Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
The question of why individuals value identities like race and gender is a contested one. Scholars in the Reflected Appraisals tradition argue that members of minority groups experience identity devaluation and minority stress (Hacker 1992; Harris 1993; Meyer 1995; Tatum 1997; Hoff-Sommers 2000; McIntyre 2002) and come to value their identities less in empirical terms than do members of equivalent majority groups (Harris 1993; Hacker 1995). The thesis here is that the values individuals place upon in-group identities are determined by the prestige and power of their in-groups (Cornell and Hartmann 2006: 60). This argument has been advanced often in both domestic and multi-national contexts (Spinner-Halev and Theiss-Morse 2003), but several rigorous empirical tests so far fail to support it (Charles 2003). My dissertation is a comprehensive test of the hypothesis that membership in a minority in-group predicts lowered valuation of in-group identity. I employ ordinal and List Experiment surveys to determine whether members of four minority groups value their identities less than members of the equivalent majority groups (racial, sexual, heterosexual, religious) in terms of (1) placing lower monetary values upon them and (2) being hypothetically more willing to change them. My hypothesis is that identity valuation will not be status dependent: minority status will not generally correlate to a significant degree with lowered identity valuation, as development of oppositional identities allows minorities to value themselves despite potential discrimination (Stern 1995; Simein 2005). This thesis was largely although not totally confirmed. With several exceptions during my List Experiment research, American racial minority status does not correlate with lowered valuation of racial identity, and female sex does not correlate with lowered valuation of gender identity. Religious minorities do not generally value their religious identities less than Protestant Christians, to a statistically significant degree. However, I did find consistent negative and usually significant correlations between LGBT status and lowered valuation of sexual orientation. List Experiment results also indicate that whites may be less honest about their levels of in-group identification than are minorities.
This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.