Racial Formation in Theory and Practice: The Case of Mexicans in the United States

Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Mechanisms of social stratification require the categorical definition of an out-group to that can be excluded and exploited. Historically, in the United States, African Americans have been the subject of a systematic process of racial formation to define socially in this fashion. Beginning in the 1970s, however, and accelerating in the 1980s and 1990s, Mexicans were increasingly subject to processes of racialization that have rendered them more exploitable and excludable than ever before. Over the past decade, Mexican Americans moved steadily away from their middle position in the socioeconomic hierarchy and gravitated toward the bottom. This paper describes the basic mechanisms of stratification in the United States and how Mexicans have steadily been racialized to label them socially as a dehumanized and vulnerable out-group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-26
Number of pages15
JournalRace and Social Problems
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Boundaries
  • Categorical
  • Discrimination
  • Mexicans
  • Race
  • Stereotype content


Dive into the research topics of 'Racial Formation in Theory and Practice: The Case of Mexicans in the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this