Objectives. We investigate how college student identities and ethnic identities vary among black, white, and Asian students and among immigrant, second-, and third-generation students at a large public urban university (in counterpoint to recent studies at highly selective schools). In addition, we explore how those identities are related to college students' sense of self-esteem and efficacy and their academic performance.
Methods. We use survey data from a sample (N=652) of students attending a large diverse public urban university to create new indexes for several dimensions of college identity and ethnic identity and use existing self-esteem and efficacy indexes to compare black, white, and Asian students, as well as immigrant, second-generation, and third-generation students.
Results. Among several significant identity differences, we find: (1) whites are lower than blacks on college identity indexes, and immigrant students are higher than subsequent-generation students on college student identity measures; (2) whites are lower than blacks and Asians on ethnic identity measures; only the ethnic activities index declines linearly from immigrant to second- to third-generation students; (3) blacks have higher self-esteem and efficacy than whites or Asians; whites have higher GPAs than blacks or Asians, while immigrant students have higher GPAs than third-generation students; and (4) at least one college student identity dimension and one ethnic identity dimension is related to self-esteem, efficacy, and GPA.
Conclusions. How young adults conceive of themselves as college students and the way they formulate their own racial-ethnic identities is related to their self-esteem, efficacy, and academic performance. Moreover, the pattern that these relationships take is somewhat different at a large diverse public urban university than at highly selective universities.