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Social Distance and the Openness of UNCG Student to Foreign Born Populations Casey Strange, Alex Fitz-Gerald

, Meme Keophine, Kyana Ferguson, Laura Harris SOC 301 December 7, 2007

Social Distance and the Openness of UNCG Student to Foreign Born Populations

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is hailed as the most diverse campus in the UNC system ( 2007). We currently boast a minority population of about 36%, according to the university profile on The campus has a highly active immigrant population which includes clubs and other organizations, such as the Lloyd International Honors College, the multicultural resource center, the Asian Student Association, etc. UNCG also has numerous international programs, including exchange programs with more than 40 other campuses around the globe. With all these opportunities available to students, as well the growing population of international students (most of whom live on campus in the I-house dorm), one would reasonably assume that the student body at UNCG would be very open to the local foreign born populations. Our project poses the question: How open are UNCG students to the local foreign-born population and are UNCG students open to social interactions with immigrant communities?

Our research question begged us to scrutinize and make conjecture about not only the student body as a whole, but also individual groups on campus.. We asked, “Will some groups be more open than others?” “What kind of effect will the individual students’ background have on their openness?” From these questions we began to search the existing body of knowledge via the use of online databases. The information gained

from the 25 articles we found relating to our research topic was used for not only further directing of our research, but also the compiling of our literature review We first looked for reasons why students might not be open to immigrants. From this research we were able to learn that many people are scared of immigrants: they believe that immigrants have diseases, that they are dirty, they are violent and uncivilized, and many members of the dominate population are afraid that immigrants will take their jobs and take their place in society. However, some studies showed that the higher the education level of a person, the more likely they are to be open to immigrants. This particular piece of information shaped our hypothesis regarding the feelings and openness of students at UNCG. We began to see, emerging from our research, that women were far more likely to be open to foreigners than men. So from this piece of information we began to muse. Why would women be more open to immigrants than men? Why would sex make such a difference? So we reached back into the dusty crevices of our minds and looked at women in history. There again something stood out quite obviously, they’re weren’t any. We couldn’t remember any famous women of history, outside of the past 120 years of feminist movements. Maybe the women felt sorry for the immigrants, but more realistically maybe women could simply understand where they were coming from, because they’ve both been discriminated against and cast aside often. So we mused again, whom else has been victim of this same discrimination? We named off many groups: African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, etc… So maybe the common thread here was that populations whom are perceived to have different norms, values, or characteristics are subject to severe sanctioning and a viewed with great

prejudice by the prevailing or dominate group. Out of this came our hypothesis. We believed that being a member of a minority group (i.e. not being a white male) would have a strong correlation with a heightened level of openness to the local foreign born populations. It just seemed to make sense that everyone who is different from the norm would stick together for mutual support, which is reinforced by the literature that told us immigrants, whom have a community of people around them of similar background, are less likely to feel alienated or discriminated. Literature Review Negative reactions towards foreign born populations are becoming a problem globally. There have been many negative stereotypes associated with foreign born populations. Many factors can lead up to these feelings. Some people react differently depending on their age, sex, and experience with immigrants. Overall people feel that immigrants are threatening. Often people feel like immigrants have a negative effect on the education systems. Some principles have concluded that the two primary problems that immigrants are having is knowing the language and transitioning into the school environment. As a result immigrant students in the classroom were thought to have a negative effect on the educational process (Dimakos & Tasiopoulou, 2003). Another study was conducted on stereotypes of Hispanics. One of the negative stereo types that came up was that Hispanics were not as intelligent as Non Hispanic Whites. In this study there were also more explicit measures of ill feelings towards Hispanics (Weyant, 2005). When respondents were asked about immigrants they sometimes felt more animosity towards some groups versus others. When Sergent, Woods, and Sedlacek

(1992) conducted a study on Arabs finding that the participants reacted negatively whenever they came into contact with an Arab person versus when they came into contact with someone who looked like them. Some people even go as far and say that they feel that Blacks and Hispanics are more violent than any other race (Alba, Rumbaut, & Marotz, 2005). There are stereotypes against certain minority groups and not others, but overall the dominate population seems to think that minorities are a threat to society and that they are not as educated. Some people even act their prejudices by acting different or by favoring some groups versus others. When international students were asked about discrimination a majority of them felt that they have experienced some type of discrimination. Asian-American and Latino students were significantly more likely to perceive prejudice and discrimination on campus (Cabrera & Alberto, 1994; Nora, & Amaury, 2001). In other studies they found that international students reported higher levels of discrimination than the U.S. students and those students who had lived in the U.S. longer reported higher levels of professed discrimination. The level of perceived discrimination among the students predicted their level of homesickness (Yao, 2007). Also, those students who felt alienated from others also felt that they were being discriminated against (Lopez & Poyrazli). Another survey that was conducted dealt with how immigrant students felt towards everyone else. The results showed that almost all of the participants from each group were most comfortable with members of their own race than with members of another race. The Asians tended to be the most uncomfortable around African Americans. They were also more comfortable with the whites than the whites were with them (Smith, Bowman, & Hsu).

Many studies have found that the higher the education a person has then the more open they are towards immigrants (Badyshtova, 2005; Neal, Micki, & Bohon, 2006). The only time when an older person felt open towards an immigrant was when they had an education past the age of 18 (Nora, 2001; Dustmannn et al, 2001). Several studies have found that females tend to be more open than males when it comes to interacting with an immigrant (Dustmann et al, 2001; Neal et al, 2006; Mehta & Ruby; 1997). Depending on the concentration of immigrants in a particular area also affect how the local population felt. Whenever there were high concentration of immigrants there seemed to be more negative feelings coming from the local populations (Dustmannn et. Al, 2001). The dominate population feels as if minorities are the bigger population. They feel that the minorities could possibly over take them in size. The dominate population seems to have a distorted perception of actual population sizes which in turn makes them feel animosity towards immigrants (Alba, et. Al, 2005). Another study was conducted in order to find out if there was a way to avoid negative feelings towards immigrants. In this study they found that putting less emphasis on group sentiments can reduce the amount of prejudice among the dominate group. The only time when groups showed unfavorable attitudes towards other groups were when they were focused on their group. For instance, if an American person was focused on the American flag and relating the flag to American pride then they were more likely to react negatively towards immigrants. So, if certain group items did not have so much emphasis on them then people could start to relate to one another. Researchers in this study found that in order to reduce negative feelings we should put less emphasis on group membership (Danso, Sedlovskaya, & Suanda).

Overall findings show that the higher an education a person has then the more open they are towards immigrants and the only time when an older person felt more open was when they had a higher education. Also, in some situation women tended to be more open than males did. Aside from their openness many people still felt that immigrants were a threat to society. They feel as if immigrants are stupid and violent. The majority does not realize that they are still in fact the dominate population and that there is no need to feel negative about immigrants. Not only are people admitting to discriminating on minorities, but minorities are also feeling that they are being discriminated against. There are some steps that we can take to change the way people feel and that is to educate everyone either through the media or education system. We can also put less emphasis on group sentiments in order to reduce negative feelings. Methodology Our methodology for this research involved interviews and surveys. First, all five research teams developed a maximum of five questions to include into one interview. Once all the questions were compiled together, every member of each research team was supposed to administer the interview to one student who was not in the class. Each person was required to complete a narrative summary. After all the summaries were completed each research team was required to analyze each narrative extracting information that pertained to their research question. Secondly, each research team compiled a list of questions that were placed into one survey. Our questions consisted of an adaptation Social Distance Scale. There were two parts to the Social Distance Scale, it dealt with how close of a relationship you would have with a foreign born person and what type of relationships have you actually had

with a foreign born person. Another question dealt with if the person felt more or least comfortable with people from certain groups versus others. One of the last questions was how often does a person interact with a foreign born person, this question was on an ordinal scale. After all the survey questions were compiled together, they were given to Sociology classes ranging from lower level freshman classes to upper level majors only classes. The surveys were administered by the professor. There was no type of incentives given out to the students who completed the surveys. Once all of the surveys were completed we coded the data into an SPSS data set. We had to clean the data due to some data entry issues. The dataset was then analyzed using univariate and bivariate statistical analysis techniques.


In order to test our hypothesis that females and minorities are more open

towards foreign born people, we conducted interviews with 22 respondents from UNCG and surveyed 361 sociology students. Of the 22 interviewees, 6 of them were male. Out of the 361 survey respondents, 86 of them were male. Interviews Where interactions with foreign born people took place Had Interactions US and Interactions in US Abroad 22 15 8

# of Respondents Total: 22

Type of interactions with foreign born people

# of Respondents Total: 22

Good Live Interactions near foreign born 22 20

Work with foreign born 8

School with foreign born 22

In our interview, we asked questions regarding how open people felt towards foreign born people. Our first question asked if anyone has ever had interactions with foreign born people. The probes with it asked where the people were from, whether the interactions were good or bad, and if the interactions took place in the US or in another country. All 22 of the interviewees said that their interactions with the foreign born people were good. Only one person said that the only interactions that weren’t good were with Mexican construction workers. Fifteen of those people said that their interactions took place in the US. Eight of the 22 said that their interactions took place with foreign born people in the US and abroad. The most common places the foreign born people were from were Africa, Mexico, Australia, China, and Latin America. A few people mentioned Italy, England, India, Puerto Rico, and Germany. Some respondents gave a broader picture and said that they had interactions with people from all over the world. The next question in the interview asked how one felt about foreign born people. The probes were whether or not someone had different feelings towards certain groups, if yes, which groups they were, and whether they lived near, went to school or worked with foreign born people. Of the 22 interviews, every person said that they did not have different feelings towards foreign born people. The farthest anyone went to say was that prejudice cannot be helped and there are always going to be stereotypes, but that there

was not a particular group they felt different towards. A few people said that sometimes you are going to have feelings about a particular ethnicity, but that they try not to and they try to remain open. Two people indicated that sometimes Mexicans offend them, but this was because of their sexual nature towards young American women. There were about four or five people who felt like they were very open towards foreign born people and that they loved learning new cultures and felt that meeting foreigners was a learning experience. Two people indicated that they did not feel different towards foreign groups as long as the foreign groups were nice and also open towards them. One Asian interviewee indicated that she did feel as comfortable around Asians because she comes from the Asian culture and the people tend to be very involved in other peoples lives and business. She felt like they were too nosy and did not always feel comfortable around her own ethnicity. Two out of 22 people said that they did not live near foreign born people and two did not talk about living near foreigners at all. There were also a couple of respondents who did not indicate whether or not they went to school with foreign born people. However, all of the 22 interviewees go to school with foreign born people. Each person attends UNCG and the campus is known to be a culturally diverse place. Eight of the 22 indicated that they have worked or currently do work with foreign born people. One interesting fact noticed during the interviews was that one 18 year old female studying education stated “No, I just came to college, why would I have?”, when asked if she had ever had any contact with foreign born people I found this very odd because she was from Raleigh, NC and is now attending a very culturally diverse school. I found it very hard to believe that being from Raleigh she had never once in her life come into contact with a foreign born person. It is easy to see that some people do not understand

questions fully, or do not ever take the time to realize that they in fact have come into contact with foreign born people. The third question asked if the student thought UNCG was a culturally diverse campus. The probes asked how the student felt about the campus and how diverse they thought the students and faculty were. When asked how diverse the campus was among students and faculty, 9 of the 22 people thought that it was mainly diverse among the students. Only one person thought the faculty was more diverse and 8 thought that the campus was diverse among both the students and faculty. Four people did not give an answer at all. It is interesting to see that almost half of the interviewees thought it was more diverse among students. Yet the other half thought it was almost the same diversity with both. There were a few people who indicated that the campus was diverse but that they have seen more culturally diverse places. The last question regarding openness towards foreign born people was how close of a relationship someone is willing to have towards a foreign born person. There were five different kinds of relationships to choose from. The interviewees were given choices of co-worker or classmate, friend, neighbor, whether they would date an immigrant and whether they would marry an immigrant. There was one respondent who did not clarify what type of relationship she would have because she never really grew up around foreign born people and was not experienced in that area. The rest of the respondents stated that they would have a co-worker, classmate and friend that were foreign born. 18 of the 22 said they would date an immigrant and 16 said they would marry one. Three of the 16 said that they would only marry the immigrant if they were legal. If the immigrant was illegal then the person would not marry them. Three of 22 people said that they

wouldn’t marry an immigrant simply because marriage is not for them and they do not see themselves ever really getting married. Overall, the interviewees seemed to be very open towards foreign born people. No one openly stated that they had different feelings towards foreign born groups unless it was someone who was sexually harassing them. Only eight of the respondents have been out of the country to experience interactions with foreign people. Almost every person was willing to have a very close relationship with a foreign born person. The thoughts of the students were that the campus was very diverse and open. Survey Findings We then surveyed 361 UNCG Sociology students and asked them 60 questions regarding their experience with globalization. There was a specific set of questions that pertained to our hypothesis and we analyzed the data for them. We analyzed the data for questions 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26. Through descriptive frequencies and cross tabulations, we compared the data and found that the information we acquired did not support our hypothesis that minorities and females are more open to foreign born populations. The majority of our respondents were freshman with 47.5 percent and on campus residents with 56 percent. There is a strong female population with 76 percent and more than half of the respondents as white with 54.8 percent. The African American population was 32.6 percent, 7.3 percent for Asian or Pacific Islander, 5.3 percent made up the Hispanic population and 3.4 percent made up the Native American or Indian population. There were no respondents who replied as being Arab-Americans. Of the respondents, 56.5 percent work and attend school. The average person is 20.2 years old, but the ages range from 17 to 56. There were 361 respondents and 58.2 percent of them

are from North Carolina. Of the remaining, who are from another state, 23.5 percent and 15.8 percent are from another country. Over half of the people at 54.1 percent have visited another country, however this is including those who are from another country and also residing here in the US. The average number of credits is 35.6 which correlates with the data that most of our respondents are freshman. However, the average number of credits ranges from 0 to 153. Also the average number of semesters here is 2.57 which also correlate with being a freshman. Demographics 1. Have lived on campus 2. Current residence On Campus 3. Current residence Off Campus (alone) 4. Current residence Off campus (with Parents) 5. Current residence Off campus (with other family) 6. Current residence Other housing 7. Male 8. Female 9. Black/ African American 10. Asian/ Pacific Islander 11. Non-Hispanic White/ Anglo 12. Hispanic/ Latino 13. Near East Asian/ Arab-American 14. Native American/ American Indian 15. Other Ethnicity 16. Freshman 17. Sophomore 18. Junior 19. Senior 20. Other 21. Transfer Student 22. Working Numbe r out of 361 255 200 93 38 23 3 86 273 116 26 195 19 0 12 12 173 74 53 50 6 64 199 % of total 72.6 56.0 26.1 10.6 6.4 .8 24 76 32.6 7.3 54.8 5.3 0 3.4 3.4 48.6 20.8 14.9 14.0 1.7 17.7 56.5

Question 22 asks what kind of relationship the respondent is willing to have with a foreign born person. We had nine levels of interaction and the highest that people would be willing to have was 95 percent for a friend that was foreign born and 92.7 percent for a classmate. Also, 76 percent said they would be willing to have a foreign born acquaintance. When it came to dating, 65.1 percent said they would date a foreign born person and 60.1 percent said they would have a boyfriend or girlfriend that was foreign born. However, only 55.6 percent said they would have a life partner, but 70.9 percent said they were willing to have other familial relationships.

Dominant * HiMidLow22 Cross tabulation HiMidLow22 1 2 Domina M Count 134 170 nt inori % within 44.1% 55.9% ty Dominant W Count 16 35 hite/ % within 31.4% 68.6% Mal Dominant e Total Count 150 205 % within 42.3% 57.7% Dominant

Total 304 100.0% 51 100.0% 355 100.0%

Question 23 assesses what kind of relationship they really have had. The amount of respondents who actually have had a classmate and acquaintance that was foreign born is 80.2 percent. However, only 21.2 percent have had a roommate. When it came to having a foreign born friend, 83.2 percent said that they do indeed have one. However, a close or best friend only received 38 percent. The percentage of those who have dated a foreign born person is 20.1 and 15.6 for an actual boyfriend or girlfriend relationship. Even though over half said they would have a life partner, only 1.4 percent has actually

had a life partner that was foreign born. For other familial relationships, the percentage was 19.3. Dominant * HiMidLow23 Cross tabulation HiMidLow23 1 2 3 M Count 167 93 43 inori % within 55.1% 30.7% 14.2% ty Dominant W Count 29 18 4 hite/ % within 56.9% 35.3% 7.8% Mal Dominant e Count 196 111 47 % within 55.4% 31.4% 13.3% Dominant Total 303 100.0% 51 100.0% 354 100.0%

Domina nt




Questions 22 and 23 Means Test Group N Mean Std. Deviation Domin 51 7.2549 2.54435 ant Minor 304 6.6809 2.46564 ity Domin 51 3.6863 1.64305 ant Minor 303 3.5677 1.58883 ity

Std. Error Mean .35628 .14141 .23007 .09128

The standard mean of the dominant and minority population were within six tenths of one another with standard errors that were not statistically significant. The standard error of the mean was not enough to either support or refute our hypothesis. Question 24 asks if they feel more comfortable with some groups than others and 35.7 percent answered yes. However, as noted earlier, the interviewees all said that they did not have different feelings towards certain foreign groups. This could be interpreted that people are willing to be more open with an anonymous survey than they would in a

face to face interview. Often, people feel uncomfortable when asked to openly admit whether or not they harbor certain feelings towards different ethnicities. The purpose of the survey was to extract answers that would be more truthful and measurable. Dominant * Do you feel more comfortable with members of some foreign born groups versus others? Cross tabulation Do you feel more comfortable with Total members of some foreign born groups versus others? 0 1 999 Domina M Count 196 106 2 304 nt inori % within 64.5% 34.9% .7% 100.0% ty Dominant W Count 30 22 0 52 hite/ % within 57.7% 42.3% .0% 100.0% Mal Dominant e Total Count 226 128 2 356 % within 63.5% 36.0% .6% 100.0% Dominant The survey respondents were then asked to share what groups they felt most and least comfortable around. There were still many people who answered yes to question 24 but did not indicate which groups. There were 67.8 percent who did not answer the questions as to whether or not they were more or less comfortable with certain groups. However, there were very common answers for question 24.b and question 25. In compiling this data, we looked at the groups people listed and gave them a code. If they were from the same area they got classified into a larger ethnicity. If the respondent said that they were more or less comfortable with people from an exact country over in Europe, we classified that as being more or less comfortable with Europeans. We did the same for the other categories. Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese were put into the Asian category. Anyone from Latin America, Mexico, or other Hispanic countries was

classified as Hispanic. We continued this classification for the rest of the ethnicities. Another interesting note is that many people said they did not feel comfortable around a foreign born person if they could not communicate with them. It was not the fact that they were a different ethnicity but a language barrier. Many of the interviewees mentioned this as well. Percentages for Comfort Level Hispan ic Most Least 14.3% 26.3% Caucasia n 15.7% 16.7% English Speakin g 8.1% n/a Asian Caribbean Africa n 4.2% 2.6% 7.3% 16.7% Middle Others Eastern 2.2% 38.6% 2.5%

12% 24.6 %

Respondents were most uncomfortable with Middle Eastern and Hispanic people. There was also a discrepancy towards Asians. It is interesting to see that the percentages of least comfortable with Caucasian and African matched. We inferred that this is because white people tend to be uncomfortable around black people and vice versa. Our findings did not particularly show that women and minorities are more willing to have relationships with foreign born people. The level of comfort according to the minority group could not be sufficiently interpreted from the information. While we could measure the overall comfort level towards foreign born people, the data was unclear as to who was more open. These relationships ranged from a simple acquaintance to a life partner. No matter what race, women are considered a minority and we felt that they would turn out to be more open than the dominant white male.

However, through our cross tabs, frequencies, interviews and surveys, our hypothesis was not supported.

Conclusion In summary our team found that the university as a whole is a very open environment, which is quite diverse and while not completely accepting of all persons foreign and domestic, based on our responses in question 22 the students are willing to try. Both the interviews and the surveys showed an extremely high openness from all UNCG students towards immigrants. Our hypothesis that females and ethnic minorities would be more open to immigrants than the dominate population was supported by the data from question 23 of our surveys. We saw a difference of nearly 10% between the numbers of high scoring minorities and dominants, with minorities scoring higher. However, the overall data was found to have no statistical significance in regards confirming our hypothesis. Our team deduced that while our current findings are sufficient for the purposes and limited resources of a short-term undergraduate research project they are by no means a reliable measure of the actual openness of UNCG students on the whole. Our limitations were with the under representation of groups within the university population, because of the use of a convenience sample of select classes and not a random sample. The classes to whom the survey was administered were only sociology classes, meaning the students were interested in, if not simply learning about other cultures and ways of thinking, therefore opening their minds. As for the limitations of our literature review we were not able to have access to the original transcripts from which to refer while

compiling the information for the report. The bias we have found when comparing the interview data to that of the surveys suggests that interviewees are very unlikely to speak freely about their personal prejudices; whereas, when answering an anonymous survey they are more likely to be honest. The interviewees were also convenience samples in that many students chose to interview friends and classmates. This means that the interviewees may have been either very likeminded of the interviewer or could have been eager to please them. The limited number of questions and probes which we were able to use, both in our surveys and interviews also handicapped our ability to measure the true openness of students towards foreign born populations. In conclusion the information we have collected does not seem to support our hypothesis; however, it does seem to support the assumption that UNCG as a student body is open to associations with foreign born populations..


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