Relative Rank-order of Salient Identities of the Japanese

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Abstract

How are multiple identities of Japanese people rank-ordered? Previous studies on multiple identities almost exclusively focus on people in the USA. Little is known about the structure of multiple identities of people living in other countries. Japan is a good comparative case because it has both similar and different social contexts than the USA. Analyzing a recent survey of a nationally representative sample of Japanese adults, I examine how multiple identities are rank-ordered by their salience among the Japanese. The results suggest that among ten identities, the most salient are the family–marital status identity, the occupational identity, and the national identity, while the least salient identities are social class, religious, and political identities. This identity rank-order differs from that found in a comparable study of Americans in that the rank-orders of national and religious identities are reversed. The observed patterns also seem to contradict an emerging line of cross-cultural research that suggests national identity is less important for the Japanese than for Americans. Overall, this paper empirically demonstrates the fundamental dictum of symbolic interactionism that self reflects society, and suggests the importance of specifying and examining country-level factors to study identity structures.

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