The Melting Pot and the Altar: Marital Assimilation in Early Twentieth-Century Wisconsin
by Richard M. Bernard
University of Minnesota Press, 1981
Paper: 978-0-8166-5707-0


The Melting Pot and the Altar was first published in 1981. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

Recent studies of assimilation in nineteenth-century America have focused on the ways in which immigrant groups maintained separate identities rather than on their absorption in American society. In The Melting Pot and the Altar Richard M. Bernard puts to test the theory of the melting pot. He concludes that although cultural and structural pluralism deserves attention so does interaction between the host society and the immigrants

Through extensive quantitative analysis of census reports and marriage records Bernard studies the pattern of intergroup marriage - the ultimate test of assimilation - during a period of massive migration to this country. His research on eleven immigrant groups and the native-born population in Wisconsin suggests that there was considerable intergroup mixing. Moreover, once allowance is made for differing times of arrival, immigration generations, and rural or urban residences, the assimilative patterns of Western and Eastern European groups were remarkably similar. An examination of several factors, such as occupation, age, location, and birthplace of parents, shows that certain demographic and social characteristics rather than any particular ethnic identification increased the likelihood that an individual would marry outside his or her group.

The Melting Pot and the Altar is the first multiple variable analysis of marital assimilation in an entire state whose immigration patterns is similar to that of the nation. Both historians and sociologist will find this work of interest as an example of quantitative methodology and for its new evidence on an important subject.

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