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Patterned Fluidity of Chinese Ethnic Identity: Networks, Time, and Place:

Patterned Fluidity of Chinese Ethnic Identity: Networks, Time, and Place: This study tests the salience/prominence of Chinese ethnic identity by applying identity theory, social identity theory, and social network analysis. Using survey data of Chinese graduate students in two universities in the United States, I show how Chinese ethnic identity salience varies with the percentage of Chinese in an individual’s ego network revolving around him or her. In addition, among newcomers to the United States, as the percentage Chinese in ego networks increases, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence declines, but for old timers in the United States, as the percentage Chinese increases, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence is reversed. The ethnic identity salience lapses with time unless the respondents keep a cohort of co-nationals. Moreover, a cosmopolitan sociocultural environment is conducive to the maintenance of ethnic identity when an individual has many co-nationals in his or her ego network while having many co- nationals does not stop the decline of ethnic salience in an isolated social environment. Keywords Chinese ethnic identity, identity salience, ego network, location, time network is composed of people with whom an individual Introduction spends the most awake time. Structural symbolic interactionism emphasizes the impact of Further, this article aims to clarify whether being sepa- the structures of society on individuals’ interaction with oth- rated from the host culture of the United States reduces the ers to convey who they are, or the meanings of their identi- salience/prominence of Chinese ethnic identity, or just ties. Self—consisting of multiple identities—emerges from among those who recently arrive in the host culture. Another the patterned and organized social structure and therefore is aim of this article is to investigate whether low exposure to organized (Burke & Stets, 2009). In contrast, traditional different cultures available in a locality reduces the salience/ symbolic interactionism opposes any suggestion that social prominence of Chinese ethnic identity, or just among those structure is stable and posits that identities are fluid as indi- who have a large Chinese cohort. viduals construct identities differently across situations. Along the lines of structural symbolic interactionism, Theory and Hypotheses identity theory specifically argues for the correspondence between social positions in networks of social relations and Identity Prominence/Salience and Social Networks role identities such as student. Empirical work to test and explore the relationship between identity and network char- To reiterate, identity theory posits that social positions—the acteristics has appeared. McFarland and Pals (2005) opera- stable, morphological components of social structure—carry tionalize ego network context such as prominence to predict the shared behavior expectations termed “roles.” Role identi- identity change. Walker and Lynn (2013) suggest that role ties exist as individuals participate in structured social relation- identity salience—the likelihood a role identity is enacted— ships. Individuals are committed to role identities to various increases as role-based others are more closely connected degrees, dependent on the costs of losing social relations that with non–role-based others. Stark (2015) reveals how the create behavioral expectations for roles. Such commitment can tendency to avoid friends who have minority friends enables be measured qualitatively by emotional attachment to social majority group members to stay away from minority group members. Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA, USA In this article, I answer this research question: Would Corresponding Author: Chinese respondents in the new environment of United States Cynthia Baiqing Zhang, Department of Sociology, Central Washington but with a large portion of Chinese acquaintances in their time University, 400 E. University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926, USA. network develop a salient/prominent ethnic identity? Time Email: Cynthiazhang7@gmail.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open relations in support of certain roles, or “intensivity,” and quan- close relationships or ties that consist of the in-group as well titatively by the number of social relations in support of certain as this person’s acquaintances who are the out-group. Out- roles, or “extensivity.” Commitment is closely related with group members are those who have constant presence in the identity salience that predicts the likelihood of activation of focal person’s life in geographical space but remain distant in certain identities organized in a salience hierarchy (Stryker, social space. I thus use time network to delineate the relation- 1968). Given that networks of social relations are social struc- ship between identity salience/prominence and ego network ture (Wellman, 1988), the stable, morphological components of characteristics. social structure as proposed by identity theory, or social posi- tions, therefore, are social positions in social networks. Identity Hypotheses salience is a function of the strength and number of social rela- tions in networks, or ties (Burke & Stets, 2009). In short, Social identity theory suggests that category identity is based Stryker and colleagues’ work is particularly articulate on the on the distinction between in-group and out-group. For the relationship between identity salience and social networks. in-group out-group distinction to maintain, there needs to be a balance between in-group members and out-group mem- bers in an individual’s time network. Therefore, having a Social Identity Theory and Identity Theory high percentage of Chinese in one’s time network means the Identity theory focuses on role identity that is related to role opportunity for a person to establish the distinction between others. For example, a parent role is in relationship to a child Chinese and non-Chinese is low. I hereby hypothesize the role. Social identity such as Chinese ethnic identity emph- following: sizes in-group (i.e. Chinese) and out-group (i.e. non-Chi- nese) differences. However, the argument on the relationship Hypothesis 1: Having many Chinese in the time network between identity salience and social networks as specified is negatively related with Chinese ethnic identity for in identity theory can be extended to social identities. Phinny Chinese egos. (Howard, 2000) has a comprehensive review of ethnic identity. Time is important because it takes time for identities to Identity theory scholars have actually called for a combi- internalize. In this research, I am interested in short time nation of identity theory and social identity theory (Stets & spans: several months to approximately 8 years. That is, the Burke, 2000). Specifically, these scholars argue that the dif- time span that would have an impact on a stable, cross situ- ferent bases of identity in social identity theory (category and ational identity which is the focus of this project. I examine group) and in identity theory (role) can be combined. the impact of in-person and between-person time difference Although category and group identity such as Chinese ethnic in the United States on network and identity formation and identity emphasizes the similarities among in-group mem- transformation. bers (Hogg, 2006) while role identity stresses differences In the literature of life course, Atchley (1993) suggests between roles and counter roles such as student identity and that time after retirement witnesses a U-shaped development professor identity, role identities can also be category and of self-perception: honeymoon, disenchantment, reorienta- group identities as students and professors are in-group and tion, and stability. Changes in identities are constant while out-group to each other. In addition, category, group, role, continuity in identities is more powerful. In addition, Burke and person identities all follow the same identity verification maintains that identity salience decreases as individuals can- mechanisms (Burke & Stets, 2009). not verify their identities. With the passage of time, Chinese graduate students are more and more integrated into the host culture with more non-Chinese, the opportunity for these stu- Chinese Ethnic Identity dents to verify their Chinese identity becomes slimmer. Chinese ethnic identity is a category identity. By definition, However, this process can reverse as these students’ life the Chinese ethnic identity is conditioned by the difference becomes stable. I hereby hypothesize the following: between Chinese and non-Chinese as well as by the similari- ties among Chinese as the in-group and similarities among Hypothesis 2: Time in the United States has a U-shaped non-Chinese as the out-group. Therefore, a social network relationship with Chinese identity. measure that captures in-group out-group contrast—percent- age of Chinese within the ego network—can be used to pre- Having a high Chinese composition in time network keeps dict salience of Chinese ethnic identity. individuals from being in contact with the host culture and In addition, because the in-group out-group contrast is key thus reduces ethnic identity saliences. However, ethnic iden- to category/group identity, the Chinese ethnic identity of a tity is fluid as individuals of various ethnic backgrounds are focal person—a Chinese person—is related with people the impacted by ecological factors, such as politics in their deci- focal person spends much time with. In other words, to under- sion to claim or reclaim their ethnic identity (Alba, 1990; stand ethnic identity, it is necessary to know an individual’s Nagel, 1994). With the passage of time, the decline of Chinese Zhang 3 ethnic identity salience is slowed down as individuals are Hypothesis 5: Being in NE slows down the decline of integrated more into the host culture. I hereby hypothesize the Chinese ethnic identity salience at a higher Chinese following: composition. Hypothesis 3: A longer stay in the United States will slow Method down the decline of Chinese identity salience when indi- viduals have a higher Chinese cohort composition. Sample and Procedure To identify patterns of linkages between ego network, time in Sociocultural contexts or locations in the United States, the United States, and localities in the United States and iden- another ecological factor influencing ethnic identity, are tity, I conducted online surveys (Sue & Ritter, 2007) with a important in the interaction of identity and networks of supplementary paper version of the surveys (Dillman, 2007; social relations as this research is designed to test relational Weiseburg, 2005) targeting the entire population of Chinese identity. Identity theory defines identity as internalized graduate students at two universities. I used two public uni- meanings existent in the culture in the larger society which versities—Harmony College in SE and Diversity College in is supported by ethnic identity literature (e.g., Ichiyama, NE as the subject frames though the subject’s ego network McQuarrie, & Ching, 1996). That is, identity meanings are usually reached far beyond the boundaries of the two col- culturally determined. Consequently, it is important to leges, extending to the local communities and to their home explain the “cultural contingency” of a social environment country of China, assisted by physical and electronic interac- (Pachucki & Breiger, 2010, p. 205). Social relations can be tion, particularly when these students first arrived in the the precedence or the consequence of identities depending United States and in their interaction with their family mem- on the specific social environments. A social environment bers back in China. Because the students from the two univer- provides the cultural meanings that may be absorbed into sities were similar in terms of educational attainment in the self-structure, and thus constrains the types of available China, localities in China, age group, and being city residents identities. More complex social environments can poten- in China, I did not include variables associated with their tially generate more identities because of the many subcul- Chinese background to predict identity salience/prominence. tures existent in such environments. Social environments The survey was distributed to all Chinese graduate students also offer different types of social relations at the dyadic through university administrative offices. Although I did not and group levels which either enhance or constrain the for- know the exact number of the Chinese graduate students at mation of new identities. Diversity College, I estimated the combined responses for the In addition, distinctiveness theory (Mehra, Kilduff, & online version of the survey from the two universities proba- Brass, 1998) proposes that in a given situation, the trait such bly accounted for around 15% of the population. The print ver- as race that is the rarest in the crowd will draw people with sion fared much better. The two batches of mail survey using that trait together. Therefore, in an environment where ethnic exactly the same online format witnessed 70% response rate. background is the rarest trait, people feel more strongly Some responses in the second batch were not included because about their ethnic identity. However, in a social context they arrived later than the deadline. There were 95 total where diverse ethnic groups are present, people feel less responses to the online survey at Harmony College. At strongly about their ethnic identity. I hereby hypothesize the Diversity College, there were 21 responses to the online sur- following: vey and 56 responses to the print version of the online survey. In total, Diversity College provided 77 responses to the sur- Hypothesis 4: Being in Northeast City (NE) in the New vey. Usable responses were 119 from the two colleges which England area with exposure to various cultures is nega- was sufficient for a multivariate analysis (Allison, 1999). tively related to Chinese identity compared with residents The survey asked for the respondents’ general sociodemo- from Southeast City (SE). graphic information, respondents’ time network, and the importance of ethnic identity. For each person named in time As stated previously, having a high percentage Chinese in network, I asked about his or her demographics and relation- one’s network has a negative relationship with identity ships with the focal person. I also asked for an aggregate salience/prominence. However, being in NE stems the number of ties in time network. I calculated percentage of decline of Chinese ethnic identity salience/prominence Chinese for the networks thus obtained in the survey. because the existence of multiple cultures renders Chinese The identity salience/prominence section asked the ethnic background a sharp contrast to the host culture in the respondent to rate the importance of ethnic identity (Chinese United States. As explained by Howard (2000), “Population from mainland China). The question read, “We now ask the shifts, especially immigrations, are a major instigator of importance of the major identities you might have. Please changes in ethnic identities” (p. 375). I hereby hypothesize drag the importance indicator along the scale 0-100, ‘1’ being the following: least important and ‘100’ the most important.” 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Demographic and Cultural Diversity Comparison of the SE and NE against the United States as a Country. Demographics Southeast city Northeast city United States Population 5% 100% White 75.70% (non-Hispanic 73.00%) 44.00% (non-Hispanic 33.30%) 77.90% (non-Hispanic 63.00%) African American 14.50% 25.50% 13.10% Native American 0.30% 0.70% 1.20% Asian 3.20% 12.70% 5.10% Hispanic or Latino 6.90% 28.60% 16.90% Other races 2.50% 4.00% 2.40% Foreign born 8.50% 36.80% 12.80% Language other than English spoken 11.10% 48.50% 20.30% at home Education (BA or higher) 39.30% 33.70% 28.20% Per capita money income 29,125 31,417 27,915 Income (% in poverty) 17.90% 19.40% 14.30% Source. U.S. Census Bureau (2010). The survey took approximately 10 to 15 min to complete Location in the United States was measured by delegating on average though some respondents took longer (20-25 “1” to NE and “0” to Southeast city. These two locations min). Students read a verbal script highlighting the voluntary were selected because they demonstrated tremendous differ- nature of the questionnaire and my intent of protecting their ences in ethnic compositions and degrees of cultural diver- anonymity. sity as shown in Table 1. For the analysis, I used both the basic term and the qua- dratic term of the time in the U.S. variable. First, I used per- Major Predictor: Percentage Chinese in Ego’s centage Chinese, time, a quadratic term of time, and locations Time Network as predictors and network size as control variable. Second, I added interaction terms of the basic term and the quadratic The major network measure to predict identity salience/ term of time, with the two network measures: percentage prominence was percentage Chinese. The percentage Chinese and network size. Third, I added the interaction Chinese measure was calculated by dividing the number of terms of location in the United States with the two network Chinese ties within a person’s time network by the person’s measures. I also added another control variable of gender total number of ties. Percentage Chinese indicates a focal with male coded as 1. person’s access (Burt, 1984) to in-group members (Chinese) and by definition nonaccess to out-group members (non-Chi- nese). Descriptive analysis and hypotheses testing were Measures based on these data using Stata. The larger the percentage The dependent variable identity salience/prominence was Chinese measure is, the larger the Chinese in-group is for the measured using a scale of identity importance ranging from individual. Stated in a different way, larger percentage 1 to 100. McCall and Simmons (1966) regard self-attrib- Chinese measure shows that an individual was more embed- uted importance of identities as the fundamental elements ded in his or her home Chinese culture. Or conversely, larger of self. Although defining identity salience as behavioral percentage Chinese measure means that an individual was oriented, Stryker and colleagues use identity salience and having limited contact with the host culture. identity prominence interchangeably as a concept and mea- sure (Stryker & Serpe, 1994). Control Variables: Network Size and Gender Time in the United States was measured with years the respondents had spent in the host country. Because the vast I included two control variables: the size of the time network majority of the respondents started their graduate program and gender. Identity theory maintains that the number of ties immediately upon arrival in the host country of the United supporting an identity is important to predict identity States, I recoded time in graduate programs as time in the salience/prominence (Burke & Stets, 2009; Stryker & Serpe, United States. As a new identity for the respondents, Chinese 1994). Chinese and non-Chinese both functioned to help a ethnic identity showed a trajectory in salience/prominence focal person to maintain the Chinese ethnic identity as with the passage of time. This identity change process is defined by the concept of ethnic identity. Chinese cohorts gradual and takes place over a long period of time, ranging reminded an individual of what Chinese culture specified from weeks to months or even years (Burke & Stets, 2009). while non-Chinese acquaintances were a contrast group. Zhang 5 Table 2. Sample Descriptive Statistics (N = 119). M SD Range Gender (male = 1) 0.50 Age (years) 27.05 3.56 20.00-38.00 Location (NE = 1) 0.54 Time in the United States (years) 3.20 2.04 0.00-9.00 Time network size 3.90 3.24 0-20 % Chinese in time network 83.06 28.45 0-100 Figure 1. Full model using hypotheses. Table 3. Results of Regression Analysis. Chinese co-nationals in one’s time network deprived a person’s opportunity to perceive the boundary between Chinese and non- Identity salience/ Chinese due to the lack of separation from the native Chinese Dependent variable prominence culture. Hypothesis 1 was supported that the higher percentage Control variables of Chinese cohorts an individual had, the lower his or her Chinese Time network size 1.10 ethnic identity salience/prominence (β = −.66, p < .05) was. Gender 5.14 Contrary to the literature on the relationship between time Main effects and identity in general, results showed no significant % Chinese –0.66* U-shaped relationship between the time spent in the United USYRs –14.93* States and Chinese ethnic identity. Therefore, Hypothesis 2 USYRs² 0.61 was not supported. However, there was a significant negative Location in the United States (NE) –50.82* relationship between time spent in the United States and Interaction Chinese ethnic identity (β = −14.93, p < .05). That is, Chinese % Chinese × Time in the United States 0.13** ethnic identity was the strongest when the respondents first % Chinese × Location in the United 0.56* arrived in the United States and diminished as they were more States (NE) and more integrated into the host culture in the United States. F 2.78* Overall R² .20 This can be because China is a highly homogeneous country Adjusted R² .13 with over 90% of the population belonging to the Han ethnic group while the host country of the United States has a very Note. Two-tailed hypothesis test; USYRs, time in the United States. small percentage Chinese in its population. This conclusion is *p < .05. **p < .01. not surprising as the literature on the relationship between time and ethnic identity does support that the length of time in Gender was included as a control variable because literature a new environment and the identification with home culture suggests people experience the host culture in the United States have a negative relationship (Ichiyama et al., 1996). differently as a result of their gender, particularly immigrants The analysis also revealed a negative relationship between from Asian countries (Kim, 2006; Pyke & Johnson, 2003). being in NE and Chinese ethnic identity (β = −50.82, p < .05). That is, being a resident of NE which is highly diverse in racial composition and cultures led to lower Chinese eth- Results nic identity. Therefore, Hypothesis 3 is supported. The demographic characteristics of the survey respondents Hypotheses 4 and 5 predicted moderation effects of time are presented in Table 2. and place in the relationship between percentage Chinese Around half of the sample was male (50%). Respondents and identity salience/prominence. There was a significant ranged in age from 20 to 38 years with a mean age of 27 interaction between percentage Chinese and time in the years. Over half of the sample was from Diversity College United States (β = 0.13, p < .01). There was also a significant (54%). The length of stay in the United States ranged from 0 interaction between percentage Chinese and place (β = 0.56, to 9 years, with a mean of 3.2 years. p < .05). Figures 1 and 2 showed the moderation effects of There were two network variables included in the descrip- time and place, respectively, on the relationship between tive statistics. The time network size was 3.90 on average identity salience/prominence and percentage Chinese. with a SD of 3.24. The number of ties ranged from 0 to 20. As shown in Figure 2, the negative relationship between The percentage of Chinese people in this network was high: identity salience/prominence and percentage Chinese was sig- 83.06% with a SD of 28.45%. nificantly strengthened among residents of SE while only mar- Results of regression analysis are presented in Table 3. ginally lowered among residents of NE. These findings have As shown in Table 3, Hypotheses 1, 3, 4, and 5 were sup- been confirmed by the slope analysis (Aiken & West, 1991). ported. Consistent with social identity theory, having many For residents in NE, the simple slope for the first-order t was Y 6 SAGE Open respondents with a short stay of 1.16 years in the United States on average, the simple slope for the first-order t was Y = (−0.52) X + 116 (t = −0.7, p < .49), and the average score of Chinese identity salience/prominence was 72.81. For respondents with a stay of 5.24 years in the United States on average, the simple slope for the first-order t was Y = (0.01)X + 55.07 (t = 2.82, p < .01), and the average score of Chinese identity salience/promi- nence was 55.9. In other words, among newcomers to the United States, as the percentage Chinese increased in ego net- works, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence declined, but for old timers in the United States, as the percent- age Chinese increased in ego networks, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence was reversed. Discussion Figure 2. Moderation effect of location on identity salience/ Implications prominence at lower and higher percentage Chinese. This study contributes to our understanding of the social con- texts in which ethnic identity varies in salience/prominence. The immediate social environment of ego network provides the arena for the cognitive and affective formation of ethnic in-group and out-group contrast for a person. However, ego network is not immune to the larger social context with vari- ous ethnic compositions in population and different degrees of culture diversity. A cosmopolitan sociocultural environ- ment with high degree of diversity in terms of race/ethnicity and culture is conducive to the maintenance of ethnic iden- tity when an individual has many co-nationals in his or her ego network. On the contrary, having many co-nationals in one’s ego network does not stop the decline of ethnic salience/prominence in an isolated social environment. Also, as an ethnic group who are recent arrivals in the United States from a highly homogeneous social context in mainland China, the heightened sense of ethnic identity formed at arrival lapses with time as the respondents become Figure 3. Moderation effect of time in the United States on more familiar with the social environment in the United Chinese ethnic identity salience/prominence at lower percentage States. However, keeping a cohort of co-nationals changes Chinese and higher percentage Chinese. the function of time on Chinese ethnic identity salience. Among newcomers to the United States, as the percentage = (−0.1)X + 82.18 (t = 3.08, p < .01). For residents in SE, the Chinese increases in ego networks, the decline of Chinese simple slope for the first-order t was Y = (−0.66)X + 133 (t = identity salience/prominence declines, but for old timers in −0.98, p < .34). That is, among residents in NE, as the percent- the United States, as the percentage Chinese increases in ego age Chinese increased in ego networks, the decline of Chinese networks, the decline of Chinese identity salience/promi- identity salience/prominence also declined but at much a nence is reversed. Ethnic identity seems to require a balance lower rate compared with residents in SE. between host culture and home culture to maintain. For respondents from NE, the average score of Chinese The reason for the function of the percentage Chinese to ethnic identity was 73.88. For respondents from SE, the vary with time can be the different degree of consciousness average score of Chinese ethnic identity was 78.18. about the differences between their home culture and the host As Figure 3 illustrates, the negative relationship between culture. As the newcomers have limited knowledge of the host identity salience/prominence and percentage Chinese was sig- culture in the United States, by keeping many co-nationals in nificantly strengthened among residents who had stayed in the their social networks, they construct a home culture around United States for a short period of time while marginally them and thus do not have to confront the differences between reversed among respondents who had stayed in the United their home culture and the host culture. Without knowledge of States for a longer period of time. These findings have been con- the differences between their home culture and host culture, firmed by the slope analysis (Aiken & West, 1991). For their ethnic identity gradually declines in salience. However, Zhang 7 for old timers, knowledge of the host culture is much more not limited to a certain number of ties. However, because of profound. Thus, when they also have many co-nationals in cognitive obstacles respondents experience when recalling their social networks, the differences between their home cul- people in their time network, such a measure suffers in preci- ture and host culture maintain sharp in their consciousness as sion compared with ties generated through a name generator. a result of deepened knowledge of the host culture and famil- Future research can use name generator for better measure of iarity with the home culture. This mindset is conducive to high percentage Chinese. ethnic identity salience. This study highlights the importance of the assumption of Future Researches structural symbolic interactionism: the stability of social struc- Limitations notwithstanding, the article presents some impor- ture exemplified in social positions in social networks and cor- tant findings and has important implications. The immediate responding identities. In addition, the wisdom of identity social environment of ego networks is a significant predictor theory that social structure is multi-layered (Merolla, Serpe, of identity salience. The ecological factors of place and time Stryker, & Schultz, 2012) is confirmed by the impact of local- add complexity to the relationship between ego networks and ity on the interaction of ego networks and identity salience/ identity salience. We must be conscious of the balance between prominence. This wisdom is reiterated by scholars in social the stability and fluidity of the Chinese ethnic identity condi- network analysis as the ecological perspective of social net- tioned by various levels of social structure. works (McFarland, Moody, Diehl, Smith, & Thomas, 2014). This study relates to the gradual growth of the scholarship Last but not least, the verification model proposed by Burke on the link between identity and social networks as follows. and colleagues (Burke & Stets, 2009) seems to be a robust First, this research on Chinese ethnic identity and social net- model as ethnic identity salience/prominence declines when works is a continuation of the current literature with its empha- an individual living in an isolated social environment with sis on using network measures highlighting the structure of many other co-nationals cannot verify his or her ethnic iden- social networks to predict identity variables. Walker and Lynn tity based on in-group out-group distinction because this per- (2013) find that the “embeddedness of RBOs, the breadth of son never separates from his or her native culture. Meanwhile, access that a role-based group has to the rest of an individual’s the fluidity of ethnic identity is highlighted with the significant network” is statistically significant to predict the salience of impact of time and location on the interaction of identity religious, student, and work identities (p. 151). McFarland and salience/prominence and ego networks. Therefore, the vari- Pals (2005) suggest network measures of prominence, homo- ance of ethnic identity can be described as patterned fluidity. geneity, and bridging are more powerful in predicting identity change than categories. Stark (2015) proposes that the “triadic Limitations of Study closure” mediates the effect of prejudiced individuals’ avoid- I use identity prominence to measure identity salience. A bet- ance of friendships with members of minority groups. Similarly, ter measure of identity salience needs to replace the current in this study, the measure of proportion of Chinese in a Chinese identity importance measure as identity salience is behavior graduate student’s network is a structural measure of an indi- oriented while identity importance has various conceptual- vidual’s network: these students’ access to co-nationals, or their izations. Identity prominence and salience were merged con- nonaccess to the host culture in the United States. ceptually and empirically in earlier works (Stryker & Serpe, Second, this study differs from the current identity theory 1994). In addition, a distinction and a causal ordering literature in the measure of identity salience. Brenner, Serpe, between identity prominence and salience have been made, and Stryker (2014) use a more behavior-oriented definition tested, and supported (Brenner, Serpe, & Stryker, 2014). for identity salience in recent works and show a causal rela- However, because ethnic identity is a valued identity, the tionship between identity salience and identity prominence. results should remain the same using a behavior-oriented This study uses an importance indicator to measure identity measure given the causal relationship between identity salience. However, as there is a causal relationship between prominence and salience. identity salience and identity prominence and ethnic identity The dependent variable of identity prominence is mea- is a valued identity similar to other valued identities, it is sured by one-item question of how important Chinese ethnic highly likely a more behavior-oriented measure of identity identity is. Although one-item measure of identity promi- salience as used by Stryker and colleagues would yield simi- nence was used by scholars researching on identity, multiple- lar results as the one used in this study with regard to the link item measure of identity salience provides better reliability between identity salience and social networks. and has been proposed by Stryker and colleagues (Merolla Third, this study adds to the literature on the link between et al., 2012). Future studies should use the multi-item mea- identity and social networks by analyzing a social identity: sure of identity salience. Chinese ethnic identity. Previous researches investigate how The calculation of the major predictor percentage Chinese is network structure impacts role identities, which are the focus based on respondents’ estimates of the number of total ties and of identity theory. This article shows that the salience of Chinese ties in their time network. The advantage of calculat- social identities can also be predicted by network measures. ing percentage Chinese using estimates is that respondents are The combination of identity theory and social identity theory 8 SAGE Open substantiated by social network analysis provides new theo- Hogg, M. A. (2006). Social identity theory. In P. J. Burke (Ed.), Contemporary social psychological theories (pp. 111-136). retical insight into the identity processes. Stanford, CA: Stanford University. That is, researchers can examine other social identities Howard, J. A. (2000). Social psychology of identity. Annual Review such as nationality based identities and gender identity with a of Psychology, 26, 367-393. nationality or gender homogeneity measure because the eth- Ichiyama, M. A., McQuarrie, E. F., & Ching, K. L. (1996). nic homogeneity network measure—proportion of Chinese in Contextual influences on ethnic identity among Hawaiian stu- a focal person’s network—is effectively used for the analysis dents in the mainland United States. Journal of Cross-Culture of Chinese ethnic identity in this study. Essentially, category/ Psychology, 27, 458-475. group identities are grounded in the contrast between the in- Kim, N. Y. (2006). "Patriarchy is so third world": Korean immi- group and the out-group. Therefore, the proportion of people grant women and “migrating” white western masculinity. with the same category/group membership is a feasible mea- Social Problems, 53, 519-536. sure for access to people with the same category/group mem- McCall, G. J., & Simmons, J. L. (1966). Identities and interactions. New York, NY: The Free Press. bership. This is an addition to the current literature and McFarland, D., Moody, J., Diehl, D., Smith, J. A., & Thomas, explains why the homogeneity measure is not a functional R. (2014). Network ecology and adolescent social structure. measure for role identities such as student as found by Walker American Sociological Review, 79, 1088-1121. and Lynn (2013). McFarland, D., & Pals, H. (2005). Motives and contexts of iden- tity change: A case for network effects. Social Psychology Acknowledgments Quarterly, 68, 289-315. Among the many people in the writing of this article, author would Mehra, A., Kilduff, M., & Brass, D. (1998). At the margins: A dis- like to particularly thank Professors Yu-ping Liu-Thompkins, tinctiveness approach to the social identity and social networks James Hougland, and Daniel S. Halgin. of underrepresented groups. Academy of Management Journal, 41, 441-452. Merolla, D. M., Serpe, R. T., Stryker, S., & Schultz, P. W. (2012). Declaration of Conflicting Interests Structural precursors to identity processes: The role of proximate The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect social structures. Social Psychology Quarterly, 75, 149-172. to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Nagel, J. (1994). Constructing ethnicity: Creating and recreating ethnic identity and culture. Social Problems, 41, 152-176. Funding Pachucki, M. A., & Breiger, R. L. (2010). Cultural holes: Beyond The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- relationality in social networks and culture. Annual Review of ship, and/or publication of this article. Sociology, 36, 205-224. Pyke, K. D., & Johnson, D. L. (2003). Asian American women and racialized femininities. Gender & Society, 17, 33-53. Notes Stark, T. H. (2015). Understanding the selection bias: Social net- 1. A network revolving around a focal person. work processes and the effect of prejudice on the avoidance of 2. I also collected data of people who are emotionally important to outgroup friends. Social Psychology Quarterly, 78, 127-150. an individual and who discuss important issues with the focal Stets, J. E., & Burke, P. J. (2000). Identity theory and social identity person. Such network data do not explain ethnic identity, though. theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63, 224-237. Stryker, S. (1968). Identity theory and role performance: The rel- References evance of symbolic interaction theory for family research. Journal of Marriage and Family, 30, 558-564. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G.. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing Stryker, S., & Serpe, R. T. (1994). Identity salience and psycho- and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, London, and logical centrality: Equivalent, overlapping, or complementary New Dehli: Sage Publications. concepts? Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 16-35. Alba, R. D. (1990). Ethnic identity: The transformation of White Sue, V. M., & Ritter, L. A. (2007). Conducting online surveys. Los America. Binghamton, NY: Vail-Ballou Press. Angeles, CA: Sage. Allison, P. D. (1999). Multiple regression: A primer. Thousand Walker, M. H., & Lynn, F. B. (2013). The embedded self: A social Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. networks approach to identity theory. Social Psychology Atchley, R. C. (1993). Continuity theory and the evolution of Quarterly, 76, 151-179. activity in later adulthood. In J. R. Kelly (Ed.), Activity and Weisburg, H. F. (2005). The total survey error approach: A guide aging: Staying involved in later life (pp. 1-5). Newbury Park, to the new science of survey research. Chicago, IL: The CA: Sage. University of Chicago Press. Brenner, P. S., Serpe, R. T., & Stryker, S. (2014). The causal order- Wellman, B. (1988). Social structures: A network approach. ing of prominence and salience in identity theory: An empirical Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. examination. Social Psychology Quarterly, 77, 231-252. Burke, P. J., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. Oxford, UK: Author Biography Oxford University Press. Burt, R. S. (1984). Network items and general social survey. Social Cynthia Baiqing Zhang is an assistant professor with the Networks, 6, 293-339. Department of Sociology at Central Washington University. Her Dillman, D. A. (2007). Mail and internet surveys: The tailored research areas include identity, race/ethnicity, crime/deviance, design method. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. organizational studies, and social network analysis. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SAGE Open SAGE

Patterned Fluidity of Chinese Ethnic Identity: Networks, Time, and Place:

SAGE Open , Volume 7 (2): 1 – Jun 2, 2017

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Abstract

This study tests the salience/prominence of Chinese ethnic identity by applying identity theory, social identity theory, and social network analysis. Using survey data of Chinese graduate students in two universities in the United States, I show how Chinese ethnic identity salience varies with the percentage of Chinese in an individual’s ego network revolving around him or her. In addition, among newcomers to the United States, as the percentage Chinese in ego networks increases, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence declines, but for old timers in the United States, as the percentage Chinese increases, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence is reversed. The ethnic identity salience lapses with time unless the respondents keep a cohort of co-nationals. Moreover, a cosmopolitan sociocultural environment is conducive to the maintenance of ethnic identity when an individual has many co-nationals in his or her ego network while having many co- nationals does not stop the decline of ethnic salience in an isolated social environment. Keywords Chinese ethnic identity, identity salience, ego network, location, time network is composed of people with whom an individual Introduction spends the most awake time. Structural symbolic interactionism emphasizes the impact of Further, this article aims to clarify whether being sepa- the structures of society on individuals’ interaction with oth- rated from the host culture of the United States reduces the ers to convey who they are, or the meanings of their identi- salience/prominence of Chinese ethnic identity, or just ties. Self—consisting of multiple identities—emerges from among those who recently arrive in the host culture. Another the patterned and organized social structure and therefore is aim of this article is to investigate whether low exposure to organized (Burke & Stets, 2009). In contrast, traditional different cultures available in a locality reduces the salience/ symbolic interactionism opposes any suggestion that social prominence of Chinese ethnic identity, or just among those structure is stable and posits that identities are fluid as indi- who have a large Chinese cohort. viduals construct identities differently across situations. Along the lines of structural symbolic interactionism, Theory and Hypotheses identity theory specifically argues for the correspondence between social positions in networks of social relations and Identity Prominence/Salience and Social Networks role identities such as student. Empirical work to test and explore the relationship between identity and network char- To reiterate, identity theory posits that social positions—the acteristics has appeared. McFarland and Pals (2005) opera- stable, morphological components of social structure—carry tionalize ego network context such as prominence to predict the shared behavior expectations termed “roles.” Role identi- identity change. Walker and Lynn (2013) suggest that role ties exist as individuals participate in structured social relation- identity salience—the likelihood a role identity is enacted— ships. Individuals are committed to role identities to various increases as role-based others are more closely connected degrees, dependent on the costs of losing social relations that with non–role-based others. Stark (2015) reveals how the create behavioral expectations for roles. Such commitment can tendency to avoid friends who have minority friends enables be measured qualitatively by emotional attachment to social majority group members to stay away from minority group members. Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA, USA In this article, I answer this research question: Would Corresponding Author: Chinese respondents in the new environment of United States Cynthia Baiqing Zhang, Department of Sociology, Central Washington but with a large portion of Chinese acquaintances in their time University, 400 E. University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926, USA. network develop a salient/prominent ethnic identity? Time Email: Cynthiazhang7@gmail.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open relations in support of certain roles, or “intensivity,” and quan- close relationships or ties that consist of the in-group as well titatively by the number of social relations in support of certain as this person’s acquaintances who are the out-group. Out- roles, or “extensivity.” Commitment is closely related with group members are those who have constant presence in the identity salience that predicts the likelihood of activation of focal person’s life in geographical space but remain distant in certain identities organized in a salience hierarchy (Stryker, social space. I thus use time network to delineate the relation- 1968). Given that networks of social relations are social struc- ship between identity salience/prominence and ego network ture (Wellman, 1988), the stable, morphological components of characteristics. social structure as proposed by identity theory, or social posi- tions, therefore, are social positions in social networks. Identity Hypotheses salience is a function of the strength and number of social rela- tions in networks, or ties (Burke & Stets, 2009). In short, Social identity theory suggests that category identity is based Stryker and colleagues’ work is particularly articulate on the on the distinction between in-group and out-group. For the relationship between identity salience and social networks. in-group out-group distinction to maintain, there needs to be a balance between in-group members and out-group mem- bers in an individual’s time network. Therefore, having a Social Identity Theory and Identity Theory high percentage of Chinese in one’s time network means the Identity theory focuses on role identity that is related to role opportunity for a person to establish the distinction between others. For example, a parent role is in relationship to a child Chinese and non-Chinese is low. I hereby hypothesize the role. Social identity such as Chinese ethnic identity emph- following: sizes in-group (i.e. Chinese) and out-group (i.e. non-Chi- nese) differences. However, the argument on the relationship Hypothesis 1: Having many Chinese in the time network between identity salience and social networks as specified is negatively related with Chinese ethnic identity for in identity theory can be extended to social identities. Phinny Chinese egos. (Howard, 2000) has a comprehensive review of ethnic identity. Time is important because it takes time for identities to Identity theory scholars have actually called for a combi- internalize. In this research, I am interested in short time nation of identity theory and social identity theory (Stets & spans: several months to approximately 8 years. That is, the Burke, 2000). Specifically, these scholars argue that the dif- time span that would have an impact on a stable, cross situ- ferent bases of identity in social identity theory (category and ational identity which is the focus of this project. I examine group) and in identity theory (role) can be combined. the impact of in-person and between-person time difference Although category and group identity such as Chinese ethnic in the United States on network and identity formation and identity emphasizes the similarities among in-group mem- transformation. bers (Hogg, 2006) while role identity stresses differences In the literature of life course, Atchley (1993) suggests between roles and counter roles such as student identity and that time after retirement witnesses a U-shaped development professor identity, role identities can also be category and of self-perception: honeymoon, disenchantment, reorienta- group identities as students and professors are in-group and tion, and stability. Changes in identities are constant while out-group to each other. In addition, category, group, role, continuity in identities is more powerful. In addition, Burke and person identities all follow the same identity verification maintains that identity salience decreases as individuals can- mechanisms (Burke & Stets, 2009). not verify their identities. With the passage of time, Chinese graduate students are more and more integrated into the host culture with more non-Chinese, the opportunity for these stu- Chinese Ethnic Identity dents to verify their Chinese identity becomes slimmer. Chinese ethnic identity is a category identity. By definition, However, this process can reverse as these students’ life the Chinese ethnic identity is conditioned by the difference becomes stable. I hereby hypothesize the following: between Chinese and non-Chinese as well as by the similari- ties among Chinese as the in-group and similarities among Hypothesis 2: Time in the United States has a U-shaped non-Chinese as the out-group. Therefore, a social network relationship with Chinese identity. measure that captures in-group out-group contrast—percent- age of Chinese within the ego network—can be used to pre- Having a high Chinese composition in time network keeps dict salience of Chinese ethnic identity. individuals from being in contact with the host culture and In addition, because the in-group out-group contrast is key thus reduces ethnic identity saliences. However, ethnic iden- to category/group identity, the Chinese ethnic identity of a tity is fluid as individuals of various ethnic backgrounds are focal person—a Chinese person—is related with people the impacted by ecological factors, such as politics in their deci- focal person spends much time with. In other words, to under- sion to claim or reclaim their ethnic identity (Alba, 1990; stand ethnic identity, it is necessary to know an individual’s Nagel, 1994). With the passage of time, the decline of Chinese Zhang 3 ethnic identity salience is slowed down as individuals are Hypothesis 5: Being in NE slows down the decline of integrated more into the host culture. I hereby hypothesize the Chinese ethnic identity salience at a higher Chinese following: composition. Hypothesis 3: A longer stay in the United States will slow Method down the decline of Chinese identity salience when indi- viduals have a higher Chinese cohort composition. Sample and Procedure To identify patterns of linkages between ego network, time in Sociocultural contexts or locations in the United States, the United States, and localities in the United States and iden- another ecological factor influencing ethnic identity, are tity, I conducted online surveys (Sue & Ritter, 2007) with a important in the interaction of identity and networks of supplementary paper version of the surveys (Dillman, 2007; social relations as this research is designed to test relational Weiseburg, 2005) targeting the entire population of Chinese identity. Identity theory defines identity as internalized graduate students at two universities. I used two public uni- meanings existent in the culture in the larger society which versities—Harmony College in SE and Diversity College in is supported by ethnic identity literature (e.g., Ichiyama, NE as the subject frames though the subject’s ego network McQuarrie, & Ching, 1996). That is, identity meanings are usually reached far beyond the boundaries of the two col- culturally determined. Consequently, it is important to leges, extending to the local communities and to their home explain the “cultural contingency” of a social environment country of China, assisted by physical and electronic interac- (Pachucki & Breiger, 2010, p. 205). Social relations can be tion, particularly when these students first arrived in the the precedence or the consequence of identities depending United States and in their interaction with their family mem- on the specific social environments. A social environment bers back in China. Because the students from the two univer- provides the cultural meanings that may be absorbed into sities were similar in terms of educational attainment in the self-structure, and thus constrains the types of available China, localities in China, age group, and being city residents identities. More complex social environments can poten- in China, I did not include variables associated with their tially generate more identities because of the many subcul- Chinese background to predict identity salience/prominence. tures existent in such environments. Social environments The survey was distributed to all Chinese graduate students also offer different types of social relations at the dyadic through university administrative offices. Although I did not and group levels which either enhance or constrain the for- know the exact number of the Chinese graduate students at mation of new identities. Diversity College, I estimated the combined responses for the In addition, distinctiveness theory (Mehra, Kilduff, & online version of the survey from the two universities proba- Brass, 1998) proposes that in a given situation, the trait such bly accounted for around 15% of the population. The print ver- as race that is the rarest in the crowd will draw people with sion fared much better. The two batches of mail survey using that trait together. Therefore, in an environment where ethnic exactly the same online format witnessed 70% response rate. background is the rarest trait, people feel more strongly Some responses in the second batch were not included because about their ethnic identity. However, in a social context they arrived later than the deadline. There were 95 total where diverse ethnic groups are present, people feel less responses to the online survey at Harmony College. At strongly about their ethnic identity. I hereby hypothesize the Diversity College, there were 21 responses to the online sur- following: vey and 56 responses to the print version of the online survey. In total, Diversity College provided 77 responses to the sur- Hypothesis 4: Being in Northeast City (NE) in the New vey. Usable responses were 119 from the two colleges which England area with exposure to various cultures is nega- was sufficient for a multivariate analysis (Allison, 1999). tively related to Chinese identity compared with residents The survey asked for the respondents’ general sociodemo- from Southeast City (SE). graphic information, respondents’ time network, and the importance of ethnic identity. For each person named in time As stated previously, having a high percentage Chinese in network, I asked about his or her demographics and relation- one’s network has a negative relationship with identity ships with the focal person. I also asked for an aggregate salience/prominence. However, being in NE stems the number of ties in time network. I calculated percentage of decline of Chinese ethnic identity salience/prominence Chinese for the networks thus obtained in the survey. because the existence of multiple cultures renders Chinese The identity salience/prominence section asked the ethnic background a sharp contrast to the host culture in the respondent to rate the importance of ethnic identity (Chinese United States. As explained by Howard (2000), “Population from mainland China). The question read, “We now ask the shifts, especially immigrations, are a major instigator of importance of the major identities you might have. Please changes in ethnic identities” (p. 375). I hereby hypothesize drag the importance indicator along the scale 0-100, ‘1’ being the following: least important and ‘100’ the most important.” 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Demographic and Cultural Diversity Comparison of the SE and NE against the United States as a Country. Demographics Southeast city Northeast city United States Population 5% 100% White 75.70% (non-Hispanic 73.00%) 44.00% (non-Hispanic 33.30%) 77.90% (non-Hispanic 63.00%) African American 14.50% 25.50% 13.10% Native American 0.30% 0.70% 1.20% Asian 3.20% 12.70% 5.10% Hispanic or Latino 6.90% 28.60% 16.90% Other races 2.50% 4.00% 2.40% Foreign born 8.50% 36.80% 12.80% Language other than English spoken 11.10% 48.50% 20.30% at home Education (BA or higher) 39.30% 33.70% 28.20% Per capita money income 29,125 31,417 27,915 Income (% in poverty) 17.90% 19.40% 14.30% Source. U.S. Census Bureau (2010). The survey took approximately 10 to 15 min to complete Location in the United States was measured by delegating on average though some respondents took longer (20-25 “1” to NE and “0” to Southeast city. These two locations min). Students read a verbal script highlighting the voluntary were selected because they demonstrated tremendous differ- nature of the questionnaire and my intent of protecting their ences in ethnic compositions and degrees of cultural diver- anonymity. sity as shown in Table 1. For the analysis, I used both the basic term and the qua- dratic term of the time in the U.S. variable. First, I used per- Major Predictor: Percentage Chinese in Ego’s centage Chinese, time, a quadratic term of time, and locations Time Network as predictors and network size as control variable. Second, I added interaction terms of the basic term and the quadratic The major network measure to predict identity salience/ term of time, with the two network measures: percentage prominence was percentage Chinese. The percentage Chinese and network size. Third, I added the interaction Chinese measure was calculated by dividing the number of terms of location in the United States with the two network Chinese ties within a person’s time network by the person’s measures. I also added another control variable of gender total number of ties. Percentage Chinese indicates a focal with male coded as 1. person’s access (Burt, 1984) to in-group members (Chinese) and by definition nonaccess to out-group members (non-Chi- nese). Descriptive analysis and hypotheses testing were Measures based on these data using Stata. The larger the percentage The dependent variable identity salience/prominence was Chinese measure is, the larger the Chinese in-group is for the measured using a scale of identity importance ranging from individual. Stated in a different way, larger percentage 1 to 100. McCall and Simmons (1966) regard self-attrib- Chinese measure shows that an individual was more embed- uted importance of identities as the fundamental elements ded in his or her home Chinese culture. Or conversely, larger of self. Although defining identity salience as behavioral percentage Chinese measure means that an individual was oriented, Stryker and colleagues use identity salience and having limited contact with the host culture. identity prominence interchangeably as a concept and mea- sure (Stryker & Serpe, 1994). Control Variables: Network Size and Gender Time in the United States was measured with years the respondents had spent in the host country. Because the vast I included two control variables: the size of the time network majority of the respondents started their graduate program and gender. Identity theory maintains that the number of ties immediately upon arrival in the host country of the United supporting an identity is important to predict identity States, I recoded time in graduate programs as time in the salience/prominence (Burke & Stets, 2009; Stryker & Serpe, United States. As a new identity for the respondents, Chinese 1994). Chinese and non-Chinese both functioned to help a ethnic identity showed a trajectory in salience/prominence focal person to maintain the Chinese ethnic identity as with the passage of time. This identity change process is defined by the concept of ethnic identity. Chinese cohorts gradual and takes place over a long period of time, ranging reminded an individual of what Chinese culture specified from weeks to months or even years (Burke & Stets, 2009). while non-Chinese acquaintances were a contrast group. Zhang 5 Table 2. Sample Descriptive Statistics (N = 119). M SD Range Gender (male = 1) 0.50 Age (years) 27.05 3.56 20.00-38.00 Location (NE = 1) 0.54 Time in the United States (years) 3.20 2.04 0.00-9.00 Time network size 3.90 3.24 0-20 % Chinese in time network 83.06 28.45 0-100 Figure 1. Full model using hypotheses. Table 3. Results of Regression Analysis. Chinese co-nationals in one’s time network deprived a person’s opportunity to perceive the boundary between Chinese and non- Identity salience/ Chinese due to the lack of separation from the native Chinese Dependent variable prominence culture. Hypothesis 1 was supported that the higher percentage Control variables of Chinese cohorts an individual had, the lower his or her Chinese Time network size 1.10 ethnic identity salience/prominence (β = −.66, p < .05) was. Gender 5.14 Contrary to the literature on the relationship between time Main effects and identity in general, results showed no significant % Chinese –0.66* U-shaped relationship between the time spent in the United USYRs –14.93* States and Chinese ethnic identity. Therefore, Hypothesis 2 USYRs² 0.61 was not supported. However, there was a significant negative Location in the United States (NE) –50.82* relationship between time spent in the United States and Interaction Chinese ethnic identity (β = −14.93, p < .05). That is, Chinese % Chinese × Time in the United States 0.13** ethnic identity was the strongest when the respondents first % Chinese × Location in the United 0.56* arrived in the United States and diminished as they were more States (NE) and more integrated into the host culture in the United States. F 2.78* Overall R² .20 This can be because China is a highly homogeneous country Adjusted R² .13 with over 90% of the population belonging to the Han ethnic group while the host country of the United States has a very Note. Two-tailed hypothesis test; USYRs, time in the United States. small percentage Chinese in its population. This conclusion is *p < .05. **p < .01. not surprising as the literature on the relationship between time and ethnic identity does support that the length of time in Gender was included as a control variable because literature a new environment and the identification with home culture suggests people experience the host culture in the United States have a negative relationship (Ichiyama et al., 1996). differently as a result of their gender, particularly immigrants The analysis also revealed a negative relationship between from Asian countries (Kim, 2006; Pyke & Johnson, 2003). being in NE and Chinese ethnic identity (β = −50.82, p < .05). That is, being a resident of NE which is highly diverse in racial composition and cultures led to lower Chinese eth- Results nic identity. Therefore, Hypothesis 3 is supported. The demographic characteristics of the survey respondents Hypotheses 4 and 5 predicted moderation effects of time are presented in Table 2. and place in the relationship between percentage Chinese Around half of the sample was male (50%). Respondents and identity salience/prominence. There was a significant ranged in age from 20 to 38 years with a mean age of 27 interaction between percentage Chinese and time in the years. Over half of the sample was from Diversity College United States (β = 0.13, p < .01). There was also a significant (54%). The length of stay in the United States ranged from 0 interaction between percentage Chinese and place (β = 0.56, to 9 years, with a mean of 3.2 years. p < .05). Figures 1 and 2 showed the moderation effects of There were two network variables included in the descrip- time and place, respectively, on the relationship between tive statistics. The time network size was 3.90 on average identity salience/prominence and percentage Chinese. with a SD of 3.24. The number of ties ranged from 0 to 20. As shown in Figure 2, the negative relationship between The percentage of Chinese people in this network was high: identity salience/prominence and percentage Chinese was sig- 83.06% with a SD of 28.45%. nificantly strengthened among residents of SE while only mar- Results of regression analysis are presented in Table 3. ginally lowered among residents of NE. These findings have As shown in Table 3, Hypotheses 1, 3, 4, and 5 were sup- been confirmed by the slope analysis (Aiken & West, 1991). ported. Consistent with social identity theory, having many For residents in NE, the simple slope for the first-order t was Y 6 SAGE Open respondents with a short stay of 1.16 years in the United States on average, the simple slope for the first-order t was Y = (−0.52) X + 116 (t = −0.7, p < .49), and the average score of Chinese identity salience/prominence was 72.81. For respondents with a stay of 5.24 years in the United States on average, the simple slope for the first-order t was Y = (0.01)X + 55.07 (t = 2.82, p < .01), and the average score of Chinese identity salience/promi- nence was 55.9. In other words, among newcomers to the United States, as the percentage Chinese increased in ego net- works, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence declined, but for old timers in the United States, as the percent- age Chinese increased in ego networks, the decline of Chinese identity salience/prominence was reversed. Discussion Figure 2. Moderation effect of location on identity salience/ Implications prominence at lower and higher percentage Chinese. This study contributes to our understanding of the social con- texts in which ethnic identity varies in salience/prominence. The immediate social environment of ego network provides the arena for the cognitive and affective formation of ethnic in-group and out-group contrast for a person. However, ego network is not immune to the larger social context with vari- ous ethnic compositions in population and different degrees of culture diversity. A cosmopolitan sociocultural environ- ment with high degree of diversity in terms of race/ethnicity and culture is conducive to the maintenance of ethnic iden- tity when an individual has many co-nationals in his or her ego network. On the contrary, having many co-nationals in one’s ego network does not stop the decline of ethnic salience/prominence in an isolated social environment. Also, as an ethnic group who are recent arrivals in the United States from a highly homogeneous social context in mainland China, the heightened sense of ethnic identity formed at arrival lapses with time as the respondents become Figure 3. Moderation effect of time in the United States on more familiar with the social environment in the United Chinese ethnic identity salience/prominence at lower percentage States. However, keeping a cohort of co-nationals changes Chinese and higher percentage Chinese. the function of time on Chinese ethnic identity salience. Among newcomers to the United States, as the percentage = (−0.1)X + 82.18 (t = 3.08, p < .01). For residents in SE, the Chinese increases in ego networks, the decline of Chinese simple slope for the first-order t was Y = (−0.66)X + 133 (t = identity salience/prominence declines, but for old timers in −0.98, p < .34). That is, among residents in NE, as the percent- the United States, as the percentage Chinese increases in ego age Chinese increased in ego networks, the decline of Chinese networks, the decline of Chinese identity salience/promi- identity salience/prominence also declined but at much a nence is reversed. Ethnic identity seems to require a balance lower rate compared with residents in SE. between host culture and home culture to maintain. For respondents from NE, the average score of Chinese The reason for the function of the percentage Chinese to ethnic identity was 73.88. For respondents from SE, the vary with time can be the different degree of consciousness average score of Chinese ethnic identity was 78.18. about the differences between their home culture and the host As Figure 3 illustrates, the negative relationship between culture. As the newcomers have limited knowledge of the host identity salience/prominence and percentage Chinese was sig- culture in the United States, by keeping many co-nationals in nificantly strengthened among residents who had stayed in the their social networks, they construct a home culture around United States for a short period of time while marginally them and thus do not have to confront the differences between reversed among respondents who had stayed in the United their home culture and the host culture. Without knowledge of States for a longer period of time. These findings have been con- the differences between their home culture and host culture, firmed by the slope analysis (Aiken & West, 1991). For their ethnic identity gradually declines in salience. However, Zhang 7 for old timers, knowledge of the host culture is much more not limited to a certain number of ties. However, because of profound. Thus, when they also have many co-nationals in cognitive obstacles respondents experience when recalling their social networks, the differences between their home cul- people in their time network, such a measure suffers in preci- ture and host culture maintain sharp in their consciousness as sion compared with ties generated through a name generator. a result of deepened knowledge of the host culture and famil- Future research can use name generator for better measure of iarity with the home culture. This mindset is conducive to high percentage Chinese. ethnic identity salience. This study highlights the importance of the assumption of Future Researches structural symbolic interactionism: the stability of social struc- Limitations notwithstanding, the article presents some impor- ture exemplified in social positions in social networks and cor- tant findings and has important implications. The immediate responding identities. In addition, the wisdom of identity social environment of ego networks is a significant predictor theory that social structure is multi-layered (Merolla, Serpe, of identity salience. The ecological factors of place and time Stryker, & Schultz, 2012) is confirmed by the impact of local- add complexity to the relationship between ego networks and ity on the interaction of ego networks and identity salience/ identity salience. We must be conscious of the balance between prominence. This wisdom is reiterated by scholars in social the stability and fluidity of the Chinese ethnic identity condi- network analysis as the ecological perspective of social net- tioned by various levels of social structure. works (McFarland, Moody, Diehl, Smith, & Thomas, 2014). This study relates to the gradual growth of the scholarship Last but not least, the verification model proposed by Burke on the link between identity and social networks as follows. and colleagues (Burke & Stets, 2009) seems to be a robust First, this research on Chinese ethnic identity and social net- model as ethnic identity salience/prominence declines when works is a continuation of the current literature with its empha- an individual living in an isolated social environment with sis on using network measures highlighting the structure of many other co-nationals cannot verify his or her ethnic iden- social networks to predict identity variables. Walker and Lynn tity based on in-group out-group distinction because this per- (2013) find that the “embeddedness of RBOs, the breadth of son never separates from his or her native culture. Meanwhile, access that a role-based group has to the rest of an individual’s the fluidity of ethnic identity is highlighted with the significant network” is statistically significant to predict the salience of impact of time and location on the interaction of identity religious, student, and work identities (p. 151). McFarland and salience/prominence and ego networks. Therefore, the vari- Pals (2005) suggest network measures of prominence, homo- ance of ethnic identity can be described as patterned fluidity. geneity, and bridging are more powerful in predicting identity change than categories. Stark (2015) proposes that the “triadic Limitations of Study closure” mediates the effect of prejudiced individuals’ avoid- I use identity prominence to measure identity salience. A bet- ance of friendships with members of minority groups. Similarly, ter measure of identity salience needs to replace the current in this study, the measure of proportion of Chinese in a Chinese identity importance measure as identity salience is behavior graduate student’s network is a structural measure of an indi- oriented while identity importance has various conceptual- vidual’s network: these students’ access to co-nationals, or their izations. Identity prominence and salience were merged con- nonaccess to the host culture in the United States. ceptually and empirically in earlier works (Stryker & Serpe, Second, this study differs from the current identity theory 1994). In addition, a distinction and a causal ordering literature in the measure of identity salience. Brenner, Serpe, between identity prominence and salience have been made, and Stryker (2014) use a more behavior-oriented definition tested, and supported (Brenner, Serpe, & Stryker, 2014). for identity salience in recent works and show a causal rela- However, because ethnic identity is a valued identity, the tionship between identity salience and identity prominence. results should remain the same using a behavior-oriented This study uses an importance indicator to measure identity measure given the causal relationship between identity salience. However, as there is a causal relationship between prominence and salience. identity salience and identity prominence and ethnic identity The dependent variable of identity prominence is mea- is a valued identity similar to other valued identities, it is sured by one-item question of how important Chinese ethnic highly likely a more behavior-oriented measure of identity identity is. Although one-item measure of identity promi- salience as used by Stryker and colleagues would yield simi- nence was used by scholars researching on identity, multiple- lar results as the one used in this study with regard to the link item measure of identity salience provides better reliability between identity salience and social networks. and has been proposed by Stryker and colleagues (Merolla Third, this study adds to the literature on the link between et al., 2012). Future studies should use the multi-item mea- identity and social networks by analyzing a social identity: sure of identity salience. Chinese ethnic identity. Previous researches investigate how The calculation of the major predictor percentage Chinese is network structure impacts role identities, which are the focus based on respondents’ estimates of the number of total ties and of identity theory. This article shows that the salience of Chinese ties in their time network. The advantage of calculat- social identities can also be predicted by network measures. ing percentage Chinese using estimates is that respondents are The combination of identity theory and social identity theory 8 SAGE Open substantiated by social network analysis provides new theo- Hogg, M. A. (2006). Social identity theory. In P. J. Burke (Ed.), Contemporary social psychological theories (pp. 111-136). retical insight into the identity processes. Stanford, CA: Stanford University. That is, researchers can examine other social identities Howard, J. A. (2000). Social psychology of identity. Annual Review such as nationality based identities and gender identity with a of Psychology, 26, 367-393. nationality or gender homogeneity measure because the eth- Ichiyama, M. A., McQuarrie, E. F., & Ching, K. L. (1996). nic homogeneity network measure—proportion of Chinese in Contextual influences on ethnic identity among Hawaiian stu- a focal person’s network—is effectively used for the analysis dents in the mainland United States. Journal of Cross-Culture of Chinese ethnic identity in this study. Essentially, category/ Psychology, 27, 458-475. group identities are grounded in the contrast between the in- Kim, N. Y. (2006). "Patriarchy is so third world": Korean immi- group and the out-group. Therefore, the proportion of people grant women and “migrating” white western masculinity. with the same category/group membership is a feasible mea- Social Problems, 53, 519-536. sure for access to people with the same category/group mem- McCall, G. J., & Simmons, J. L. (1966). Identities and interactions. New York, NY: The Free Press. bership. This is an addition to the current literature and McFarland, D., Moody, J., Diehl, D., Smith, J. 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Declaration of Conflicting Interests Structural precursors to identity processes: The role of proximate The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect social structures. Social Psychology Quarterly, 75, 149-172. to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Nagel, J. (1994). Constructing ethnicity: Creating and recreating ethnic identity and culture. Social Problems, 41, 152-176. Funding Pachucki, M. A., & Breiger, R. L. (2010). Cultural holes: Beyond The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- relationality in social networks and culture. Annual Review of ship, and/or publication of this article. Sociology, 36, 205-224. Pyke, K. D., & Johnson, D. L. (2003). Asian American women and racialized femininities. Gender & Society, 17, 33-53. Notes Stark, T. H. (2015). Understanding the selection bias: Social net- 1. A network revolving around a focal person. work processes and the effect of prejudice on the avoidance of 2. 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(2009). Identity theory. Oxford, UK: Author Biography Oxford University Press. Burt, R. S. (1984). Network items and general social survey. Social Cynthia Baiqing Zhang is an assistant professor with the Networks, 6, 293-339. Department of Sociology at Central Washington University. Her Dillman, D. A. (2007). Mail and internet surveys: The tailored research areas include identity, race/ethnicity, crime/deviance, design method. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. organizational studies, and social network analysis.

Journal

SAGE OpenSAGE

Published: Jun 2, 2017

Keywords: Chinese ethnic identity; identity salience; ego network; location; time

References