Perspectives on Politics

Research Article

Asian American Identity: Shared Racial Status and Political Context

Jane Junna1 and Natalie Masuokaa2

a1 Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. E-mail:

a2 Tufts University. E-mail:


Amidst rising levels of ethnic diversity in the United States, scholars struggle to understand how group consciousness functions among other non-black minority groups such as Asian Americans and Latinos. Most of the literature in this area focuses on the relationship between identity and immigration incorporation or the debate between national origin and panethnicity. We argue that the Asian American community offers an important case study to understand how social context and one's perceived racial position influence an individual's sense of group attachment. Thus, the Asian American case presents new insight beyond the black politics model into how racial identification influences individual political attitudes and behavior. We present findings from a unique embedded survey experiment conducted in 2004 that reveals a surprising degree of malleability in Asian American racial group attachment. This is a striking contrast to the findings demonstrated by blacks whose racial identification is relatively more stable over various contexts. We seek to explain these findings by advocating for a more explicit consideration of the structural incentives and costs of adopting racial and ethnic identities by highlighting the significance of U.S. immigration policy and its role in creating group-based stereotypes and racial tropes.


Jane Junn is Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Professor, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University ( Natalie Masuoka is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Tufts University ( The authors would like to thank the editors and the anonymous reviewers of Perspectives on Politics, and panelists at the 2006 Western Political Science Association Annual meeting for their helpful comments and suggestions. Research for this paper was sponsored by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Leaning and Engagement (CIRCLE).