Latino educational gains over time and income mobility portend a burgeoning Latino middle class. In this article, we critically review scholarship on the Latino middle class, from theoretical perspectives aiming to explain Latino experiences to empirical research investigating mechanisms that promote, and barriers that thwart, upward mobility. Studies suggest that the Latino middle class is distinctive for many reasons—from structural barriers to asset accumulation, legal status precarity for self or family, financial responsibility for class-disadvantaged kin, and negative controlling images that bog down class ascension. Scholars’ recent efforts to decouple middle-class status from Whiteness is an important contribution that undercuts the notion that melding into Whiteness is the desired outcome of middle-class integration. In addition to the utility of education to upward mobility, we contend that studies of middle-class pathways should expand to recognize that Latinos are engaging in workarounds—career paths not requiring a bachelor's degree, such as business ownership or credentialed professions. Workarounds are an intervention that accounts for routes to mobility that are eclipsed by conventional conceptions of mobility. Ultimately, we argue that Latinos are attaining middle-class status even as they are racialized, thereby expanding the minoritized middle class.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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