, Volume 22, Issue 7-8, pp 427-440

Hispanics in Ivy: Assessing identity and perceived threat

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Membership in social groups is an important aspect of the self-concept, as a number of theorists such as Tajfel (1981) have recognized, and ethnic identity is a major exemplar of such groupings. In the present research, we focus on the particular case of Hispanic identity and the degree to which that identity may be threatened for first-year Hispanic students who enter a predominantly Anglo university. Forty-five Hispanic students (17 female, 28 male) at two Ivy League universities were interviewed early in their first year to assess Hispanic identity, collective self-esteem (Luhtanen & Crocker, 1988), and perceived threats to Hispanic identity. In addition, we considered the degree to which strength of cultural background relates to self-esteem and to perceptions of threat. The majority of students claimed Hispanic as an important identity. Strength of cultural background generally acted as a buffer to perceived threat, particularly for men. Cultural background was also related to collective self-esteem for men but not for women, even though Hispanic identity was more important for women than men. The results attest to the importance of both gender and ethnicity to self-definition and self-esteem, as well as to the complexity of the relationships among these variables.

We thank Tracey Revenson as well as the members of the Identity Research Seminar at the CUNY Graduate Center for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.