Asian Americans: Affirmative Action, Intergroup Attitudes and Racial Group Formation

Awarded Scholars:
Jennifer Lee, University of California, Irvine
Janelle Wong, University of Maryland
Taeku Lee, University of California, Berkeley
Karthick Ramakrishnan, University of California, Riverside
Project Date:
Dec 2016
Award Amount:

Compared to the overall foreign-born population and to the native-born, Asian immigrants generally have higher levels of educational attainment and higher household incomes.  They also make up the largest share of post-2009 immigrants—36 percent of these arrivals are Asian, compared to 31 percent Latino. However, their numbers in most surveys are too small to make reliable estimates of their views and experiences. Even though Asian Americans are an increasingly visible part of the cultural, political and policy landscape, it is theoretically and empirically unclear why their political attitudes and behaviors play out the way they do.  For example, most Asian Americans (because of high educational attainment and endorsement of individualism and meritocracy) are not likely to benefit from affirmative college admission policies, yet support levels are high.  Is this support driven by their socioeconomic location, their perceptions of discrimination, and/or their experience as beneficiaries of a race-conscious policy?  How do Asian Americans perceive and evaluate their interactions vis-à -vis other Asian ethnic groups as well as other U.S. racial groups? And, do these opinions represent an alignment with other racial and ethnic minorities or the emergence of a tri-racial (black, white, other) divide?

Sociologist Jennifer Lee and political scientists Janelle Wong, Taeku Lee, and Karthick Ramakrishnan will use data from their 2016 National Asian American Survey (NAAS) to explore Asian Americans' attitudes toward affirmative action, which can help describe how Asian Americans position themselves in the U.S. ethnic-racial hierarchy. They will also study Asian Americans' support for health care reform (the Affordable Care Act), a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and identity-based social movements such as Black Lives Matter, exploring how socioeconomic status, experiences of discrimination, and generation affects differences in support for these policies across Asian ethnic groups. 


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