- The Politics of Belonging: Race, Public Opinion, and Immigration by Natalie Masuoka and Jane Junn
In The Politics of Belonging: Race, Public Opinion, and Immigration, Masuoka and Junn examine how political opinions on immigration differ among whites, blacks, Asian Americans, and Latinos. They expand on Claire Kim’s racial triangulation theory by proposing a racial diamond model that includes the positioning of Latinos. Drawing from several national survey data sets from the 2000s, they provide empirical evidence that supports the presence of a U.S. racial hierarchy and how the positioning of each group structures beliefs on immigration.
Masuoka and Junn meticulously test and build upon different hypotheses regarding race and political attitudes based on the racial diamond model. While they primarily use quantitative methods, they also weave in historical and theoretical explanations to further support their findings. In chapter 2, through historical analysis, they explain how the positioning of Asian Americans and Latinos moves toward whites or blacks depending on the historical context. Their findings highlight how the racial diamond model is not static and highly malleable. In chapter 3, Masuoka and Junn elaborate on how stereotype data are not just reflective of individual-level attitudes toward different racial groups; they illustrate how the data can be scaled up to infer each group’s positioning within the U.S. racial hierarchy. Their analyses of in-group and out-group stereotypes confirm that the current hierarchy still includes whites at the top and blacks at the bottom. Asian Americans are currently higher ranked than Latinos. Latinos tend to be associated with negative stereotypes, such as welfare and illegal immigration. In chapter 4, they empirically examine differences in groups’ sense of national identity and racial-group identity overlap. They found that for nonwhite groups, these identities do not overlap and their sense of national belonging is limited by their lower position in the hierarchy. In chapters 5 and 6, Masuoka and Junn test several hypotheses to assess if each group’s positioning in the racial diamond model can explain their attitude toward immigrants and immigration policy. Their findings indicate that Asian Americans and Latinos tend to have more positive attitudes toward immigration and less restrictive immigration policies than do whites and blacks. Racial priming through media images of immigrants also had no significant effect on their attitudes.
While the findings about Asian Americans’ racial positioning and their attitudes toward immigration may not be surprising, Politics of Belonging has major methodological contributions. Throughout the text, the authors challenge social science researchers who often treat race as dichotomous control variables that represent individual-level characteristics. They argue that traditional [End Page 133] statistical models that uncritically include race as a control variable assume an “equality of individual agency” and do not account for institutional constraints and power hierarchies that differentially structure experiences in each racial group (32). They thus instead use a comparative relational analysis in which separate models are estimated for each group. This method of analysis approaches race as structuring the other explanatory variables, rather than as an additional explanatory variable of equal importance and weight. Chapter 5 best illustrates their method. Their analysis of attitudes on immigration abode policies (e.g., social services and English-only programs) effectively illustrates how the traditional method of using race as an individual-level control variable does mask how other explanatory variables, such as demographics and political party identification, do vary in significance across racial groups.
Masuoka and Junn’s examination of race however does still have limitations. While they provide a convincing argument for how race should be analyzed in quantitative research, their approach still relies on panethnic categories for Asian Americans and Latinos, as well as a fixed dichotomous variable for race in which an individual is in or out of the racial category. They do note the limitations in chapter 4 when explaining why Asian Americans and Latinos tend to have weaker racial-group identification than blacks. They explain that these racial categories represent panethnic rather...