Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Michael S. Lewis-Beck
My dissertation examines how an environment containing politically favorable policies influences political engagement of Latinos and Asian Americans in the United States. The threat hypothesis claims that living in a threatening environment provokes a sense of anxiety, which leads to active engagement in politics. The assumption underlying the hypothesis is that living in a non-threatening, or favorable, environment, conversely, will not motivate individuals to be engaged in politics. The dissertation aims to investigate this untested assumption: How does a favorable environment influence individuals' political involvement? I examine this question using two separate survey data-sets for Latinos and Asian Americans, combined with aggregate-level data for contextual variables.
The dissertation argues that, opposite of the assumption of the threat hypothesis, those living in a favorable environment will be more likely to be engaged in politics. I call this the "nurturing hypothesis." My argument builds on social identity theory, which emphasizes the importance of collective membership and the significant impacts that group membership can have on behavior. Latinos and Asian Americans in a favorable environment will be offered with both opportunity and motive for active political participation. In terms of opportunity, due to high publicity regarding the adoption of minority policies, a progressive environment provides Latinos and Asian Americans with more political information. Since individuals need information in their political decision-making, it will nurture their political involvement.
In terms of motive, residing in a progressive environment will mobilize Latinos and Asian Americans. The progressive context leads to a heightened concern with the issue of fairness and equality. Considering that minority policies have been mostly concerned with distributive equality in the society, this situation will trigger concerns for group entitlements in procedures. Therefore, Latinos and Asian Americans in progressive states will feel that there still exists inequality. Ironically, for Latinos and Asian Americans, having pro-minority polices is actually perceived as threatening or unsatisfying. The perception of social injustice will result in feelings of resentment or dissatisfaction, which in turn will motivate people to be actively involved in politics in order to improve the situation.
Copyright 2009 Hoi Ok Jeong