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Research Roundup: Race Relations in Massachusetts Need Improvement

Massachusetts Residents Give Thumbs Down to Race Relations

Despite having elected their first Black governor, a majority of Massachusetts residents rate race relations in the state as “fair” or “poor,” according to a new survey conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s John D. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies.

A total of 42 percent of Blacks and 49 percent of Hispanics said they had experienced discrimination in the past year. While 45 percent of Whites and 43 percent of Asians state that conditions have “gotten better” for minority groups, just 16 percent of Blacks and 29.3 percent of Hispanics agreed. 

“Boston’s economic future is going to depend on our ability to attract and sustain a racially and ethnically diverse population in order to spur innovation and growth in an increasingly competitive world,” says UMass-Boston Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “The new research shows we have social challenges to confront to better develop our workforce and improve the civic health of our cities and towns and the neighborhoods that sustain them.”

The findings of the Boston Diversity Project survey of 749 adults showed that 56 percent of Whites, 75 percent of Blacks, 67 percent of Hispanics and 52 percent of Asians rated the quality of race relations today as “fair” or “poor.”

Among other findings, when provided with information about the matter, 82 percent of Blacks, 80.5 percent of Hispanics, 70.9 percent of Asians and 69.7 percent of Whites favor charging in-state rates at public universities to undocumented immigrants who graduate high school there.

“Massachusetts has taken the significant step of electing our first African-American governor, but it’s clear that race relations is a standing area of improvement our major institutions need to begin to confront,” says Dr. Steve Crosby, dean of the McCormack Graduate School. “As a university with an urban mission, our role is to turn our research into action and not just lead the discussion, but lead change.”

To download a copy of the report, go to:


Asian Americans Less Likely to Seek Social Support

Two social psychologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have shown that, during times of stress, Asian Americans are far less likely than other people, particularly European Americans, to seek emotional support, advice and help from their respective social networks. The paper appears in the latest issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

“People commonly expect people from collectivistic cultures, such as Asian Americans, to seek help from one another more than those from individualistic cultures, but we found just the opposite was true,” says Dr. David K. Sherman, assistant professor of psychology at UCSB.

A collectivistic culture is one where members of close groups are bound to one another emotionally and primarily consider the group’s goals and well-being. An individualistic culture, on the other hand, prizes the individual’s freedom to think, act and make decisions independently of the needs of the group.

“In Asian American cultures, emphasis is placed on maintaining harmony within the social group, and any effort to bring personal problems to the attention of others or enlist their help may risk undermining that harmony or making inappropriate demands on the group,” says Dr. Heejung S. Kim, the study’s co-author. “The cultural norms appear to discourage the active engagement of one’s social support network for help in solving problems or for coping with stress.”

The research also may explain why Asian Americans tend not to utilize social services available in their communities.

The research suggests that while European Americans view a request for social support as a proactive method of solving problems, Asian Americans are more concerned with the negative implications of asking for help, including the risk of burdening others, disrupting the harmony of the group, making the problem worse and bringing shame to oneself or one’s family.

Marriage Influences Immigrants’ Cohesiveness

The traditional idea that immigrants cluster together in neighborhoods with their countrymen after coming to the United States and move away after achieving economic success is far from universal. New research from the University of Washington indicates that who immigrants marry or partner with has a strong influence on where they live.

The study, published in the current issue of Urban Geography, was authored by Dr. Mark Ellis, a UW geography professor, Dr. Richard Wright of Dartmouth College and Dr. Virginia Parks of the University of Chicago.

The study focused on the eight largest immigrant groups in the Los Angeles area — Chinese, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Iranians, Koreans, Mexicans, Salvadorans and Vietnamese. Mexicans comprised the largest immigrant group, with nearly 1.7 million individuals in 1990, more than six times the size of the next largest group, Filipinos.

“Our research shows that immigrants are partnering with members of other immigrant groups and native-born Americans,” says Ellis, the study’s lead author. “When people talk about immigrants as ‘them’ and Americans as ‘us,’ they need to realize that these two groups are quite mixed together and are not separate populations.”

Among other findings, the study showed that Mexicans were the least likely to live in highly clustered neighborhoods, and nearly a quarter of them partnered outside their group. Chinese, Iranians and Vietnamese were the groups mostly like to live among their countrymen. Guatemalans had the highest rate of marrying or partnering outside their group (36 percent), while Koreans had the lowest rate (13 percent).

“I would be floored if the results would be substantially different in other parts of the country. The rates might be different, but the direction in trends of mixing would be the same,” Ellis says.

— Diverse staff reports

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