The Origins and Persistence of Ethnic Identity among the "New Immigrant" Groups

David O. Sears, Mingying Fu, P. J. Henry, Kerra Bui

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Will expanding cultural diversity lead to "ethnic balkanization" and centrifugal tendencies in the society as a whole? We report on a six-wave panel study of the ethnic identities of Asians and Latinos, the "new immigrant" groups, attending a highly selective public university. These students are mainly the products of quite recent immigration; their ethnic identities still are often focused more on their country of origin than on their American ethnicity. Stronger ethnic identities at college entry stem most often from factors associated with recent immigration, not from the experience of discrimination in America. The students' ethnic identities are quite stable through college, and are not strengthened by the college experience. Variations in ethnic identities at the end of college continue to reflect recency of immigration, as well as the ethnic homogeneity of social environments. This pattern is consistent with a "black exceptionalism" theory of race and ethnicity, in which the color line remains narrowly focused on African ancestry. Earlier immigrants from Europe may be the more appropriate model for the future ethnic politics of the new immigrant groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-437
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number4 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Dec 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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