Perceived Discrimination and Intergroup Commonality Among Asian Americans
Group dynamics are central to understanding race in America. Research reveals that Blacks and Latinos who report discrimination are more likely to feel interracial political commonality and intragroup linked fate. However, these findings may not extrapolate to Asian Americans, a heterogeneous group with a recent immigration history. This study examines whether type and context of perceived discrimination influence this relationship for Asian Americans. I find that interpersonal discrimination is associated with political commonality with Hispanics, whereas jobs discrimination is associated with political commonality with Blacks. Both are associated with intraracial and intraethnic linked fate. Neither housing discrimination nor police mistreatment predicts political commonality or linked fate. These findings suggest that promoting solidarity across and within racial groups requires acknowledging the differential impacts of perceived discrimination.
perceived discrimination, intergroup relations, political commonality, linked fate, Asian Americans
Between 1965 and 2015, the Asian American population grew from 1.2 percent of the U.S. population to 6.4 percent. Demographers project continued growth, with Asian Americans making up 10 percent of the U.S. population by 2060 (Pew Research Center 2015). Although the Black-White boundary remains the most salient color line in the United States, the growth of post-1965 immigrant groups, including Asian Americans, raises questions about how these groups will relate to each other and to U.S.-born Blacks and Whites in the decades ahead.
Understanding these group dynamics is central to understanding race in America. Individuals identify as members of groups but are also ascribed membership in groups by others (McClain et al. 2009). Group membership is associated with value connotations that pave the way for conflict, competition, and cooperation among groups (Tajfel 1982). Research in this area originally focused on examining White racial [End Page 180] attitudes, before expanding to include racial minority group attitudes toward both Whites and each other (Oliver and Wong 2003). This literature includes studies on intergroup dynamics, examining relationships between in-groups and outgroups. For example, one body of research examines whether Latinos feel commonality with Blacks on dimensions including political interest and socioeconomic status (Jones-Correa 2011). It also includes work on intragroup dynamics, examining how individuals relate to being members of groups themselves.1 For example, the concept of linked fate proposes that as a result of historical and current discrimination, African Americans view their individual fates as tied to the larger group’s (Dawson 1994). Social and contextual factors such as intergroup contact and perceived competition influence these dynamics. Reported discrimination has also been associated with feelings of commonality and linked fate for Blacks and Latinos. Social psychologists theorize that experiences of discrimination can evoke the perception of a common identity with groups who would otherwise be considered outgroups, and thus promote feelings of solidarity across racial groups. Likewise, political scientists have suggested that experiences of discrimination may increase perceptions of shared status with other members of one’s group, thus promoting feelings of linked fate. These attitudes may in turn predict political behavior, such as cross-racial coalition-building.
However, the racialization of Asian Americans in the United States differs from that of Black and Latino Americans, and may therefore affect the extent to which these concepts of commonality apply to them. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. Asian adults are foreign born (Lopez, Ruiz, and Patten 2017), and consequently lack the collective history and memory of discrimination that Black Americans hold. This, in turn, may affect how Asian Americans view themselves in relation to other racial minority groups. The panethnic Asian American category also encompasses significant linguistic, national-origin, and socioeconomic heterogeneity, which may affect the extent to which Asian Americans view their fates as linked.
Consequently, research on feelings of intergroup and intragroup commonality among Asian Americans has yielded inconclusive results. This study therefore examines the relationship between reported experiences of discrimination and Asian Americans’ feelings of commonality toward Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, as well as their feelings of linked fate with other Asians. I posit that understanding this relationship requires adding nuance to the measurement of reported discrimination. I therefore capitalize on the 2016 National Asian American Survey (NAAS), which is unique in that it both contains multiple measures of perceived discrimination and allows us to examine both intergroup commonality and intra-Asian linked fate.
In this article, I first review the two concepts of commonality that will be central to this study: intergroup political commonality and intragroup linked fate. Prior research suggests that examining variation in experiences of discrimination could elucidate the relationship between perceived discrimination and feelings of commonality for Asian Americans. I then present multivariate analyses from the 2016 NAAS, which show that the type and context of reported discrimination predict Asian American respondents’ feelings of interracial political commonality, as well as their perceptions of intra-Asian linked fate. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for our understanding of linked fate and group consciousness.
INTERGROUP COMMONALIT Y: INTERRACIAL POLITICAL COMMONALITY
Political scientists have posited that self-interest alone is not enough to sustain political coalitions across racial minority groups. Instead, a sense of shared values and perceived commonality are needed to promote commitment [End Page 181] to a heterogeneous group (Kaufmann 2003). Researchers have thus examined the extent to which different racial and ethnic groups perceive commonalities among each other. For example, the 1999 Washington Post/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey on Latinos asked, “How much do [respondent’s group] have in common with African Americans?” The more recent 2006 Latino National Survey (LNS) included a more specific question on political commonality, asking respondents to consider “things like government services and employment, political power, and representation.”
Analyses of these surveys found that predictors of greater feelings of commonality with Black Americans included pan-Latino group consciousness, English ability, being U.S. born, and being a born-again Christian (Jones-Correa 2011; Kaufmann 2003; Sanchez 2008). Contextual factors such as intergroup contact, geographic proximity to large-scale collective actions (such as protest marches), and receiving messages from elites about intergroup relations also affected Latinos’ feeling of commonality with Blacks (Jones-Correa 2011; Jones-Correa, Wallace, and Zepeda-Millán 2016; Wallsten and Nteta 2011). On the other hand, feelings of commonality can also be influenced by perceived competition. Building on Herbert Blumer’s (1958) group position theory, which argues that intergroup hostility arises from beliefs about where different racial groups ought to stand in the racial hierarchy, one analysis of the 2006 LNS found that U.S.-born Latinos who felt economically threatened were less likely to perceive commonality with Blacks (Wilkinson 2014). National origin may also play a role, with two analyses finding that Mexican Latinos were less likely to perceive political commonality with Blacks, compared to non-Mexican groups, including Cubans, Dominicans, and Ecuador-ans, though the authors do not offer theoretical explanations for these findings (Jones-Correa 2011; Kaufmann 2003).2
Relative to research on Black-Latino dynamics, research on Asian Americans’ perceptions of intergroup commonality is more nascent. However, social scientists have argued that Asian Americans are uniquely positioned as a racial minority group in the United States. Nearly three-quarters of Asian adults in the United States are foreign born, compared to about half of Latino adults and just under 10 percent of Black adults (Anderson and Lopez 2018; Flores, López, and Radford 2017; Lopez, Ruiz, and Patten 2017). The recency of most Asian immigration means that the group lacks the strong collective memory of discrimination and racism that Black Americans hold (Chou and Feagin 2015). Blacks are also more likely to live in hyper-segregated neighborhoods; Asian Americans may therefore lack the opportunity to develop feelings of commonality through intergroup contact (Kim and Lee 2001). Theoretically, some view Asian Americans as racially triangulated within the U.S. racial hierarchy: Whites valorize them as “superior” relative to the subordinate group (Blacks) but ostracize them as “foreign” (Kim 1999). An alternate theoretical prediction is that some Asian Americans will become “honorary Whites,” with its attendant racial privileges, while others will become part of a subordinated “collective Black” (Bonilla-Silva 2004). Critics of the model minority myth, which stereotypes Asian Americans as hardworking and high-achieving, argue that it perpetuates anti-Black racism and is intended to drive a wedge between racial minority groups (Poon et al. 2016). As a consequence of this unique positionality, Asian Americans’ feelings of commonality toward other racial groups may differ from those of Blacks and Latinos.
The 2008 NAAS was the first nationally representative survey to take up the task of examining Asian Americans’ perceptions of intergroup commonality. NAAS replicated the LNS political commonality question, framing it in terms of government services and employment, political power, and representation. In 2008, 47 percent of Asian respondents reported feeling “a lot” or “some” in common with Whites, 38 percent with Latinos, and 34 percent [End Page 182] with African Americans.3 Similar to earlier findings that pan-Latino group consciousness predicted Latinos’ feelings of commonality with Blacks (Kaufmann 2003), intra-Asian group consciousness and intra-Asian linked fate predicted foreign-born respondents’ feelings of commonality with Blacks, though analyses excluded U.S.-born respondents because sample sizes were too small (Nicholson, Carter, and Restar 2018). As with the pan-Latino group, Asian Americans appear to vary in their feelings of intergroup commonality by national-origin group, with Korean respondents in the 2008 NAAS reporting the highest levels of political commonality with African Americans and with Latinos, and Vietnamese respondents reporting the lowest (Wong et al. 2011). In general, however, research investigating the determinants of Asian Americans’ feelings of interracial political commonality remains scant, compared to the body of literature on Latino-Black relations.
INTRAGROUP COMMONALIT Y: INTRARACIAL AND INTRAETHNIC LINKED FATE
In addition to political commonality across racial groups, research has explored the extent to which people feel commonality within racial groups. “Linked fate” was first conceptualized by political scientist Michael Dawson to explain why African Americans tended to be politically homogeneous. Dawson argued that experiences of discrimination and racism led African Americans to feel that what happened to them individually was strongly linked to what happened to the group as a whole, a notion he termed the “black utility heuristic” (1994).
Researchers have since applied this concept to other groups, including Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, and non-Hispanic White Americans. One recent review of the literature found that across surveys, at least half of respondents across racial groups experienced linked fate with their own group, though the proportion tended to be higher among Black Americans (Gay, Hochschild, and White 2016). Recent data are consistent with these findings; in a 2019 Pew Research survey of Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White Americans, more than 60 percent of all four groups reported “a lot” or “some” racial linked fate, though White respondents were the least likely to report “a lot” of linked fate with other Whites (Cox 2019).
However, scholars have questioned whether linked fate can be extrapolated to non-Black groups (Sanchez and Vargas 2016). As Paula McClain and her colleagues (2009) point out, attempts to apply the concept of linked fate to panethnic groups like Latino and Asian Americans should consider that panethnic identities may not be constructed in the same way as Black American identity. Moreover, even if linked fate does apply to these groups, there may be within-group heterogeneity based on national origin. For example, within the pan-Latino group, Puerto Ricans have been found to report lower levels of linked fate than Central and South Americans (Sanchez and Masuoka 2010). The Asian American label likewise encompasses significant heterogeneity in national origin, as well as in language, citizenship status, and culture, which may affect the extent to which Asian Americans feel intragroup commonality.
Again, the body of research on Asian Americans’ sense of linked fate is less robust than for other racial groups. Nevertheless, prior work demonstrates that Asian Americans do feel linked fate both with their own ethnic-origin groups, as well as with Asian Americans as a whole. Both the 2000 Pilot National Asian American Political Survey (PNAAPS) and the 2008 NAAS asked linked fate questions. In the 2000 PNAAPS, 49 percent of respondents reported feeling any amount of linked fate with other Asians, and 55 percent reported feeling any amount of linked fate with coethnics (Lien, Conway, and Wong 2004). In the 2008 NAAS, similar proportions reported linked fate: 44 percent for linked fate with other Asians, and 50 percent for linked fate with coethnics. National-origin differences again appear, with Korean respondents being the most likely to report linked fate with other Asians and with [End Page 183] coethnics, and Filipino and Vietnamese respondents the least likely (Wong et al. 2011).
DISCRIMINATION AND PERCEPTIONS OF INTERGROUP COMMONALITY
The literature reviewed to this point suggests that social and contextual factors influence people’s sense of intergroup commonality and within-group linked fate. A significant body of work also suggests that experiences of discrimination are linked to positive relations among racial and ethnic minority groups. The common ingroup identity model posits that in-groups develop favorable attitudes toward out-groups when they think of themselves as part of a common, superordinate identity rather than as distinct groups (Gaertner et al. 1993; Jones-Correa et al. 2016; Kaufmann 2003). Experimental work has found that the status of “disadvantaged racial minority,” primed by reading information about discrimination against one’s racial group, can indeed serve as the basis of common identity with other racial groups (Craig and Richeson 2012; Richeson and Craig 2011). On the other hand, perceived discrimination can lead instead to the derogation of outgroups as a way to protecting one’s own social identity (Craig and Richeson 2016). This is particularly likely when discrimination occurs across dimensions of identity; for example, discrimination based on race can lead to derogation of outgroups based on gender (Craig and Richeson 2016). However, recent experimental work suggests that highlighting perceived similarities between groups, even across identity dimensions, can mediate this effect (Cortland et al. 2017).
Outside of experimental settings, however, groups vary in the degree to which historical experiences of discrimination and racism are salient. Research has found that for Asian Americans, experiences of discrimination were only weakly correlated with feelings of commonality with non-Asian groups (White, Black, Latino) (Wong et al. 2011)4. Furthermore, analyses of the 2008 NAAS found that personal experiences of discrimination did not appear to predict foreign-born respondents’ feelings of commonality with African Americans (Nicholson, Carter, and Restar 2018), nor did they predict Asian Americans’ feelings of commonality with Latino or White Americans (Lu 2018).
However, further analyses suggest a path forward: when discrimination was divided into employment- and non-employment-related experiences, Fan Lu (2018) finds that Asians who reported employment-related discrimination perceived lower levels of commonality with Latinos and Whites, whereas those who reported non-employment-related discrimination perceived higher levels of commonality with Latinos and Whites. The author theorizes that the employment setting influenced whether respondents attributed discrimination to racial prejudice, as opposed to other forms of prejudice; whether they perceived that Latinos also experienced discrimination; and whether they perceived the perpetrator of discrimination to be a racial nonminority (Whites). These conditions set the stage for whether discrimination was a precursor to feelings of commonality. This study therefore takes seriously the role of context in evaluating whether reported discrimination is associated with commonality, and moves a step further by also disaggregating non-employment-relatedexperiences.
DISCRIMINATION AND PERCEPTIONS OF INTRAGROUP LINKED FATE
Shared and historical experiences of discrimination were critical to Michael Dawson’s original conception of linked fate among African Americans (1994). As with the common ingroup identity model, perceptions of shared status— such as having experienced discrimination on the basis of one’s identity—can affect within-group feelings of group consciousness (Austin, Middleton, and Yon 2012; Dawson 1994; Sanchez 2008; Sanchez and Vargas 2016).
However, for groups like Latino Americans and Asian Americans, within-group heterogeneity could affect this relationship. Both Latino and Asian Americans are panethnic groups originating from large and diverse sets of countries. Substantial proportions of both groups are recent arrivals to the United States, and [End Page 184] phenotypic variation could affect people’s experiences and perceptions of discrimination (Sanchez and Masuoka 2010). Accordingly, Gabriel Sanchez and Natalie Masuoka analyzed the 2006 LNS to investigate whether these factors changed what “linked fate” meant for Latino Americans. They found that whereas prior research linked the Black utility heuristic to experiences of discrimination, a “Brown-utility heuristic” did not depend on discrimination. Instead, economic marginalization (measured by income) and degree of acculturation (measured by Spanish language and immigrant generation) were key factors in predicting linked fate (Sanchez and Masuoka 2010). However, using the more recent 2016 Collaborative Multi-racial Post-election Survey (CMPS), they found that both perceived and actual discrimination did predict linked fate for Latino American respondents. They speculated that their disparate findings could result from demographic and sociopolitical changes over the ten years between surveys, suggesting that linked fate is a dynamic concept (Sanchez, Masuoka, and Abrams 2019).
Among Asian Americans, experiences of discrimination have been associated with panethnic identification, particularly for the middle class (Masuoka 2006; Okamoto and Mora 2014). Analyses of the 2008 NAAS found that a number of demographic characteristics were associated with linked fate and reports of discrimination, though these were not analyzed in a multivariate model (Wong et al. 2011). In contrast, Indian immigrants’ experiences of discrimination have been found to discourage panethnic identification, though linked fate was not examined (Schachter 2014). These findings may simply be the result of using different measures, though scholars have suggested that qualitative variation in history and context across national-origin groups may also contribute to differences in intergroup relations and in intragroup solidarity. Overall, however, little work has examined whether the association between discrimination and linked fate holds for Asian Americans, especially for intraethnic linked fate.
As with intergroup commonality, nuances in the measurement of discrimination may affect its association with intragroup linked fate. Lu and Bradford Jones (2019) differentiate between experiential discrimination (whether individuals themselves have experienced discrimination) and beliefs about discrimination (whether individuals perceive that their group or other groups are targets of discrimination). The logic behind this distinction is that individuals may not experience discrimination themselves, but they may be aware of and find discrimination against other members of their group to be problematic. Using the 2016 CMPS, Lu and Jones find that experiential discrimination is related to perceptions of linked fate for Asian, Black, Latino, and White respondents, and beliefs about discrimination are related to perceptions of linked fate for all groups except Whites.
Taken together, then, the literature suggests that understanding the link between discrimination and feelings of commonality and linked fate requires attention to the type and context of discrimination. Experiences of discrimination can range from verbal and interactional microaggressions to biased behavior to physical violence; discrimination can also occur in various settings, such as the labor market, education, and housing. However, with some exceptions (notably Lu 2018), many of the studies that examine discrimination and commonality conceptualize discrimination as a single item. For example, Harvey Nicholson, Scott Carter, and Arjee Restar’s model summed five discrimination questions to create a single 5-point variable (2018). In contrast, I examine how the type of discrimination matters for whether these experiences are associated with feelings of political commonality or linked fate. This study is therefore unique in examining commonality as it relates to four broad domains of discrimination: interpersonal, the labor market, the housing market, and police mistreatment.
DATA AND METHODS
To examine the relationship between discrimination and commonality for Asian Americans, I use data from the 2016 post-election National Asian American Survey (NAAS). The survey was administered via telephone, in twelve languages, from November 2016 through February 2017 to a national sample of Asian American adults age eighteen and older, as well as to smaller groups of Black, Latino, and White respondents. [End Page 185] Respondents were recruited from Catalist, which provides registered voter and commercial vendor lists; ethnic groups were sampled using name, listed race, and tract-level ethnic concentration (Ramakrishnan et al. 2017). This analysis draws on the subsample with all Asian American respondents (n = 4,362). They represent the six largest Asian ethnic groups, as well as four South and Southeast Asian groups. Table 1 reports sample sizes for the ten ethnic groups and a summary of demographic statistics.
The key dependent variables in this study measure feelings of commonality: political commonality with Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, as well as linked fate with other Asians and with members of one’s ethnic-origin group. The political commonality questions were asked on a 4-point scale ranging from “nothing at all” to “a lot.” Linked fate was asked in two parts: a yes/no question, with those responding yes receiving a follow-up question for “a lot,” “some,” or “not very much.” For parsimony, all are coded as a series of dichotomous variables. On political commonality, those who responded “a lot” or “some” are compared with those who responded “little” or “no.” On linked fate, those who responded “yes, a lot” or “yes, some” are compared with those who responded either “yes, not very much” or “no.”
The key independent variables are types of discrimination. Interpersonal discrimination is a dichotomous variable that combines seven measures (Cronbach’s alpha 0.75), which ask whether the respondent has received poorer service than other people at restaurants or stores, whether people have acted as though the respondent does not speak English, whether people act afraid of the respondent, whether people act as though the respondent is dishonest, whether the respondent has been called names or insulted, whether the respondent has been threatened or harassed, and whether the respondent has ever moved into a neighborhood where neighbors made life difficult for them or their family. Labor-marketdiscrimination is a dichotomous variable that combines three measures (Cronbach’s alpha 0.63): whether the respondent has been unfairly denied a promotion, unfairly fired from a job, and unfairly not hired for a job.5 Housing market discrimination is a dichotomous variable for whether respondents have ever been discriminated against by a landlord or realtor. Police mistreatment is a dichotomous variable for whether respondents have ever been unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened, or abused by the police. In additional models, I include two dichotomous items that ask whether respondents feel they or someone they know has been passed over for a job offer or a government contract (employment), or for admissions to a selective college or university (college admissions) as a result of affirmative action policies. These items provide another avenue through which respondents could feel that their racial identity constitutes a disadvantage.
I use multivariate logistic regressions to model the association between respondents’ reported experiences of discrimination and feelings of commonality. These analyses include demographic variables that have previously been associated with feelings of intergroup commonality and intragroup linked fate. In one analysis of the 2008 NAAS, age (mean-centered in the regression) was negatively correlated with intergroup commonality and intra-Asian linked fate (Wong et al. 2011). Gender (with male as the reference group in the regression) was correlated with linked fate, with female respondents more likely to report coethnic linked fate. Higher levels of education (in this analysis, a categorical variable with less than high school as the reference group) were associated with greater intra-Asian linked fate and intergroup commonality. U.S.-born respondents were slightly more likely than foreign [End Page 186]
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born respondents to report intra-Asian linked fate and intergroup political commonality, so I include generational status (a categorical variable with first generation as the reference group). Income (logged and mean-centered) has been associated with perceptions of Black-Latino conflict (Jones-Correa 2011), and may therefore also influence feelings of commonality. Political party (a categorical variable with Democrat as the reference group) has been correlated with Latinos’ perceptions of commonality with African Americans (Sanchez 2008). Because intergroup contact has been associated with less intergroup prejudice (Tropp and Pettigrew 2005), I include respondents’ reported amount of contact with Asians, Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics (a lot, some, a little, or none) as control variables for corresponding outcomes. Finally, because previous work has found differences by national origin, I include it as a categorical variable, with Chinese, the largest Asian-origin group in the United States, as the reference group.
Finally, in the descriptive statistics and multivariate analyses, I remove observations with missing values. Given the large number of deleted observations, the main analyses do not use survey weights provided with the NAAS data set. However, I present sensitivity analyses later in the results that both impute missing values and use survey weights.
In this section, I first report descriptive statistics on the dependent variable—perceived group commonality—and then on the primary independent variables, types of discrimination. I then examine the relationship between reported discrimination and commonality (that is, political commonality and linked fate) using multivariate analysis.
Figure 1 shows that more than half of total respondents feel “some” or “a lot” of political commonality with Black Americans (50.7 percent), Hispanic Americans (55.6 percent), and White Americans (56.1 percent).6 In addition, consistent with research on linked fate (Gay, Hochschild, and White 2016), the majority of respondents report feeling “some” or “a lot” of linked fate both with other Asian Americans, and with others within their ethnic group. A slightly higher proportion feels intraethnic linked fate (56.1 percent) than intraracial linked fate (52.5 percent), a difference that is statistically significant.
Figure 1 also shows commonality outcomes by national-origin group. Notably, in this bivariate breakdown, Bangladeshi and Hmong respondents are the most likely to report political commonality with Blacks and with Hispanics, and Vietnamese and Japanese respondents are the most likely to report political commonality with Whites. In contrast, Chinese and Cambodian respondents are the least likely to report political commonality with all three groups. In terms of linked fate, Korean and Hmong respondents are the most likely to report both intra-Asian and intraethnic linked fate, and Filipino and Cambodian respondents the least likely.
Table 2 shows the proportions of total respondents who report each type of discrimination, as well as of those who feel intergroup political commonality with each non-Asian group, and who feel linked fate. Among all respondents, the majority (56.3 percent) report none of the seven types of interpersonal discrimination; the remainder report at least one. In terms of job discrimination, fewer than one-quarter (23.2 percent) report any of the three types included. Just over 10 percent of respondents report mistreatment by police; only 5.3 percent report experiencing housing discrimination. In terms of respondents who feel that they or someone they know has been passed over as a result of affirmative action policies, 6.5 percent report this for employment, and 9.7 percent report this for college admissions.
Interracial Political Commonality
I use multivariate logistic models to test whether the type of discrimination predicts feelings of political commonality with Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites. Table 3 shows two sets of models. The first set (models 1–3) includes the full set of demographic controls and types [End Page 188]
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of discrimination. The second set (models 4–6) also includes the two items on being passed over for employment or for college admissions. Coefficients in the table are log-odds, where significant positive coefficients indicate a higher likelihood of feeling commonality with others. To ease interpretation, I describe findings as odds ratios (exp(β)); reported findings are statistically significant at the 5 percent level, unless otherwise noted.
First, in examining the most relevant controls, generational status predicts feelings of commonality with all three groups; third-plus generation respondents have the highest odds of reporting political commonality, followed by second-generationrespondents.7 Relative to being a Democrat, being a Republican or an Independent is associated with decreased odds of feeling political commonality with Blacks (models 1 and 4) and with Hispanics (model 2, though not significant in model 5), and being Republican is associated with increased odds of feeling political commonality with Whites (models 3 and 6). Consistent with intergroup contact theory, contact with the relevant group is significantly associated with feelings of political commonality in all six models, with the largest effect sizes for contact with Blacks.
Next, turning to the key discrimination variables in the first set of models, we see that for respondents who report interpersonal discrimination, the odds of feeling political commonality with Hispanics are 24 percent higher than for those who do not (model 2). In contrast, the association with political commonality with Blacks is significant only at the p < .10 level (model 2), and there is no signifi-cant association with political commonality with Whites (model 3). For those reporting job discrimination, the odds of reporting political commonality with Blacks are 25 percent higher than for those who do not (model 1), whereas there is no significant association for commonality with Hispanics (model 2) or Whites (model 3).
When the items on being passed over for college admissions and employment are included, job discrimination remains associated with commonality with Blacks (model 4). Moreover, for those reporting being or knowing someone who was passed over for employment due to affirmative action, the odds are 40 percent higher for reporting political commonality with Blacks (p < .10) than for those who do not. Strikingly, the odds of reporting political commonality with Blacks are 26 percent less for those who [End Page 190]
report being or knowing someone passed over in college admissions (p < .10). These findings suggest that for Asian Americans, perceiving job discrimination may predict solidarity with Blacks, whereas feeling disadvantaged by affirmative action in college admissions may be associated with a sense of competition.
In model 5, the association between interpersonal discrimination and feelings of political commonality with Hispanics remains positive and significant.8 Strikingly, experiences of housing discrimination are also negatively associated with political commonality with Hispanics (p < .10, model 2). Police mistreatment is not associated with political commonality with any groups. However, the proportions [End Page 192] of respondents reporting either housing discrimination or police mistreatment are relatively small; these findings are therefore less conclusive.
Finally, with respect to national origin, relative to the Chinese reference group, some groups appear to be more inclined toward feelings of commonality overall; both Bangladeshi and Hmong respondents are more likely to report feelings of commonality toward Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, compared to Chinese respondents. In contrast, Indian respondents are more likely to express feelings of commonality only toward Whites, relative to Chinese respondents, whereas the difference in feelings of commonality for Korean respondents relative to Chinese respondents is not statistically significant.
Intraracial and Intraethnic Linked Fate
Table 4 shows the results of multivariate logistic regressions predicting linked fate with other Asians, as well as linked fate with coethnics. As with the intergroup commonality models, the first set (models 1 and 2) includes demographic controls and discrimination variables; the second set (models 3 and 4) additionally includes the items on feeling passed over for college admissions or employment because of affirmative action.
First, in examining the most relevant control variables, whereas generational status predicted feelings of commonality with Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, it is not a statistically significant predictor for linked fate. The odds of reporting intraethnic linked fate are lower for Republicans than for Democrats (models 2 and 4); similarly, the odds of reporting either intraracial or intraethnic linked fate are lower for Independents than for Democrats (all models). Consistent with the patterns for commonality with Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics, contact with Asians predicts linked fate both with coethnics and with other Asians.
Looking next at discrimination, the odds of feeling linked fate with both Asians and coethnics are higher for those who report experiencing interpersonal discrimination and for those who report experiencing job discrimination versus those who do not, in all four models. For those reporting experiencing interpersonal discrimination, the odds of reporting linked fate with Asians are 58 percent higher (model 1), and the odds of reporting linked fate with coethnics are 60 percent higher (model 2) than for those who do not. For those reporting experiencing job discrimination, the odds of reporting linked fate with Asians are 29 percent higher (model 1) and the odds of reporting linked fate with coethnics are 37 percent higher (model 2), compared to those who do not.9 In contrast, housing discrimination does not predict either intraracial or intraethnic linked fate. Police mistreatment also does not predict linked fate, except in model 4, where it increases the odds of reporting coethnic linked fate by 32 percent. Again, however, the overall proportions of respondents reporting housing discrimination or police treatment are relatively small.
Next, including the two variables on being passed over in college admissions and employment, model 3 shows that being or knowing someone who was passed over in college admissions because of affirmative action positively predicts linked fate with other Asians. This contrasts with the previous finding that it negatively predicts commonality with Blacks. This finding supports the idea that Asian Americans may view college admissions as an area where they face a disadvantage that other racial minority groups do not. In contrast, being or knowing someone who was passed over for employment because of affirmative action does not predict linked fate with either Asians or other coethnics (models 3 and 4).
Finally, with respect to national origin, the odds of reporting both Asian and coethnic linked fate are greater for Korean and Hmong respondents than for Chinese respondents, and the odds of reporting coethnic linked fate are smaller for Filipino respondents than for Chinese respondents. In contrast, other national-origin groups had no difference relative to Chinese respondents. [End Page 193]
I conducted multiple sensitivity analyses to determine whether findings hold when key variables are conceptualized differently. First, I consider the possibility that—contrary to this article’s theoretical prediction that the type of discrimination matters—any experience of discrimination, regardless of type, matters. I test this possibility with two specifications: first, with perceived discrimination as a dichotomous variable, with those responding “yes” to any of the twelve measures coded as 1 and those responding “no” to all twelve measures coded as 0; second, with perceived discrimination as a 0–12 scale, summing “yes” responses to all twelve measures.
Indeed, for those who respond “yes” to any of the discrimination variables, the odds of reporting political commonality with Blacks and Hispanics, as well as linked fate with Asians and with coethnics, are higher than for those who report “no” to all twelve; there is no association [End Page 194] with political commonality with Whites. When coding discrimination as a 0–12 count, the odds of reporting political commonality with Blacks, as well as linked fate with Asians and with coethnics, are higher for those who report more types of discrimination than for those who report fewer types; there is no association with political commonality with Hispanics or Whites (results available on request). However, these results do not negate either the theoretical or the empirical assertion of this article, which is that the type of discrimination affects whether reported experiences are associated with intergroup commonality and intragroup linked fate. In fact, comparing Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) scores across the three specifications (as dichotomous, as a 0–12 scale, and as four types) suggests that the last specification is slightly more parsimonious than the others.
Second, the data set includes significant portions of missing data for the outcome variables of interest. These proportions range from 8.3 percent missing (intraethnic linked fate) to 15.9 percent missing (political commonality with Hispanics). The analyses presented remove observations with missing values; due to the large number of deleted observations, I do not use NAAS’s provided survey weights. However, to check whether doing so affects the results, I also analyze the data while imputing missing values using predictive mean matching and including survey weights. When doing so, statistical significance does change for some predictors. In general, however, overall patterns in the data remain similar.10 [End Page 195]
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Overall, these findings suggest that for Asian American respondents, the type of discrimination experienced is relevant for feelings of political commonality with non-Asian groups and for feelings of linked fate with other Asians and with coethnics. Most research measures discrimination as a single variable—whether the respondent experienced it. In contrast, I capitalize on the multiple types and contexts of discrimination included in NAAS. In doing so, I find that interpersonal discrimination is a key predictor of feelings of commonality with Hispanic Americans, and labor-market discrimination is a key predictor of feelings of commonality with Black Americans. Housing discrimination and police mistreatment have no effect, and none of the four types predicts feelings of commonality with White Americans. Both labor-market and interpersonal discrimination predict intraracial and intraethnic linked fate.
My findings add empirical evidence on the Asian American case to the body of literature on intergroup relations, which has most frequently focused on White-non-White relations and Black-Latino relations. Because Asian Americans have a very different history of immigration, incorporation, and racialization in the United States, as compared to Black and Latino Americans, some have questioned the extent to which they may form meaningful alliances with other racial groups. However, the 2016 NAAS shows that significant portions of the Asian American sample—more than 50 percent—feel some or a lot in common politically with members of other racial groups. Likewise, this study also sheds light on whether the concept of linked fate can be extrapolated to non-Black groups. Because linked fate as originally conceptualized rested on shared experiences of discrimination, examining this relationship can clarify how linked fate operates—if at all— for Asian Americans. Consistent with the literature, I find that significant portions of the Asian American NAAS sample report feelings of linked fate both with Asians and with their coethnics, and that it is associated with experiences of discrimination. Nevertheless, heterogeneity is evident among the respondents who report feeling political commonality and linked fate, wherein those who report certain types of experiences of discrimination are also more likely to report feelings of commonality.
These findings can be interpreted through the lens of the common ingroup identity model (Gaertner et al. 1993): if Asian Americans view experiences of discrimination as something they have in common with another racial group, they may feel more warmly toward that group. In this case, job discrimination is positively associated with feelings of commonality with Black Americans, and interpersonal discrimination with Hispanics. Items in the interpersonal discrimination measure include people acting as though the respondent does not speak English and being threatened or harassed; Asian Americans who report these experiences could be perceiving commonality with Hispanics based on their common background as immigrant-origin groups. In contrast, respondents could be viewing perceived negative effects of affirmative action in college admissions as unique to Asian Americans, therefore highlighting a lack of commonality with other groups. Likewise, because relatively few respondents report housing discrimination or police mistreatment, they may not perceive these as experiences they have in common either with other racial minority groups or with other Asians or coethnics. In the case of police mistreatment, this particular form of discrimination is widely associated with the experiences of Black Americans, such that the few Asian respondents who report police mistreatment— defined in NAAS as being “unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened, or abused”—may not view their experiences as tied to the larger entrenched issue of police brutality in the Black community.
On the other hand, NAAS does not ask respondents about the perceived source of discrimination, which complicates these findings. If perceived discrimination stems from negative interactions with Whites, Asian respondents may be more likely to perceive political commonality with Black and Hispanic Americans. However, if Asian respondents have positive interactions with Whites—which, according to Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson’s (2016) model of stigma-based solidarity, could reduce solidarity—and instead perceive discrimination [End Page 196] as stemming from interactions with Black and Hispanic Americans, they may be less likely to feel political commonality with these groups. Residential and occupational segregation could affect respondents’ levels of contact and sense of competition with members of other racial and ethnic groups, and therefore influence this relationship. In the multivariate models, I include contact with each respective group as controls (for example, the amount of daily contact with Black or African Americans is a control in the model examining political commonality with Black Americans). In each case, intergroup contact is positively and significantly associated with feelings of political commonality. Contact therefore does not appear to increase racial or ethnic conflict. Future iterations of the NAAS could ask respondents to specify the source of perceived discrimination.
One limitation of the survey data is that I cannot assess causality. Relatedly, because the NAAS relies on self-reports of discrimination, respondents’ experiences are subject to interpretation and therefore to possible overreporting or underreporting. Thus, one possible interpretation is that respondents who feel more commonality with other racial minority groups are more likely to report discrimination. For example, as Vincent Reina and Claudia Aiken report in this issue (2021), Asians, like Latinos, face discrimination in finding housing and in accessing mortgages. However, Asian respondents in the NAAS are much less likely to report housing discrimination than Latino respondents. This could be a reflection of reality—that is, Asian Americans could be less likely to experience housing discrimination—but could also reflect differences in whether respondents interpret and therefore report certain experiences as discrimination. Nevertheless, experimental work suggests that discrimination may be causally related to feelings of solidarity (Craig and Richeson 2016); indeed, a survey experiment embedded within the 2016 NAAS reveals that Asian American respondents are more likely to support affirmative action in employment for Blacks when they are framed as victims of discrimination alongside Blacks (Lee and Tran 2019). Future work can assess whether there is also a causal relationship when evaluating different types of discrimination. If indeed the relationship is causal, this study suggests that promoting intergroup and intragroup solidarity requires attention to these nuances. Acknowledging that experiences of discrimination are not equivalent in their impacts, across both types of discrimination and the affected groups, could influence organizers who seek to promote cross-racial coalitions.
To be sure, although the commonality measures used in this study relate to group identification and membership, neither provides information about respondents’ political behavior. Positive attitudes in themselves do not guarantee the formation of stable, interminority coalitions, though they may be a necessary precursor. Research about African Americans has historically found that group consciousness predicted political behavior for this group, but more recent research has been mixed (McClain et al. 2009). In fact, Claudine Gay, Jennifer Hochschild, and Ariel White (2016) argue that the linked fate measure does not appear to predict political activity and therefore may not be the most accurate measure of group solidarity. In the 2008 NAAS, feelings of interracial commonality and of linked fate do appear to be associated with some politically engaged behaviors and greater political participation (Wong et al. 2011). Future research can elucidate the relationship between experiences of different types of discrimination, intergroup attitudes, and political mobilization for Asian Americans.
Finally, this study paves the way for future research on heterogeneity in how inter- and intragroup commonality operates within the Asian American umbrella. As Tomás Jiménez, Corey Fields, and Ariela Schachter (2015) note in their call for greater attention to intragroup diversity, heterogeneity within the pan-Asian group, including nativity, language, and socioeconomic status, may affect intergroup outcomes. Indeed, I found differences across Asian national-origin groups in predicting commonality outcomes. However, these differences persist even when controlling for several of the demographic factors that contribute to intra-Asian diversity, including education, income, and generational status. As Barry Chiswick and Paul Miller (2001) point out, dichotomous national [End Page 197] origin variables may be a catch-all for “what we do not know.” Consequently, other means of disaggregating Asian Americans—such as what Lucas Drouhot and Filiz Garip propose (2021, this issue)—may be more revelatory in understanding Asian American heterogeneity. Future research can assess whether qualitative differences in either the historical or contemporary experiences of national-origin groups affect their attitudes toward others, whether other factors not measured here contribute to the national-origin differences seen in these models, or whether other methods of decomposing the panethnic group are more appropriate. As the Asian American population continues to grow and diversify, these dynamics, too, will increase in importance.
Tiffany J. Huang is a PhD candidate in sociology at Columbia University, United States.
The author gratefully acknowledges feedback and support from Jennifer Lee, Van C. Tran, Maria Abascal, Greer Mellon, Mireira Triguero-Roura, members of the 2018–2019 Office of Academic Diversity research collective, and attendees of the Asian Americans: Diversity and Heterogeneity symposium at the Russell Sage Foundation. Special thanks to Jennifer Lee and Karthick Ramakrishnan for their leadership in guiding this issue.
1. I use intergroup when referring to feelings toward racial outgroups, and intragroup when referring to feelings toward others within a racial ingroup. For the latter, I use intragroup when referring generally to this phenomenon, and intra-Asian when discussing the empirical case of Asian Americans’ feelings of linked fate toward other Asian Americans and toward Asian coethnics.
3. Author’s calculations.
5. I also conducted a separate analysis using interpersonal discrimination as a 0–7 scale and job discrimination as a 0–3 scale (available on request). Results are substantively similar, except where noted in the results later on. I therefore use the binary variables for ease of comparison with housing discrimination and police mistreatment.
6. T-tests show that the proportions for “some” or “a lot” in common with Whites and Hispanics are not significantly different, but both are significantly greater than for Blacks.
7. In addition, I tested whether, for foreign-born respondents, time in the United States (measured in years) had an effect. A simple regression model measuring the effect of time in the United States was not statistically significant, nor was the inclusion of the interaction of time in the United States for foreign-born respondents in a full model. For parsimony, I have therefore excluded time in the United States from the models presented here.
8. This finding was no longer significant when interpersonal discrimination was coded as a 0–7 variable rather than a yes-no variable (results available on request); all other findings for intergroup commonality remained the same.
9. The coefficient for job discrimination was no longer statistically significant for either Asian or coethnic linked fate when measured as a 0–3 scale instead of a binary variable, suggesting that while type of discrimination matters in this instance, how much of this type may not.
10. For a comparison of results with and without imputed values, see appendix A (available online at https://www.rsfjournal.org/content/7/2/180/tab-supplemental).
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