Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-mwx4w Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-24T14:26:05.987Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

3 - Intersectionality and Identity

An Exploration of Arab American Women

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2014

Jen’nan Ghazal Read
Duke University
Lisa A. Keister
Duke University, North Carolina
Darren E. Sherkat
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Get access


In the past, research on social stratification focused primarily on the independent contributions of race, socioeconomic status (SES), and gender to status attainment. However, contemporary research in the field recognizes that race, SES, and gender interact to create complicated systems of inequality that go beyond conventional models of stratification. Increasingly, studies add categories such as religion and nativity to the mix and uncover even more complex patterns of inequality, ones that rarely fit conventional explanations for stratification outcomes, particularly for women (Fitzgerald and Glass 2008, 2012; Glass and Jacobs 2005; Lehrer 1999a; Sherkat and Darnell 1999). Consider these examples: Education is highly correlated with U.S. women's employment and earnings (England, Garcia-Beaulieu, and Ross 2004), but is much more so for native-born white and black women than for immigrant women (Read and Cohen 2007). Religion is negatively associated with women's human capital acquisition among conservative Christians (Lehrer 1999b), whereas the opposite is true among U.S. Jews (Gold 2002), and among Arab Americans, women evidence a pattern of high educational attainment, but very low labor force participation (Read and Oselin 2008).

These patterns can create theoretical and empirical conundrums for researchers focused on the relationship between any single identity (e.g., race, class, gender) and social inequality. In this chapter, we examine where the presence of multiple group identities results in status attainment outcomes that do not fit neatly within conventional stratification models. We use Arab American women as a case study. This group provides a useful case because it lies at the intersection of religion and ethnicity, where the cultural dynamics shaping women's achievements are especially acute (Read 2004). Arab American women also constitute a population that exhibits a paradoxical pattern of high educational attainment but low employment (U.S. Bureau of the Census 2000). They provide a rich repository of information to examine how multiple identity categories intersect to shape outcomes.

Religion and Inequality in America
Research and Theory on Religion's Role in Stratification
, pp. 75 - 94
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ajrouch, Kristine. 1999. “Family and Ethnic Identity in an Arab-American Community” (pp. 129–39). In Suleiman, Michael W. (ed.), Arabs in America: Building a New Future. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
Akerlof, George A., and Kranton, Rachel E.. 2010. Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aswad, Barbara C. 1999. “Attitudes of Arab Immigrants toward Welfare” (pp. 177–91). In Suleiman, Michael W. (ed.), Arabs in America: Building a New Future. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
Bartkowski, John P., and Ghazal Read, Jen’nan. 2003. “Veiled Submission: Gender, Power, and Identity among Evangelical and Muslim Women in the United States.” Qualitative Sociology 26(1):71–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boisnier, Alicia. 2003. “Race and Women's Identity Development: Distinguishing between Feminism and Womanism among Black and White Women.” Sex Roles 49(5–6):211–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chafetz, Janet Saltzman. 1988. “The Gender Division of Labor and the Reproduction of Female Disadvantage.” Journal of Family Issues 9(1):108–31.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Chaves, Mark. 2010. “SSSR Presidential Address Rain Dances in the Dry Season: Overcoming the Religious Congruence Fallacy.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49(1):1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chong, Kelly H. 1998. “What It Means to Be Christian: The Role of Religion in the Construction of Ethnic Identity and Boundary among Second-Generation Korean Americans.” Sociology of Religion 59(3):259–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Collins, Patricia Hill. 2005. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Darnell, Alfred, and Sherkat, Darren E.. 1997. “The Impact of Protestant Fundamentalism on Educational Attainment.” American Sociological Review 62(2):306–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ebaugh, Helen Rose, and Chafetz, Janet Saltzman. 1999. “Agents for Cultural Reproduction and Structural Change: The Ironic Role of Women in Immigrant Religious Institutions.” Social Forces 78(2):585–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ebaugh, Helen Rose, and Chafetz, Janet Saltzman. 2000. “Structural Adaptations in Immigrant Congregations.” Sociology of Religion 61(2):135–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
England, Paula, Garcia-Beaulieu, Carmen, and Ross, Mary. 2004. “Women's Employment among Blacks, Whites, and Three Groups of Latinas: Do More Privileged Women Have Higher Employment?Gender & Society 18(4):494–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Espiritu, Yen Le. 2001. “‘We Don't Sleep around like White Girls Do’: Family, Culture, and Gender in Filipina American Lives.” Signs 26(2):415–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fitzgerald, Scott T., and Glass, Jennifer. 2008. “Can Early Family Formation Explain the Lower Educational Attainment of U.S. Conservative Protestants?Sociological Spectrum 28(5):556–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fitzgerald, Scott T., and Glass, Jennifer. 2012. “Conservative Protestants, Early Transitions to Adulthood, and The Intergenerational Transmission of Class” (pp. 49–72). In Keister, Lisa A., McCarthy, John D., and Finke, Roger (eds.), Religion, Work and Inequality. Bingley, UK: Emerald Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibson, Margaret A. 1988. Accommodation without Assimilation : Sikh Immigrants in an American High School. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Glass, Jennifer, and Jacobs, Jerry. 2005. “Childhood Religious Conservatism and Adult Attainment among Black and White Women.” Social Forces 84(1):555–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gold, Steven J. 2002. The Israeli Diaspora. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
Haddad, Yvonne Y., and Smith, Jane I.. 1996. “Islamic Values among American Muslims” (pp. 19–40). In Aswad, Barbara C. and Bilge, Barbara (eds.), Family and Gender among American Muslims: Issues Facing Middle Eastern Immigrants and their Descendants. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
Hartman, Harriet, and Hartman, Moshe. 1996. “More Jewish, Less Jewish: Implications for Education and Labor Force Characteristics.” Sociology of Religion 57(2):175–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Joseph, Suad. 1999. Intimate Selving in Arab Families: Gender, Self, and Identity. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
Layman, Geoffrey C., and Green, John C.. 2006. “Wars and Rumours of Wars: The Contexts of Cultural Conflict in American Political Behaviour.” British Journal of Political Science 36(1):61–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lehrer, Evelyn L. 1999a. “Married Women's Labor Supply Behavior in the 1990s: Differences by Life-Cycle Stage.” Social Science Quarterly 80:574–90.Google Scholar
Lehrer, Evelyn L.. 1999b. “Religion as a Determinant of Educational Attainment: An Economic Perspective.” Social Science Research 28(4):358–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lehrer, Evelyn L.. 2004. “Religion as a Determinant of Economic and Demographic Behavior in the United States.” Population and Development Review 30(4):707–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merrill, Ray M., Lyon, Joseph L., and Jensen, William J.. 2003. “Lack of a Secularizing Influence of Education on Religious Activity and Parity among Mormons.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42(1):113–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Read, Jen’nan Ghazal. 2004. Culture, Class, and Work among Arab-American Women. El Paso, TX: LFB Scholarly.Google Scholar
Read, Jen’nan Ghazal, and Bartkowski, John P.. 2000. “To Veil or Not to Veil? A Case Study of Identity Negotiation among Muslim Women in Austin, Texas.” Gender and Society 14(3):395–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Read, Jen’nan Ghazal, and Cohen, Philip N.. 2007. “One Size Fits All? Explaining U.S.-Born and Immigrant Women's Employment across 12 Ethnic Groups.” Social Forces 85(4):1713–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Read, Jen’nan, and Eagle, David. 2011. “Intersecting Identities as a Source of Religious Incongruence.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 50(1):116–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Read, Jen’nan Ghazal, and Oselin, Sharon. 2008. “Gender and the Education-Employment Paradox in Ethnic and Religious Contexts: The Case of Arab Americans.” American Sociological Review 73(2):296–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sherkat, Darren E. 2000. “‘That They Be Keepers of the Home’: The Effect of Conservative Religion on Early and Late Transitions into Housewifery.” Review of Religious Research 41(3):344–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sherkat, Darren E., and Darnell, Alfred. 1999. “The Effect of Parents’ Fundamentalism on Children's Educational Attainment: Examining Differences by Gender and Children's Fundamentalism.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(1):23–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Christian. 2000. Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. Berkeley:University of California Press.Google Scholar
U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2000. Census of Population and Housing. Public-Use Microdata Samples. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
Warner, R. Stephen, and Wittner, Judith G.. 1998. Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
Zinn, Maxine Baca, and Thornton Dill, Bonnie. 1996. “Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism.” Feminist Studies 22(2):321–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats