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Ethnic and University Identities across the College Years: A Common In-Group Identity Perspective


  • Ten years ago, we published our first article using this longitudinal data set in a volume of the Journal of Social Issues coedited by Michele Alexander and Shana Levin (Sinclair, Sidanius, & Levin, 1998). The topic of the volume was “Understanding and Resolving National and International Group Conflict.” The current article, written for a special issue of JSI dedicated to Michele, examines national group conflict. The focus of other work, conducted in collaboration with Michele, is international group conflict (Alexander, Levin, & Henry, 2005). Michele's legacy is the passion for scholarly inquiry she instilled in her students and stirred in her colleagues. Her inspiration will always be with us.

  • This research was supported by grants from the Russell Sage Foundation, the UCLA Office of the Chancellor, and the National Science Foundation (Award No. BCS-9808686). Special thanks are due to David O. Sears for his collaboration on the longitudinal data collection. Stacey Sinclair is now at Princeton University.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Shana Levin, Department of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College, 850 Columbia Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711 [e-mail:].


The common in-group identity model advocates the creation of a superordinate group identity in order to reduce conflict between members of different ethnic subgroups. This study demonstrates that a university identity can serve as an effective common in-group identity for students from different ethnic groups. Longitudinal data were collected from an ethnically diverse sample of university students at the end of each year of college. Although ethnic identification tended to be correlated with status-legitimizing orientations and ideologies in a way that reinforces ethnic-status differences (i.e., these variables tended to be positively related for Whites but less so for ethnic minorities), the status-legitimizing variables were largely unrelated to university identification during each year in college. The longitudinal data also allowed us to examine these relationships over time. The relationships between ethnic and university identification and status-legitimizing orientations and ideologies did not change. Ethnic and university identities are discussed in terms of the common in-group identity model.