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Brown, J. Scott; Hitlin, Steven; & Elder, Glen H., Jr. (2006). The Greater Complexity of Lived Race: An Extension of Harris and Sim. Social Science Quarterly, 87(2), 411-431.


Objectives: Harris and Sim (2002) recently demonstrated the complexity of lived race by exploring patterns of racial self-identification. They raised important sociological questions about the role of context in racial self-identification, but offered an incomplete picture of ethnic fluidity by excluding Hispanics from their analyses. We address this limitation with data on Hispanics from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health).
Methods: Our social-psychological approach, using compositional analysis, focuses on the lived experience of race and ethnicity as qualitatively similar conceptual categories.
Results: Informed by the cognitive process of social categorization, we find that considerably more individuals show fluidity in racial and ethnic self-identification across contexts than suggested by Harris and Sim.
Conclusions: Harris and Sim's thesis is even more strongly supported by these findings than in their original analysis, and our findings reinforce their challenge to the assumed stability of racial and ethnic measurement in sociology. We conclude by proposing a change in the measurement of race/ethnicity in America.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Science Quarterly


Brown, J. Scott
Hitlin, Steven
Elder, Glen H., Jr.