Acculturation Strategies of Asian-Americans.

Author:Swaidan, Ziad


Societies are becoming more diverse and varieties of cultural groups face the challenge of how to adapt in the new cultural environment. During the last few decades, first hand contacts between people from different cultures have increased and are continuing to escalate at unprecedented levels (Bakker, van der Zee, & van Oudenhoven, 2006). The growth in cultural diversity increases the need to develop procedures to ensure fair treatment of individuals from all cultural groups in a society (Arends-Toth & van de Vijver, 2007). Acculturation studies help make services more cost effective and help improve the quality of services provided for acculturative groups (Suzuki, Ponterotto, & Meller, 2001).

The United States (the US) consists mainly of immigrants and descendants of immigrants who brought with them their distinctive cultures (Ghorpade, Lackritz, & Singh, 2004). Many immigrants come to the US in search of economic opportunity. They see the US as a place of hope, a "golden mountain" where dreams come true (Swerdlow, 1998). According to the 2010 census, 13% (40 million) of the US's 308.7 million residents were born in other countries, the highest percentage since 1930 and the largest absolute number in US history. The U.S. Census Bureau (2012a) reported minorities made up 36.6% of the US population in 2011, and this number is expected to increase to 47% in 2050. The U.S. Census Bureau (2012b) released a set of estimates showing that 50.4% of the US population younger than age one were minorities as of July 1, 2011. A minority is any person who is not single-race white and not Hispanic. Recently, SELIG Center (2010) reported that the combined buying power of racial minorities will rise from $1.6 trillion in 2010 to $2.1 trillion in 2015, accounting for 15% of the US total buying power.

The U.S. Census Bureau (2011) identified five race categories: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Respondents unable to identify with any of these five race categories are included in "Some Other Race" category. "White" refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. African Americans or Blacks are defined as people who have origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa including people that identify their race as Black or African-American. "Hispanic or Latino" refers to a person of South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be any race. The term "Asian" refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. Based on these definitions, racial background was determined by asking respondents directly about their ethnic affiliation. Only subjects who identified themselves as Asians were included in our analysis.

The primary objective of the present study is to examine the preferred acculturation strategies (assimilation, integration, marginalization, and/or separation) of one particular minority group: Asian-Americans.

Several factors contributed to the choice of Asians in the US as the subject of this study. First, the U.S. Census Bureau (2012a) estimated that 18.2 million, or 5.84% of the US population was Asian in 2011. Second, the U.S. Census Bureau (2012a) reported that the Asian-American population is the second fastest growing minority group in the US. Third, the cultural and religious beliefs of Asians are perceived as different from the cultural and religious beliefs that dominate American society. Fourth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2012a), Asian Americans have the highest college completion rate among the American subcultures. By comparison the overall college attainment rates are 52.4% for Asian Americans (75% higher than the overall American rate of 29.9%), 30.3% for Whites, 19.8% for African Americans and 13.9% for Hispanics. Fifth, the median income level for Asian Americans is 23% higher than the American population at large. Sixth, Asian buying power is expected to grow from $544 billion in 2010 to $775 billion in 2015 (42%). Finally, relatively few studies have been conducted on the Asian minority in the US. For example, Krishnan and Berry (1992) explored the relationship between acculturation and acculturative stress using a sample of 76 Indian immigrants living in the mid-western US.


Acculturation refers to changes in cultural attitudes, values and behaviors as an outcome of continuous, first-hand contact between members of two distinct cultural groups (Social Science Research Council, 1954). Definitions of acculturation imply three necessary conditions for the phenomenon of acculturation to take place (Berry, 1990). First, the interaction between cultures should be continuous and firsthand. This condition precludes short-term, accidental contact, as well as horizontal diffusion of single cultural practices over long distances. Second, the result of acculturation is some change in the cultural phenomena among the people in contact, usually continuing for generations. Third, the outcome should include not only changes to existing phenomena, but also some unique effects generated by the process of cultural interaction itself. Graves (1967) distinguished between acculturation as a group-level phenomenon and psychological acculturation at the individual level. Acculturation is a change in the culture of the group and psychological acculturation is a change in the psychology of the individual. Mainly, psychological acculturation refers to changes in the individual whose cultural group is collectively experiencing acculturation. This distinction between these two levels of acculturation is important because not all individuals participate, to the same extent, in the general acculturation...

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