A Mixed Methods Approach to Examining Mexican-Origin Adolescents’ Use of Ethnic-Racial Labels in Neighborhood Contexts

Michelle C. Pasco, Rebecca M.B. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We employed a mixed method design to describe Mexican-origin adolescents’ ethnic-racial label usage in the context of ethnically/racially segregated neighborhoods. Data come from three sources: 26 semistructured interviews with 14 Mexican-origin adolescents (mean age = 15.43, SD = 1.22), 64.3% female, living in neighborhood environments predominated by Latinos; neighborhood (N = 9) data from the U.S. Census Bureau; and systematic social observations of neighborhood block faces (N = 256). Using Key-Word-In-Context analysis, we found that adolescents used a variety of labels to describe themselves and members of their ethnic-racial group while discussing the strengths and challenges associated with their residential neighborhoods. Semistructured interview themes included adolescents’ references to cultural and social resources within neighborhoods, neighborhood challenges, ethnic-racial biases, and normative developmental processes. We examined label usage across interview themes and neighborhood characteristics derived from the census and systematic social observation data. Two triangulated findings emerged: (a) diversity in ethnic-racial label usage in the context of neighborhood resources and (b) greater restriction to the use of panethnic labels in the context of neighborhood challenges. Our study suggests that adolescents may be internalizing messages and symbols in their neighborhoods in ways that have implications for their ethnic-racial labeling and identity development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-520
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the following community organizations: Chicanos Por La Causa, Guadalupe Branch Library, Copper Canyon High School, and Phoenix YMCA. We thank Sara Rush for technical assistance with block face enumeration. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Funding was provided by the William T. Grant Foundation Scholars Program (182878) and the William T. Grant Foundation Mentoring Grant Program (186549).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • adolescence
  • community/neighborhood
  • Latinos
  • mixed methods
  • race/ethnicity


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