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Chong says that the experiences of interethnic couples reflect a highly complex process of assimilation that challenges assumptions and even stereotypes on many levels, including what “Asianness” means for the general public and for the participants themselves.

The four key elements of ethnic culture respondents mentioned were language, food, holiday celebrations, and values.

The individuals she interviewed were all at least second-generation Americans, and most lived in metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC, which all have sizable Asian-American populations.

The couples’ national origins included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Cambodian heritage.

She says in recent decades sociologists have examined racialized assimilation, meaning that immigrants of color may be assimilating into American society in many ways, including the adoption of mainstream culture and becoming incorporated into American social structures while maintaining racial—and some degree of cultural—distinction.

“Interethnically married Asian-American couples, who remain racially distinct and are likely to be more successful in preserving aspects of their Asian ethnic cultures, may be incorporating into the US society in a different way that pushes us to question the validity of the classic uni-linear assimilation trajectory, one based mostly on the experiences of older European ethnic immigrants,” Chong says.

“In short, these couples recognize that sometimes, the ‘default’ culture for the families and children end up being ‘American’ rather than ethnic, with elements of ‘Asianness,'” Chong says.