United States. In this paper, we use the 2002 Kaiser/Pew

Latino survey to investigate how length of residence contributes to the decline of family

structure and family capital among Latino immigrants and how this decline affects political

alienation and electoral participation among Hispanics.

2 Review of the Literature

2.1 Electoral Activity and Naturalization

For Hispanics, there is substantial inter-group variation that accounts for the decision of

whether or not to become a United States citizen or to participate in politics. For example,

naturalization is an important issue for both Mexicans and Cubans. It is not, however, an
2.1 Electoral Activity and Naturalization 2

issue for Puerto Ricans because they are granted citizenship status due to their common-

wealth origins. (McClain and Garcia 1993). Puerto Ricans, however, are less politically

involved in the United States than they are in their country of origin. Explanations have

focused on lack of mobilization (Dominguez 2002) and on the relative political alienation

of Puerto Ricans in the United States as compared with Puerto Rico (McClain and Garcia

1993). More generally, the large number of noncitizens is, of course, a major reason for

low levels of registration and turnout among Latinos. Other explanations focus on the lack

of knowledge about the naturalization process, distrust of the Immigration and Naturaliza-

tion Service (INS), no perceived benefits to naturalization and distance from the political

system. (Id 1993). Organizational efforts aimed at providing Latino nationals with informa-

tion regarding the naturalization process have had some effect, however, a large number of

immigrants remain non-citizens. (Id 1993).

Other factors have been found to be significantly related to the decision to become a

United States citizen. For example, many immigrants fail to naturalize due to the conflict

they feel about joining the American political community on the one hand and on the other

feeling as if they are betraying their homeland. (Jones-Correa 1998). With respect to Cuban

refugees, strong anti-Castro sentiment coupled with a unique political status have produced

high naturalization rates. (McClain 1993). Discrimination may be causally related to one’s

decision not to acquire citizenship status. For example, Barboza (2004) finds that in addition

to income, age and satisfaction with the United States, perceived discrimination is significant

to a Cuban refugee’s decision to become a United States citizen.

Explaining low turnout among Latinos in the United States presents somewhat of a

paradox especially given that the literature suggests Hispanics to be much more concerned

about issues in the United States than they are about issues related to their country of
2.1 Electoral Activity and Naturalization 3

origin. (Dominguez 2002). There are also substantial differences in educational attainment

and income between several groups of Hispanics, most notably between Cubans and Mexican

Americans. In general, as average group income and/or education increases, so too does that

group’s voting behavior.

To further confound the analysis, a much larger percentage of Hispanics are foreign born

than are non-Hispanic whites. Highton and Burris (2002) studied the interaction effect

between nativity status and years spent in the United States. They found that nativity

status had a powerful effect on turnout, but only when considered in conjunction with how

long foreign-born citizens have lived in the United States.

The literature has also seen discussion of gender differences in participation rates among

Hispanic men and women. For example, Montoya (2002) demonstrated that Mexican men

and women are more similar than either Puerto Rican or Cuban men and women in terms
of their level of political activity. (Montoya 2002). Mexican women are more likely to

participate when they have additional monetary resources, as they grow older or as their

proficiency of English increases. (Id. 2002). In contrast, these factors are not as important

for Mexican men or Puerto Rican and Cuban women, whose voting behavior is more aptly

explained by the extent and quality of their work skills. (Id., 2002).

The traditional model of voter participation, which views participation as being condi-

tioned by education and other individual characteristics (Verba and Nie 1972; Abramson

and Aldrich 1982; Cassel and Luskin 1988), has been relied upon to explain these patterns

of Latino voting (De La Garza 2004). Early studies predict participation based on socioe-

conomic indicators such as income and education, age, gender, marital status, ethnicity and

citizenship. (Montoya 2002). Later studies have found that higher levels of political cyn-

icism, lower rates of naturalization, structural barriers to registration and voting, and low
2.2 The Family as an Agent of Political Socialization 4

levels of information and interest in the Unites States political system are largely responsi-

ble for low turnout rates. (McClain and Garcia 1993). Contemporary research has included

other variables such as organizational involvement, neighborhood composition and candidate

ethnicity. (De La Garza 2004). Organizational involvement has been found to boost levels

of electoral activity among Mexicans and Puerto Ricans but not among Cubans. (Id. 2004).

Studies have repeatedly shown that Latinos vote less than Anglos even when socioeco-

nomic status is taken into account. This finding provides a basis for questioning the empirical

accuracy of the socio-economic model as a predictor of Latino political attitudes and behav-

iors and suggests that other factors besides socioeconomic status are important. We suggest

that in order to account for the unexplained variation in these models, more emphasis should

be placed on the importance of family capital as well as on the socializing role that the family

plays in influencing the political values and attitudes of individual family members.

2.2 The Family as an Agent of Political Socialization

The role of the family in creating future citizens does not figure into the scholarship of

contemporary political scientists. (Verba, Schlozman et al. 2003). By way of contrast, during

the 1960s and 1970s, the political science literature placed more emphasis on the family as an

agent of political socialization as scholars generally assumed that family influences shaped

an individual’s political attitudes and behaviors. (Id. 2003). Nevertheless, the relative

importance of the family in shaping political attitudes and behaviors was the subject of

much dispute. For example, Robinson referred to the family as ”the most important agent

in the socialization process” (quoted in Verba 2003) whereas Torney (1973) emphasized

schooling over family as an important and effective instrument of political socialization. (Id.

2003). More recently, Jennings and Niemi (1981) argued that the role of the family in the
2.3 Family System’s Theory 5

political socialization process is strong relative to other institutions but its influence is not

as great as previously assumed.

The primary theoretical orientation in the socialization literature purporting to explain

the way that family matters in developing political orientations is a learning model. The

literature posits three primary modes of learning that take place between parent and child.

First, according to the Accumulation model, learning takes place explicitly as parents trans-

mit political attitudes to their children. The Identification model holds that parents transmit

political attitudes by example with the understanding that their children will emulate these

attitudes. Finally, the Interpersonal transfer model specifies a much more implicit learning

process (Id. 2003) in which the ”expectations formed from experience in family relationships

are later generalized to political objects.” The Interpersonal Transfer model assumes that

family dynamics pertaining to autonomy, obedience and communication have implications

for the development of political attitudes and behaviors.

2.3 Family System’s Theory

Burns et. al. (1998) theoretical model is enhanced by incorporating literature from the

field of family studies, specifically family ecosystem’s theory. Family ecosystem’s theory is

an integration of general system’s theory and ecological theory with particular emphasis on

family dynamics. The main tenets of systems theory are that systems are holistic, purposeful,

are either open of closed and are characterized by homeostasis. Holistic refers to the tenet

that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By purposeful, the proponents of family

systems theory meant that the system contains a structure of organized components (i.e.,

hierarchies, subsystems, boundaries). Open systems are generally social in nature as opposed

to mechanical because boundaries in open systems are more fluid than that of closed systems.
2.3 Family System’s Theory 6

Furthermore, the fact that systems are homeostatic implies that they are in constant flux

and seek balance both internally and externally. These concepts, as they are applied to

family systems, create a vision of the family as a system of interrelated parts that function

as a ”whole,” where the whole is able to adapt in response to external and internal stresses.

In Inside the Family, Kantor and Lehr (1975) have defined several theoretical concepts

that describe how physical and psychological boundaries are used to regulate the flow of

people, objects and ideas in interpersonal relationships. According to Kantor and Lehr,

bounding is a mechanism that families use to protect their family space within the larger

community by regulating both incoming and outgoing traffic. On the other hand, ”bridging”

refers to the relative facility with which individuals or items flow across family boundaries.

(id, 1975).

Family systems are also distance-regulating entities. Kantor and Lehr define ”linking” as

”the regulating of distance, that is, physical and conceptual associations and disassociation’s

of all persons within the family’s spatial interior.” (Kantor and Lehr, 1975). There are

two important sub-mechanisms associated with linking, namely bonding, or maintaining

family connections, and insulating, or the differentiation between family members or between

the family and the external environment. We argue that the importance and strength of

these family bonds provides individuals with capital, which is a political resource needed for

effectively engaging in political processes.

Robert Putnam argues that a healthy democracy demands that social and political in-

stitutions forge linkages among citizens in a political community. This problem of linkages

involves not only how citizens develop senses of interrelationships and shared interests but

also involves getting people to communicate and actively engage in their political commu-

nity. Existing research clearly establishes the role of social capital in promoting trust in
2.3 Family System’s Theory 7

political institutions (Michelson 2003). Surprisingly little of the political science literature,

however, explores the role that family capital – as a subset of social capital – has in deter-

mining political trust among individuals. Given the salient role that family life plays in the

lives of Latinos, it is surprising that scholars have not systematically examined family-based

differences in participatory rates among them or the effectiveness of political campaigns that

appeal directly to them as family oriented segments of the population.

One of the central tenets of ecological theory is that the family ecosystem interacts with

itself and with the environment through a process of adaptation, which itself incorporates

the dialectical approach of searching for change yet desiring stability. Moreover, this process

is regulated by ”strategies of maintenance” that involve the access elements of time, space

and energy. In recent years, the material world has been added to the list of resource cate-

gories. (Imig 2000). Therefore, studying families from an ecological and systemic perspective

requires an understanding of how the resource elements of time, space, energy and mate-

rial goods are used achieve family goals. We argue that one such family goal is regulating

the content and meaning of political messages. Family systems are goal-oriented because

they have a particular vision of the future with respect to, among other things, the political

content of their lives.

According to general systems theory (“GST”)(von Bertalanffy, 1968), all human sys-

tems are open information processing systems with boundaries. Taken literally, GST posits

that there are only two types of systems: closed and open. As stated above, closed sys-

tems are characterized by impervious and impermeable boundaries while open systems have

unrestricted and totally permeable boundaries. Recently, family theorists have recognized

that these labels as applied to social systems in general and family systems in particular

are too restrictive (Kantor and lehr, 1975, Constantine, 1986, Imig, 2000). Accordingly,

they claim that four types of paradigmatic orientations structure family interactions: open,

closed, random, and synchronous. (Imig, 2000). Open families are characterized by the

desire to achieve ”practical consensus” (Imig, 2000) via communication. Closed families are

described in the literature as being ”traditional” (Kantor and lehr, 1975) and value stabil-

ity, security and belonging (Imig, 2000). Random families are focused on spontaneity and

emphasize strategies that facilitate change and promote conflict (Imig, 2000). Finally, syn-

chronous families are characterized by a lack of communication, instead learning about each

other through observation, listening and silence (Imig, 2000). These theoretical orientations

set the stage for understanding and interpreting family dynamics and especially for under-

standing the characteristics that are most conducive to promoting political identification and

hence participation.

3 Politics and Family Capital

3.1 The Resource Model of Participation

Many scholars as of late have begun discussing the importance of the family as a political

”resource,” especially in terms of the resource aspects of time, control and unequal status of

women as compared to their spouses. (See Burns et. al., 1997). Recognition of the existence

of a gender gap is a relatively recent phenomenon in political science. Although scholars did

narrowly examine gender differences in turnout, participation, and efficacy as early as the

mid-1960s, the general consensus prior to the 1980 election was that there was no identifiable

gender gap in voting behavior. The literature that did document the existence of a gender

gap viewed it as grounded in preference differences between males and females. There were

certain issues that were primarily identified as being issues that men or women respectively
3.1 The Resource Model of Participation 9

felt more strongly about, and these were congruent with stereotypical notions regarding men

and women. For example, the primary issue dimension on which a gender gap has long

been identified is the military dimension, with men favoring an aggressive military stance

on foreign policy and women favoring peace and military cutbacks. Some work, however,

has recognized the resource differences between men and women, specifically the resources

necessary to engage in political activity.

The influence of feminism led some to interpret the operation of the gender gap as a

function of a disparity in access to decision-making structures. Given the disproportionate

influence of men in institutions of political decision-making, the output of the policy process

is seen as decidedly ”pro-male.” Participation requires certain resources, and as Wolfinger

and Rosenstone found since women have historically been denied access to political resources

such as knowledge and money, they have not been as active as men have been in politics.

Following on work by Verba, Schlozman, Brady, and Nie (1993) that examined the effect

of resource disparity on participation between racial and ethnic groups, Schlozman, Burns,

and Verba (1994) systematically examined the effect of resource disparity on participation

by women, accounting for a significant portion of the gender gap in participation. In further

examination, Schlozman, Burns, Verba, and Donahue (1995) find that patterns of political

participation are by and large similar for men and women, reinforcing the finding that

resource disparities account for differences in amounts of participation. They find further

that education and reproductive issue areas figure more heavily into the participation of

women, adding two more gendered issue dimensions to the war-peace dimension found by

Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980).

To examine one of the primary determinants of gender-based resource disparities, Burns,

Schlozman, and Verba (1997) examine the role of family life in determining the amount
3.1 The Resource Model of Participation 10

and type of political participation by citizens. They find that within the context of the

household, power and free time enhances political participation. Moreover, they find that

power and free time vary systematically with gender, with men being advantaged. Gender

roles differentiate between men and women with the former seen as the breadwinners and
the latter primarily viewed as caregivers. Of course, employment imposes structure on the

activities of men while a woman’s responsibilities may be more stochastic. Using their free

time and having control over household finances enhances the ability of men to participate


Verba, Burns, and Schlozman (1997) find a gender gap in political engagement, consisting

of a lower level of interest, knowledge, and efficacy among women. Faced with evidence that

the gender gap in participation cannot be wholly explained by resource disparities, the

authors contend that the participation gap results from a response to social cues received by

both men and women suggesting that politics is the domain of men alone. In emphasizing

the resource constraints that are ”imposed on women by the traditional family,” Burns et

al believe that feminist theory has overlooked the effect of ideology on political activity and

the importance that beliefs about proper gender roles have on political participation. They

argue that ideas about women’s proper roles affect women’s political behavior.

Schlozman, Burns, and Verba (1999) find evidence that factors in the workplace further

reinforce the gender gap in political engagement and political participation. Though Ander-

sen and Cook (1985) and Sapiro (1983) have found that the choice of whether or not to enter

the workplace may represent an underlying selection process which simultaneously affects

choices regarding political participation, those women who do enter the workforce also ex-

perience a systematically different workplace than men, being less likely to work full-time or

to gain higher pay, higher status positions. Returning to the social cues argument advanced
3.1 The Resource Model of Participation 11

in Verba, Burns, and Schlozman (1997), Schlozman, Burns, and Verba (1999) focus on the

workplace as the environment in which adults receive most of their socialization. Given the

realities of modern life, little of our time is spent outside both the family and workplace

environments. The combined effects of these environments seem to systematically diminish

the political engagement and political participation of women.

In a path-breaking article, Stoker and Jennings (1995) show that marital transitions

alter the modes and levels of participation in two ways. First, by forcing people to undergo

a period of substantial adjustment in their personal lives, and second through a process of

learning and interdependence, as the participation tendencies of one spouse act to effect

the other spouse’s participation. They conclude that there is a spousal ”mediation effect”

to political participation that either rises or falls depending on the new partner’s level of

political engagement.

Latinos may be more inclined to favor traditional sex roles, or those ideas that tend to

support domestic women who stay at home, and not to support those women who choose

non-traditional arrangements, both work and family-related. The assimilation process may,

however, tend to break down the traditional sex-role stereotypes, not necessarily because

that is the prevailing cultural norm but out of necessity. There is anecdotal evidence that

this is, in fact, the case. For instance, Mosley et. al. (2000) find that first generation

Mexican Americans tend to be more traditional in their attitudes towards working women

than later-generation Mexican Americans and take this as preliminary evidence of gender

role assimilation. In this paper, we extend Mosley et. al.’s (2000) hypothesis to consider

how family capital and family values change with years lived in the United States and how

this affects political participation and alienation among Latinos. Accordingly, we test the

following research hypotheses:


H11 : Traditional family values and family capital among Latinos decline with years lived in

the United States.

H12 : The decline in family capital and family strength is positively correlated with low levels

of electoral activity and inversely correlated with political alienation.

4 Data and Methods

The data for this study allows us to test hypotheses related to political alienation and

electoral activity among Latinos in the United States. In order to test how the effect of

family structure and family capital on political activity varies with years lived in the United

States, we use data drawn from a 2002 Latino Survey conducted by the Kaiser/Pew Research

Center. In order to fully represent the opinions of Latinos living in the United States,

interviews were conducted with a statistically representative sample of Latinos so that they

could be examined nationally, in target regions of high Latino concentration, and by country

of origin. A benefit of using these data is that in addition to sociodemographic measures, it

contains variables intended to tap political alienation and participation in addition to family

values and family cohesiveness1 .

The models we tested all had the same general form, namely the familiar logit cumulative

distribution function:2
F (u) = (0.1)
1 + eβ1 x1 +β1 x1 +β12 x12 +Xβ

The first models measure the probability that Latinos feel alienated from the United States

political system. To measure alienation, we rely on two questions. The first question mea-

sures the frequency with which the respondent trusts that the government will do “what
We would like to thank Kaiser/Pew for the use of the data. The analysis is strictly our own.
For brevity, we only report the models where the coefficients of interest were statistically significant.

is right.” The second question was designed to directly assess whether the respondent be-

lieves that politicians are interested in the problems that are of particular concern to Lati-

nos/Hispanics living in the United States. Respondents who indicated that they believe the

government will do what is right all or some of the time where coded 0 as were those who

believed that politicians are interested in issues pertaining to Hispanics. Respondents who

answered otherwise were coded 1. The second models we tested measure electoral participa-

tion which we operationalized as voting behavior. Individuals who had voted in an United

States election were coded 1, respondents who had not were coded 0. Only citizens of the

United States were included in the analysis.

Both models include the same explanatory variables which fall into three categories: fam-

ily related, identity specific and sociodemographic. To negate the effects of multicollinearity,

we estimated separate models, all of which were the same with the exception of the family

variables we were interested in. We operationalized family structure using variables per-

taining to family size and composition including the respondents feelings about terminating

pregnancy, divorce and non-traditional family arrangements. A four-point scale of responses

was created, with higher values indicating stronger family ties. Our expectation was that

years lived in the United States would be inversely correlated with strong family ties and

that this would lead to higher levels of political alienation and lower levels of participatory

activities. We also coded for four other family related variables with which we had sim-

ilar expectations. Family Capital captures the importance that the respondent places on

family over friends and therefore provides us with a relative measure of the self-perceived

importance of family capital versus social capital. The coefficient on this variable should be

negative in the models predicting alienation and positive in the models measuring electoral

behavior. Two variables are designed to measure the primacy of the nuclear family unit.

Family Care measures the importance of caring for elderly parents. Family Cohesiveness

measure the importance of children staying at home until marriage.

Our models also include several ethnicity-related variables. Assimilation measures the

degree to which respondents favored “American” values over values that are congruent with

Hispanic culture. The survey asked questions that can be conceptualized as pertaining to

the “American Dream” and “Melting Pot” metaphors as well as those relating to Spanish

language retention and acting in one’s self-interest versus acting altruistically. A scale was

created with higher values indicating greater levels of assimilation. A second ethnicity-related

variable, Identity measures the respondent’s self-reported ethno-cultural identification. The

respondent had the opportunity to assume a Latino identity, an American identity, or an

identity that was specific to their country of birth.

Finally, we include several control variables to be more certain that our causal inferences

are valid. Democrat equals unity if the respondent self-identified as a democrat, and 0 other-

wise. Other variables include Homeowner, a dummy variable that indicates home ownership,

education and income related variables, as well as age, marital status and number of persons

under 18 living in the household.

Due to the dichotomous nature of the dependent variables in our models, our preferred

estimation technique is logit regression. Applied researchers customarily estimate interaction

terms in order to infer how the effect of one independent variable on the dependent variable

depends on the magnitude of another independent variable in the model. (Norton et. al.

2004). In nonlinear models based on logit analysis, the marginal effect of a change in both

interacted variables is not equal to the marginal effect of changing just the interaction term.

(Id. 2004). Therefore, in order to compute the magnitude of the interaction effects, we

computed the cross derivative of the expected value of the dependent variable for each

model. Consequently, our assessment of the statistical significance of the interaction term is

based on the estimated cross partial derivative and not on the coefficient from the interaction

term, as Norton et. al. (2004) suggest.

5 Results and Analysis

We are primarily interested in whether the effect of several family-related variables on po-

litical behavior varies with years lived in the United States and therefore ask the following

question, “Does the effect of family structure on political participation and alienation among

Latinos of Cuban, Mexican or Puerto Rican descent vary with years lived in the United

States?”. Before turning to the interacted variables, however, we first discuss the variables

as they appear in level form. The results of the logit analysis indicate support for our first

hypothesis that family capital among Latinos significantly declines with years spent in the

United States (p < .05). Practically speaking, this means that the primacy that individu-

als place on family bonds as opposed to non-familial relationships declines the longer the

individual lives in the US. This result not only supports our intuition, it also supports the

straight-line assimilation model, which posits that immigrant attitudes and behaviors will

become more “mainstream” as length of residency increases. This finding, however, while

itself of major practical and theoretical importance, does little to inform us of the conse-

quence of decreasing family capital on electoral participation and alienation, which we now

Table 1 shows the range of the predicted probabilities for the family-related variables we

are interested in. These probabilities were calculated by allowing each variable to vary from

its minimum to its maximum, while the other variables in the model remained fixed at their

means. The change over the range of the predicted probabilities is instructive. We see that

individuals who believe that children should stay with their parents until marriage are 21.2%

more likely to vote than those who do not hold such beliefs. The predicted probability of

voting increases among those individuals who believe that a central authority should control

family decision-making. For those who agree in the primacy of family capital over non-

familial relationships, the probability of voting increases by 16.7% while those who disfavor

non-traditional family arrangements are less likely to vote holding other variables at their

means. Finally, the probability of being alienated from the political system is 32.4% greater

for those who believe that family decision-making should be controlled by a central authority

than among those who do not.

Table 1: Change in the Predicted Probabilities with changing values of the independent

variables, holding other variables at their means.

Variable At Min At Max ∆Range

Family Cohesion .645 .857 0.212
Authoritarian Family .783 .921 0.138
Family Care .901 .814 -0.087
Family Capital .689 .856 .167
Family Strength .886 0.114 -0.772
Authoritarian Family P r(Alienate = 1) 0.421 .745 0.324

Table 2 below summarizes the joint significance tests for the models we estimated. With

respect to family strength, we find that the likelihood of voting is greater for those who

retain traditional Hispanic family values as opposed to those who do not as years lived in

the United States increases. Turning to authoritarianism, we find that those who believe

family decisions should be controlled by a central authority are less likely to be politically

active the longer they live in the United States. With respect to family capital, we find

that years lived in the United States combines with family capital to negatively effect the

probability of participating in politics. While this result is not in the anticipated direction,

we believe that this result does not mean that family capital is negatively correlated with

political participation, merely that social networks are relatively more important than family

networks in engaging Latinos in politics.

Table 2: Joint Hypothesis Tests of Estimated Model Coefficients

Hypothesis Wald Test

df W P rob > χ2
Model 1 β yearsus =β f amcohes =β yrsf amcoh = 0 3 11.64 0.0087
Model 2 β yearsus =β authf am =β yrsauthf am = 0 3 22.77 0.0000
Model 3 β yearsus =β f amcare =β yrsf amcare = 0 3 10.80 0.0128
Model 4 β yearsus =β f amcap =β yrsf amcap = 0 3 11.06 0.0114
Model 5 β yearsus =β f amstr =β yrsf amstr = 0 3 12.75 0.0052
Model 6 β yearsus =β authf am =β yrsauthf am = 0 3 7.94 0.0472

6 Summary and Conclusions

Family capital The use of family resources as a predictor of voting behavior is not new

since there is substantial work in political science that discusses the parabolic relationship

between family and voting behavior. This paper, however, reflects an attempt to step outside

the traditional depiction of familial influence. The findings of this paper indicate quite

strongly that family capital has an inverse relationship to years lived in the United States.

This suggests that the longer an immigrant has resided in the United States the more likely

it is that their commitment to the family values of their homeland will decline. What does

it mean that family values will decline? It does not mean that this person some how no

longer sees family as important, but rather that the associations of family changes to mirror

that of the host country, in this case the United States. For example, in America, the word

on abortion or divorce tends to be liberally construed. Even in the church the attitude

toward the sanctity of marriage has undergone a change. The institution of marriage must

meet certain criteria to be sustainable, the most obvious example being that it should be

between a man and a woman. Latino immigrants upon arrival may believe that there are no

good reasons for ending a marriage or having an abortion. After some number of years in

residence they may express a personal attitude toward both but also a social position that

is diametrically opposed to their own; ’I would not have an abortion, but I understand that

under certain circumstances it is desirable or even necessary’.

Further findings in the area of family capital reinforce the earlier statement. We found

that the more assimilated the immigrant the more traditional family values give way to

that of the host nation. This finding while consistent is not startling; assimilation is of

course a process of transition. It is therefore reasonable to expect that as one assimilates

one transitions from old to new. Other findings while negative also are consistent with our


Years in the host nation had no effect on the power differential in the family or on the

authoritative nature of the family. We also found that years in the host nation has no effect

on the structural variable family cohesion. Both these variable exist in American culture in

a similar fashion, therefore the instrument for detecting difference would have to be more

precise to determine differences. In the area of family care we found the findings to be counter

intuitive. In the area of family care, conceptualized as the desire that children have to care

for and reside with their elderly parents, we expected that the immigrant would be less

inclined to continue the traditions of the home country as their term of residence increased.

Our findings indicated no effect. It is our belief that this finding reflects a generational effect

for this variable. By this we mean that where immigrants may hold strong to the custom

of their country of origin, their children, on the other hand, who are raised largely in the

United States, may be less inclined to have similar values.


Political alienation We found only one variable had an impact on political alienation,

the authoritarian family. This finding is problematic given the limits of the tool employed to

derive this measure. Our expectation was that a strongly authoritarian family will tend to

dominate the discourse within the family; family members will acquiesce. It is also possible

that the alienation that the dominant personality in the family feels will be manifested

throughout the family. This is because the rest of the family employs the dominant figure as

their queue. To our surprise, the other family-related variables – Family Cohesion, Family

care, Family capital and Family strength – had no effect.

In a test for joint significance of the family authoritarian variables, we found that they

were significantly related to both political alienation and electoral behavior. We designed

this variable to provide some measure of the control and distribution of family resources.

The authority figure has a monopoly of the resources available to the family. Members

without resources rely on the authority figure to provide the direction of political discourse

and family members grant him the right to assume that role.

Electoral Participation In the area of electoral participation our findings indicate that

family cohesion has a significant effect on electoral participation and this is consistent with

our expectations. The more closely knit the family, the more persuasive the authoritarian

head will be. In addition, family structure has a negative effect on the likelihood of voting.

However, when we combine years lived in the United States with family structure against

voting we find that there is a positive outcome. This indicates that on the whole, immigrants

who believe in a stronger family structure are more likely to vote with more years in America.

Overall, we take this to mean that number of years in America is a better indicator of voting

behavior than is family structure. The variables pertaining to family care, family capital and

family strength were all significant. The broader the issues, concerns and responsibilities of

the immigrant the more likely they will participate in the political process. This does not

underscore the notion that immigrants coming to America have an expectation of freedoms

and rights that they may have been denied in their home nation; this expectation may feed

a desire to participate in the political process. Even where rights were available there is a

notion that a more meaningful process fosters a greater desire to participate in American


We have clearly indicated that family capital as a harnessable resource and related to the

well-known and discussed concept of social capital should not be ignored. Further studies

should attempt to determine the levels of family capital for different social groups, deter-

mining where it starts and ends, what factor enhances it and what factors contribute to the

Families are social institutions that serve and reflect the American macrosystem, includ-

ing the polity. From a socio-cultural perspective, it is important to understand how social

networks and family structures facilitate or inhibit the construction and co-construction of

identity since these systems dictate how one sees oneself as a political actor. Since social

networks are based upon shared normative and behavioral expectations, the social role that

one assumes in both social and familial contexts is crucial for determining the level of trust

that one has in political processes. These social networks - both familial and non-familial -

play an especially salient role in the political life of Latinos.

No matter how hard the resistance to acculturation is, immigrants, especially 3rd and

4th generation immigrants, may not be able to break free from its stranglehold. The effects

of acculturation on family structure are profound because as one’s understood place in the

family becomes compromised, one’s identity is necessarily transformed. Little is known about

how this transformation impacts the political life of Latino immigrants, whose identity in

America is shaped primarily by considerations of family. This paper represents a small step

towards understanding these relationships but clearly more work must be done, especially

with respect to the Latina immigrant. We have shown that lack of control over family matters

is positively correlated with electoral participation and inversely correlated with alienation

but a determination must be made as to the political resources that are most relevant and

whether disparity in these resources are gender-based.



[1] Burns, Nancy, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Sidney Verba. 1997. “The Public Conse-
quences of Private Inequality: Family Life and Citizen Participation.” American Political
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[2] Garza, Rodolfo O. de la. 2004. “Latino Politics.” Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 7: 91-123.
[3] Highton, B., and Burris, A., L.. 2002. “New Perspectives on Latino Voter Turnout in the
United States.” American Politics Research 30(May): 285-306.
[4] Imig, David R. 1999. “A Conversation About Interpersonal Relationships, Family Sys-
tems and Paradigms.” Venice, CA.
[5] Kantor, D., Lehr, W. 1975. “ Inside the Family: Toward a Theory of Family Process.”
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1975.
[6] Kingston, Paul William and Steven E. Finkel. 1987. “Is There a Marriage Gap in Poli-
tics?” Journal of Marriage and the Family. 49(February): 57-64.
[7] McClain, Paula D. and John A. Garcia. 1993. “Expanding Disciplinary Boundaries:
Black, Latino, and Racial Minority Group Politics in Political Science.” In Ada W.
Finifter, Political Science: The State of the Discipline, II. Washington, D.C.: American
Political Science Association.
[8] Montoya, L.J. 1993. “Expanding Disciplinary Boundaries: Black, Latino, and Racial
Minority Group Politics in Political Science.” In Ada W. Finifter, Political Science: The
State of the Discipline, II. Washington, D.C.: American Political Science Association.
[9] Nortin, Edward C., Wang, H. and Chunrong, A. 2004. “Computing Interaction Effects
and Standard Errors in Logit and Probit Models.” The STATA Journal 4(2): 103-116.
[10] Plutzer, Eric and McBurnett, Michael. 1991. “Family Life and American Politics: The
”Marriage Gap” Reconsidered.” Public Opinion Quarterly. 55: 113-127.
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Second Generation.” Berkeley: University of California Press. 2001.
[12] Sapiro, Virginia. 1983. “ The Political Integration of Women.” Urbana, IL: University
of Illinois Press.

[13] Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Nancy Burns, and Sidney Verba. 1994. “Gender and the
Pathways to Participation: the Role of Resources.” The Journal of Politics. 56(4): 963-

[14] Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Nancy Burns, and Sidney Verba. 1999. “What Happened at
Work Today?’: A Multistage Model of Gender, Employment, and Political Participa-
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[15] Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Nancy Burns, Sidney Verba, and Jesse Donahue. 1995. “Gen-
der and Citizen Participation: Is There a Different Voice?” American Journal of Political
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[16] Verba, Sidney and Schlozman, Kay Lehman and Burns, Nancy. 1991. “Family Ties:
Understanding the Intergenerational Transmission of Participation.” 2003.

7 Appendix

Table 3: Logit Estimation Results

Variable Coefficient (Std. Err.)

Age 0.1025∗ (0.0441)
Age-squared -0.0007 (0.0004)
Education 0.1979∗∗ (0.0486)
Income ($2000 and over) 0.2076 (0.5668)
Income ($600-$999) 0.4998 (0.4141)
Income ($1000-$1599) 1.1353∗∗ (0.4225)
Income ($1600-$1999) 0.8162 (0.5514)
Conservative 4.2955∗∗ (1.0700)
Total Number of Children 0.0898 (0.0746)
Length of Marriage 0.0071 (0.0165)
Household Chores 0.0019 (0.0021)
Housewife -0.6366∗ (0.2681)
Gender Equality -0.0796∗ (0.0394)
Control over Resources 0.0865 (0.0568)
Spouse Education 0.0174† (0.0091)
Discuss Politics With Spouse 0.4081 (0.2840)
Respect Asymmetry 0.5045 (0.6912)
Intercept -4.1222∗ (1.6353)

N 387
Log-likelihood -195.1384
χ2(17) 70.0361
Significance levels : † : 10% ∗ : 5% ∗∗ : 1%

YEARSUS effect plot UNDER18 effect plot AGE effect plot ASSIM effect plot





0.95 0.9
0.94 0.85
0.8 0.8
0.92 0.9 0.75
0.9 0.7
0.7 0.85 0.65
0.88 0.6
0 10 20 30 40 50 0 2 4 6 8 20 40 60 80 5 10 15 20 25

DESC_AM effect plot MARRIED effect plot DIVORCED effect plot FEMALE effect plot

0.93 0.93 0.93



0.92 0.88 0.92
0.91 0.91
0.9 0.84
0.89 0.82 0.9
0.89 0.78 0.89
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

LOWINC effect plot HS effect plot


0.93 0.94


0.92 0.93


0.9 0.9
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

Figure 1: Probability Plots of Estimated Coefficients From Regression of Family Capital on

Predictor Variables

YEARSUS effect plot FAMSTR effect plot YRSFAMST effect plot UNDER18 effect plot AGE effect plot
0.6 0.8




0.9 0.2 0.9
0.7 0.6
0.6 0.8 0.7
0.5 0.6
0.4 0.5 0.6
0.4 0.2 0.5
0 10 20 30 40 50 5 10 15 20 25 30 0 200 400 600 800 1000 0 1 2 3 4 5 20 40 60 80

ASSIM effect plot DEMOCRAT effect plot HOMEOWN effect plot DESC_AM effect plot DESC_CO effect plot
0.9 0.85 0.8




0.9 0.84
0.85 0.82 0.8
0.8 0.7
0.8 0.8 0.75 0.65
0.75 0.78 0.6
0.6 0.7
0.7 0.55
0.5 0.76 0.65
0.65 0.5
5 10 15 20 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

DESC_LAT effect plot MARRIED effect plot DIVORCED effect plot FEMALE effect plot LOWINC effect plot
0.85 0.85
0.85 0.84




0.8 0.82 0.8
0.8 0.85 0.8
0.75 0.75
0.75 0.7 0.8
0.76 0.7
0.65 0.75 0.74
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

MEDINC effect plot ENG_DOM effect plot LESSHS effect plot HS effect plot
0.85 0.85 0.85




0.8 0.8
0.8 0.8
0.75 0.75
0.7 0.7 0.75
0.65 0.65
0.65 0.7
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

Figure 2: Probability Plots of Estimated Coefficients From Regression of Voted on Family


YEARSUS effect plot AUTHFAM effect plot YRSAUTHF effect plot UNDER18 effect plot AGE effect plot





0.6 0.8
0.9 0.4 0.9
0.2 0.7
0.8 0.85
0.6 0.8
0.6 0.8
0.4 0.7
0.75 0.5
0.7 0.6
0.2 0.4 0.5
0 10 20 30 40 50 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0 10 20 30 40 50 0 1 2 3 4 5 20 40 60 80

ASSIM effect plot DEMOCRAT effect plot HOMEOWN effect plot DESC_AM effect plot DESC_CO effect plot

0.88 0.9 0.85

0.9 0.9 0.86 0.8




0.8 0.84 0.75
0.85 0.8
0.7 0.82 0.7
0.6 0.8 0.75 0.65
0.8 0.6
0.5 0.75 0.7
0.78 0.55
0.4 0.7
0.65 0.5
5 10 15 20 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

DESC_LAT effect plot MARRIED effect plot DIVORCED effect plot FEMALE effect plot LOWINC effect plot
0.9 0.9
0.9 0.95 0.88




0.85 0.84
0.8 0.82 0.8
0.8 0.75 0.85 0.8 0.75
0.7 0.78
0.75 0.8 0.7
0.65 0.76
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

MEDINC effect plot ENG_DOM effect plot LESSHS effect plot HS effect plot
0.9 0.9
0.85 0.85 0.85




0.8 0.8
0.75 0.75 0.8
0.7 0.7 0.7
0.65 0.65 0.65

0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

Figure 3: Probability Plots of Estimated Coefficients From Regression of of Voted on Family


z−statistics of Interaction Effects after Logit


z−statistic 5

0 .2 .4 .6 .8 1
Predicted Probability that y = 1

Figure 4: Z Statistics of P r(V oted == 1) Effect After Logit

Interaction Effects after Logit

Interaction Effect (percentage points)




0 .2 .4 .6 .8 1
Predicted Probability that y = 1
Correct interaction effect Incorrect marginal effect

Figure 5: Interaction Term Effect Logit


Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)

(Intercept) −3.2520 1.2793 −2.54 0.0110
Years In United States 0.0810 0.0430 1.88 0.0595
Cohesion 1.1909 0.9251 1.29 0.1980
Years × Family Cohesion −0.0314 0.0448 −0.70 0.4828
Individuals under 18 in HH −0.2815 0.1145 −2.46 0.0139
Age 0.0273 0.0119 2.29 0.0219
Assimilation Index −0.0033 0.0734 −0.04 0.9644
Democrat 1.2533 0.2729 4.59 0.0000
Homeowner −0.0101 0.2842 −0.04 0.9717
Identity: American 0.8918 0.2646 3.37 0.0008
Identity: Country of Origin 0.6441 0.4716 1.37 0.1720
Identity: Latino −0.0112 0.3342 −0.03 0.9733
Married 0.7201 0.2992 2.41 0.0161
Divorced 0.4580 0.4946 0.93 0.3545
Female 0.0506 0.2659 0.19 0.8490
Low Income −0.5552 0.3270 −1.70 0.0896
Medium Income −0.6805 0.3261 −2.09 0.0369
English Dominant 0.0499 0.4898 0.10 0.9189
Less Than High School −0.6426 0.3566 −1.80 0.0716
High School −0.3016 0.3161 −0.95 0.3400

N 492
Log-likelihood -207.2
χ2(19) 96.02
Significance levels : † : 10% ∗ : 5% ∗∗ : 1%

Table 4: Logit Regression Results of Voted on Family Cohesion


Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)

(Intercept) −1.6998 1.1431 −1.49 0.1370
Years In United States 0.0278 0.0288 0.97 0.3336
Family Care −0.7333 0.6810 −1.08 0.2816
Years × Family Care 0.0320 0.0314 1.02 0.3081
Individuals under 18 in HH −0.2559 0.1141 −2.24 0.0250
Age 0.0307 0.0119 2.59 0.0096
Assimilation Index −0.0198 0.0763 −0.26 0.7954
Democrat 1.2044 0.2743 4.39 0.0000
Homeowner 0.0757 0.2867 0.26 0.7917
Identity: American 0.9010 0.2692 3.35 0.0008
Identity: Country of Origin 0.5637 0.4874 1.16 0.2474
Identity: Latino 0.1025 0.3320 0.31 0.7575
Married 0.8023 0.3029 2.65 0.0081
Divorced 0.4017 0.4932 0.81 0.4153
Female 0.1033 0.2718 0.38 0.7040
Low Income −0.5592 0.3266 −1.71 0.0868
Medium Income −0.7271 0.3314 −2.19 0.0283
English Dominant −0.1906 0.4718 −0.40 0.6863
Less Than High School −0.7291 0.3584 −2.03 0.0419
High School −0.3646 0.3212 −1.14 0.2562

N 481
Log-likelihood -201.38
χ2(19) 85.64
Significance levels : † : 10% ∗ : 5% ∗∗ : 1%

Table 5: Logit Regression Results of Voted on Family Care


Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)

(Intercept) −1.6277 1.2541 −1.30 0.1943
Years In United States 0.0141 0.0370 0.38 0.7044
Family Strength −0.1464 0.1154 −1.27 0.2048
Years × Family Strength 0.0055 0.0049 1.12 0.2624
Individuals under 18 in HH −0.2485 0.1140 −2.18 0.0294
Age 0.0318 0.0116 2.73 0.0063
Assimilation Index 0.0117 0.0744 0.16 0.8751
Democrat 1.2479 0.2730 4.57 0.0000
Homeowner −0.0343 0.2851 −0.12 0.9043
Identity: American 0.8596 0.2638 3.26 0.0011
Identity: Country of Origin 0.6866 0.4669 1.47 0.1414
Identity: Latino −0.0061 0.3332 −0.02 0.9854
Married 0.8301 0.2986 2.78 0.0054
Divorced 0.4909 0.4941 0.99 0.3205
Female 0.0636 0.2660 0.24 0.8112
Low Income −0.4684 0.3239 −1.45 0.1482
Medium Income −0.6651 0.3252 −2.05 0.0409
English Dominant −0.1156 0.4676 −0.25 0.8048
Less Than High School −0.7188 0.3554 −2.02 0.0431
High School −0.3555 0.3145 −1.13 0.2584

N 486
Log-likelihood -206.93
χ2(19) 86.06
Significance levels : † : 10% ∗ : 5% ∗∗ : 1%

Table 6: Logit Regression Results of Voted on Family Strength


Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)

(Intercept) −3.4665 1.8103 −1.91 0.0555
Years In United States 0.1230 0.0757 1.63 0.1041
Family Capital 0.9874 1.5793 0.63 0.5318
Years × Family Capital −0.0779 0.0763 −1.02 0.3071
Individuals under 18 in HH −0.2812 0.1154 −2.44 0.0148
Age 0.0312 0.0119 2.62 0.0089
Assimilation Index 0.0205 0.0756 0.27 0.7859
Democrat 1.3059 0.2779 4.70 0.0000
Homeowner 0.0692 0.2840 0.24 0.8076
Identity: American 0.8804 0.2658 3.31 0.0009
Identity: Country of Origin 0.4322 0.4878 0.89 0.3757
Identity: Latino 0.0940 0.3327 0.28 0.7774
Married 0.7858 0.3039 2.59 0.0097
Divorced 0.3574 0.4980 0.72 0.4730
Female 0.0802 0.2701 0.30 0.7666
Low Income −0.5206 0.3304 −1.58 0.1151
Medium Income −0.6953 0.3335 −2.08 0.0371
English Dominant 0.0720 0.4851 0.15 0.8819
Less Than High School −0.5893 0.3548 −1.66 0.0967
High School −0.2398 0.3186 −0.75 0.4515

N 487
Log-likelihood -202.45
χ2(19) 90.17
Significance levels : † : 10% ∗ : 5% ∗∗ : 1%

Table 7: Logit Regression Results of Voted on Family Capital


Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)

(Intercept) −3.0999 1.0937 −2.83 0.0046
Years In United States 0.0956 0.0232 4.13 0.0000
Authoritarian Family 1.1706 0.6415 1.82 0.0680
Years × Authoritarian −0.0892 0.0287 −3.10 0.0019
Individuals under 18 in HH −0.2886 0.1143 −2.53 0.0116
Age 0.0337 0.0120 2.80 0.0052
Assimilation Index −0.0242 0.0760 −0.32 0.7502
Democrat 1.2051 0.2749 4.38 0.0000
Homeowner 0.0138 0.2891 0.05 0.9618
Identity: American 0.8878 0.2691 3.30 0.0010
Identity: Country of Origin 0.6989 0.5006 1.40 0.1627
Identity: Latino 0.0044 0.3338 0.01 0.9895
Married 0.9714 0.3147 3.09 0.0020
Divorced 0.5636 0.5066 1.11 0.2659
Female 0.0849 0.2731 0.31 0.7558
Low Income −0.5444 0.3306 −1.65 0.0996
Medium Income −0.7317 0.3296 −2.22 0.0264
English Dominant −0.1650 0.4759 −0.35 0.7287
Less Than High School −0.6935 0.3651 −1.90 0.0575
High School −0.2055 0.3217 −0.64 0.5230

N 486
Log-likelihood -199.27
χ2(19) 95.75
Significance levels : † : 10% ∗ : 5% ∗∗ : 1%

Table 8: Logit Regression Results of Voted on Authoritarian Family Type


Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)

(Intercept) −0.3588 0.4751 −0.76 0.4502
Years In United States −0.0111 0.0083 −1.34 0.1790
Authoritarian Family 0.3782 0.2035 1.86 0.0632
Years × Authoritarian −0.0029 0.0110 −0.27 0.7908
Individuals under 18 in HH −0.0874 0.0483 −1.81 0.0706
Age 0.0153 0.0057 2.69 0.0071
Assimilation Index −0.0119 0.0329 −0.36 0.7183
Democrat −0.3491 0.1310 −2.66 0.0077
Homeowner −0.0310 0.1377 −0.23 0.8219
Identity: American 0.4841 0.1332 3.63 0.0003
Identity: Country of Origin −0.3559 0.2742 −1.30 0.1944
Identity: Latino −0.0168 0.1671 −0.10 0.9198
Married −0.2700 0.1325 −2.04 0.0416
Divorced −0.3820 0.2631 −1.45 0.1465
Female 0.1229 0.1178 1.04 0.2968
Low Income 0.1146 0.1397 0.82 0.4124
Medium Income 0.1535 0.1630 0.94 0.3464
English Dominant 0.0155 0.2651 0.06 0.9535
Less Than High School 0.2100 0.1515 1.39 0.1657
High School 0.0538 0.1520 0.35 0.7232

N 433
Log-likelihood -279.69
χ2(19) 37.24
Significance levels : † : 10% ∗ : 5% ∗∗ : 1%

Table 9: Logit Regression Results of Political Alienation on Family Authority