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Asian American Identity: Shared Racial Status and Political Context

  • Jane Junn (a1) and Natalie Masuoka (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 13 November 2008

Amidst rising levels of ethnic diversity in the United States, scholars struggle to understand how group consciousness functions among other non-black minority groups such as Asian Americans and Latinos. Most of the literature in this area focuses on the relationship between identity and immigration incorporation or the debate between national origin and panethnicity. We argue that the Asian American community offers an important case study to understand how social context and one's perceived racial position influence an individual's sense of group attachment. Thus, the Asian American case presents new insight beyond the black politics model into how racial identification influences individual political attitudes and behavior. We present findings from a unique embedded survey experiment conducted in 2004 that reveals a surprising degree of malleability in Asian American racial group attachment. This is a striking contrast to the findings demonstrated by blacks whose racial identification is relatively more stable over various contexts. We seek to explain these findings by advocating for a more explicit consideration of the structural incentives and costs of adopting racial and ethnic identities by highlighting the significance of U.S. immigration policy and its role in creating group-based stereotypes and racial tropes.

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Richard Alba , and Victor Nee . 2003. Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Bruce Cain , D. Roderick Kiewiet , and Carole Uhlaner . 1991. The acquisition of partisanship by Latinos and Asian Americans. American Journal of Political Science 35 (2): 390422.

Pamela J. Conover 1984. The influence of group identification on political perception and evaluation. Journal of Politics 46: 760–85.

Jennifer Lee , and Frank Bean . 2004. America's changing color lines: Immigration, race/ethnicity and multiracial identification. Annual Review of Sociology 30: 221–42.

Jan E. Leighley , and Arnold Vedlitz . 1999. Race, ethnicity, and political participation: Competing models and contrasting explanations. Journal of Politics 61 (4): 1092–114.

Natalie Masuoka . 2006. Together they become one: Examining the predictors of panethnic group consciousness among Asian Americans and Latinos. Social Science Quarterly 87 (5): 9931011.

Arthur Miller , Patricia Gurin , Gerald Gurin , and Oksana Malanchuk . 1981. Group consciousness and political participation. American Journal of Political Science 25 (3): 494511.

Dina Okamoto . 2006. Institutional panethnicity: Boundary formation in Asian-American organizing. Social Forces 85 (1): 125.

Dina Okamoto . 2003. Toward a theory of panethnicity: Explaining Asian American collective action. American Sociological Review 68: 811–42.

Gary Segura , and Helena Rodrigues . 2006. Comparative ethnic politics in the United States: Beyond black and white. Annual Review of Political Science 9: 375–95.

Wendy K. Tam 1995. Asians—A monolithic voting bloc? Political Behavior 17 (2): 223–49.

Janelle S. Wong 2006. Democracy's Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
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