New Life in U.S. No Longer Means New Name

Sam Roberts, New York Times, August 25, 2010

For many 19th- and 20th-century immigrants or their children, it was a rite of passage: Arriving in America, they adopted a new identity.

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The New York Times examined the more than 500 applications for name changes in June at the Civil Court in New York. {snip}. Only a half dozen or so of those applications appeared to be obviously intended to Anglicize or abbreviate the surnames that immigrants or their families arrived with from Latin America or Asia. {snip}

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Sociologists say {snip} that blending in by changing a name is not as effective for Asians and Latin Americans who, arguably, may be more easily identified by physical characteristics than some Europeans were in the 19th century and early 20th century.

Also, at least in certain circumstances, affirmative action and similar programs have transformed ethnic identity into a potential asset.

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