Advances in Applied Sociology
2012. Vol.2, No.1, 7-18
Published Online March 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 7
What Role Can Propinquity Play in the Development of New
National Allegiances? Immigrant Latinos Establishing Ties to the
United States through Out-Group Contact
Christopher Olds
Department of Political Science, College of Arts & Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA
Received January 24th, 2012; revised February 28th, 2012; accepted March 10th, 2012
Contact theory has primarily been applied to the study of interactions between Blacks and Whites, with
particular emphasis on changes in the attitudes of Whites towards Blacks. How individual contact with an
out-group can influence not just attitudes, but also actual behavior, has not been thoroughly explored.
Through an analysis of the 2006 Latino National Survey, using a measure that contrasts the intensity of
individual social interaction with various ethnic and racial groups, the study shows that a high intensity of
friendly social contact with African-Americans increases the likelihood Latino immigrants will establish a
closer link to the social and political structures of the United States. Latino immigrants are potentially
experiencing movement towards deprovincialization through high levels of friendly social interaction
with African-Americans. The development of friendly personal interactions with an out-group stigmatized
in the mother country can help Latino immigrants develop an optimistic view of life in the host country.
Keywords: Contact Theory; Deprovincialization; Out-Group Contact; Inter-Group Relations; Propinquity;
Latino Immigrants; Latino Politics
Although the United States is rich with diversity, most of the
research on inter-group relations in America has heretofore
looked primarily at interactions between Whites and Blacks (e.g.
Sigelman & Welch, 1993; Bledsoe et al., 1995; Stein, Post, &
Rinden, 1998). This previous research is focused on whether
Whites display more positive attitudes toward Blacks following
increased interaction with individuals who are African-American.
The belief is that Whites ultimately become as comfortable in-
teracting with members of a different racial group (classified as
the out-group) as they would with members of their own racial
group (classified as the in-group).
Unfortunately, not enough attention has been paid to the con-
sequences of interactions between different sets of racial and
ethnic groups in the United States (although see Goebes & Shore,
1978; Carlson, Wilson, & Hargrave, 2003; Kao & Joyner, 2004;
Benitto, 2010). It is unclear if the effects seen following contact
between Whites and Blacks are observable following contact
between Latinos and Blacks, Blacks and Asians, Whites and
Latinos, etc. In addition, while we have some sense of how
in-group/out-group interactions have the potential to transform
attitudes, it is not as clear how in-group/out-group interactions
can influence social and political behavior.
An attempt to address this gap in the existing literature is per-
formed in this project through an analysis of the 2006 Latino
National Survey. The responses to this survey offer the capacity
to determine if a high intensity of friendly social interaction with
African-Americans, instead of a high intensity of friendly social
interaction with other groups, increases the likelihood of Latino
immigrants establishing an allegiance to the host country, the
United States. This is an important result, given the rapid influx
of Latino immigrants in recent years (de la Garza, 2004). As will
be explained, friendly contact with African-Americans should
assist Latino immigrant adaptation to the American sociopoliti-
cal system.
While propinquity has been thought to produce positive con-
sequences in that negative attitudes between groups subside, this
study shows another potential benefit—Latino immigrants forg-
ing ties with the United States system, both socially and politi-
cally. As recent research outside of the context of the United
States (Costoiu, 2008; Hamberger, 2009) has discussed immi-
grant perceptions of belonging in the host country, it is worth-
while to examine whether Latino immigrants develop closer ties
to the United States following increased friendly contact with an
out-group traditionally stigmatized in the mother country.
Past Research on the Contact Hypothesis and
Inter-Group Relations
The Contact Hypothesis
The contact hypothesis proposes that frequent social engage-
ment with out-groups modifies how individuals view out-groups.
Negative attitudes toward out-groups ultimately subside upon
increased interaction (Allport, 1954; Hood & Morris, 1998; Mc-
Clain et al., 2006). Groups that do have negative expectations of
each other usually try to avoid contact with each other (Rothbert
& John, 1993; Shelton, Richeson, & Bergsieker, 2009). Oliver
and Wong (2003) find that individuals who live with out-groups
display more positive attitudes regarding out-groups.
Increased interaction between two groups who usually possess
ill feelings towards each other will lead hostile attitudes to wane
(Hood & Morris, 1998). Friendships with members of an out-
group can limit anxiety stemming from pessimistic expectations of
future interactions with other members of that out-group (Page-
Gould, Mendoza-Denton, & Tropp, 2008; Shelton et al., 2010).
The reason is that first-hand social interaction with members of
the out-group helps to change preconceived notions of the group
(Allport, 1954).
A body of research states that in order for the effects of pro-
pinquity to occur, inter-group contact has to meet a certain set
of conditions (Jackman & Crane, 1986; Amir, 1969; Brewer &
Kramer, 1985; Powers & Ellison, 1994; Moody, 2001). Schol-
ars believe that the contact must not have a competitive context
attached to it, the contact has to be prolonged and not isolated,
and the contact must afford equal status to all parties involved.
There has yet to be a resolution in the scholarship to the ques-
tion of whether all conditions need to be met before inter-group
contact will exhibit any of the hypothesized effects. Nonetheless,
in the process of analyzing the question, many studies have found
an association between increased racial contact and more positive
attitudes regarding out-groups (Sigelman & Welch, 1993; Bledsoe
et al., 1995; Stein, Post, & Rinden, 1998; Welch & Sigelman,
2000; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2000; Welch et al., 2001; McClain et
al., 2006). The point is that little social interaction with groups
from different backgrounds preserves ignorance about these
groups. This can breed hostile predispositions towards those from
other backgrounds (Jackman & Crane, 1986). It could be though
that in-group social norms about the value of inter-group contact
is as much a factor in predicting attitudes about out-groups as
actual positive interactions with out-group members (Jasinskaja-
Lahti, Mähönen, & Liebkind, 2010).
There are several studies that have moved beyond a review of
the role of propinquity on changing out-group attitudes, instead
examining the influence of inter-group relations on policy atti-
tudes. In particular, the focus is on how Whites respond to inter-
action with Blacks through their preferences on issues often
linked to the African-American population (Kinder & Sears, 1981;
Bobo & Kluegel, 1993; Kinder & Sanders, 1996; Gilens, 1999;
Federico & Sidanius, 2002). A detailed study from Taylor and
Mateyka (2011) of one hundred localities shows that in those
localities with a large Black population, White respondents hold
less progressive racial attitudes. Such a finding suggests that
greater residential proximity to Blacks, increasing the probability
of contact, actually heightens Anglo hostility towards Blacks.
Some effort has been made to see Anglo responses to contact
with other groups. For instance, Hood and Morris (1998) find
increased Anglo support for immigration with an increase in the
population size of documented migrants. A higher potential for
interaction with documented migrants can help to shape views
on immigration.
Concerns about the Contact Hypothesis Literature
Nonetheless, the areas of inquiry in which contact theory has
been applied are relatively limited. There is a paucity of work
discussing how out-group contact changes not just attitudes, but
behavior as well. For instance, it is unknown whether increased
contact with out-groups helps people learn about others in such
a way to increase their willingness to engage in social and po-
litical collective activities. The building of common associations
with out-groups can spur an increase in the practice of collec-
tive action. This is not a far-fetched assumption to make. With
contact, individuals should become more knowledgeable of
others, and should become less likely to avoid members of out-
groups. The information collected through interaction helps in-
dividuals find common ties with each other (Crosby, Bromley,
& Saxe, 1980; Dovidio, Gaertner, & Kawakami, 2003).
In addition to a dire need to examine the role of out-group
contact on behavior, testing the applicability of contact theory
with other sets of groups is essential. Doing this will address
the generalizability concern regarding contact theory. There have
been prior attempts looking at inter-group relations Latinos
exhibit with Whites and Blacks in school settings (Goebes &
Shore, 1978; Carlson, Wilson, & Hargrave, 2003). In addition,
longitudinal research on adolescent friendships show lower
levels of shared activity with Black friends amongst White,
Asian, and Latino youths, suggesting lower friendship intimacy
with Black friends (Kao & Joyner, 2004). Initial attempts have
been made to evaluate specific religious groups, as seen in ef-
forts to interview Arab women in America and Britain to de-
termine the impact of intergroup contact on views about multi-
culturalism (Benitto, 2010).
Researchers that have looked at contact theory from the per-
spective of Blacks as the in-group find that the attitudes of
Blacks are tied more to feelings about the in-group, rather than
feelings about any out-group (Herring, Jankowski, & Brown,
1999; Sniderman & Piazza, 1993). This could mean contact
theory’s proposed effects only work with a specific in-group/
out-group pairing.
McClain et al. (2006) attempted to see if this was the case by
looking at the response of Latino immigrants to increased social
contact with Blacks. The study found that Latino immigrants
who had higher levels of social contact with Blacks were less
likely to hold negative stereotypes of Blacks. Contact with Blacks
contributed to Latino immigrant expression of more positive
attitudes toward Blacks. This current project picks up where the
McClain et al. (2006) project left off. The intention of this pro-
ject is to evaluate whether social contact not only influences
immigrant attitudes about out-groups, but can also influence im-
migrant social and political behavior.
Can Contact Hypothesis Determine Whether
Deprovincialization of Latino Immigrants Occurs?
The social and political behavior of interest in this project
involves immigrant establishment of closer ties to the host co-
untry, the United States. The proposal is that social contact while
in the host country with an out-group historically stigmatized in
the mother country can result in more positive attitudes about
living in the host country. Such attitudes help to lower nation-
alistic pride (Dovidio, Gaertner, & Kawakami, 2003). More
contact with members of a specific out-group can lead indi-
viduals to appreciate new cultures and reconsider their own cul-
tural standards. Individuals ultimately come to embrace the va-
lues of other cultures and distance themselves from the in-group
culture (Verkuyten, Thijs, & Bekhuis, 2010). Pettigrew (1997)
classifies this process as deprovincialization. The proposal is
that “in-group norms, customs and lifestyles turn out not to be
the only ways to manage the social world… those with out-group
friends gain distance from their own group and form a less pro-
vincial perspective on other groups in general” (1997: p. 174).
In the case of this project, an increase in Latino immigrant
social engagement with African-Americans should lead many
Latino immigrants to shed away much of the preconceived
negative stereotypes or even hostilities held about Blacks that
are unfortunately engrained in citizens of many Latin American
states (Dulitzky, 2001). Although there are Latin American
states that historically have not, or currently do not, recognize
formal racial groups and/or collect information about racial
demographics (Safa, 1998; de la Torre, 1999), the reality is that
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
skin color is a pervasive influence on the socio-cultural frame-
work of most Latin American countries. There is a substantial
amount of scholarship that suggests employment opportunities
and income distributions are tied to a social hierarchy rooted in
color, as well as the limited political mobility or opportunities
available for non-White citizens (e.g. Hasenbalg, 1994; Lovell
& Wood, 1998; Whitten & Torres, 1998; Sansone, 1998; Fry,
2000; de la Fuente, 2001).
For these reasons, the development of friendships with Afri-
can-Americans might be more conducive than friendships with
Americans of an Anglo-Saxon origin to the cultivation of the
view that the culture of the host country is worth embracing.
The reason is that being light-skinned is something that is an
aesthetic ideal and indicator of social status to many Latin
American citizens (Uhlmann et al., 2002). Increased social in-
teractions with White Americans will not change the view that
there is a hierarchy in society rooted in color, whereas more
social interactions with Black Americans could help Latino
immigrants move away from the perspective that skin color is
an indicator of status in the host country. The prediction of the
project is that undergoing the process of deprovincialization
will lead Latino immigrants to adopt the view that there is not
as pervasive a racial hierarchy in the host country as exists in
the mother country. This could help Latino immigrants develop
the perspective that in the host country, there is more equality
of opportunity in advancement, regardless of background. Such
an outlook can drive Latino immigrants to become interested in
establishing closer ties to the United States, given that they can
personally benefit from this perceived equality in opportunity.
In short, an increase in friendly social interaction with Blacks
in the host country should lower Latino immigrant reluctance in
establishing formal ties to the host country. Frequent friendly
social interactions in a new country with an out-group tradi-
tionally stigmatized in their country of origin should lead La-
tino immigrants to reconsider their preconceived views about
this group. This reappraisal will bring about a consideration of
whether the socio-cultural values of the host country embrace a
wider variety of backgrounds than the mother country. If indi-
viduals come to hold this view through a process of deprovin-
cialization, there is the possibility Latino immigrants will shift
away from attachments to their mother country, and will find it
increasingly worthwhile to become socially and politically
linked to the United States.
The development of meaningful out-group friendships could
then have the possibility of bringing about other outcomes in
addition to positive out-group relations (Antonio, 2001). Out-group
friendships with a group stigmatized in the mother country could
make immigrant Latinos attempt to preserve those friendships
and adhere to the socio-cultural values of the host country by
staying in the United States.
Establishing ties with the American system can be exhibited
in a variety of ways. One, Latino immigrants can become natu-
ralized citizens of the United States. An immigrant’s decision to
apply for citizenship is a major decision; it is one way in which
an immigrant can demonstrate they are interested in becoming
integrated politically in the new state (Grebler, 1966; Blumen-
tahl, 1971). Garcia (1981) elaborates, suggesting that an immi-
grant essentially transfers their psychological affiliation from
their mother country to the host country they migrated to.
Second, immigrants can engage in the communities of their
host country, by participating in social, civic, or political groups.
This is perhaps the most obvious way in which Latino immi-
grants can participate in the system, as other avenues of par-
ticipation like voting or making political donations are a bit
more cost intensive for immigrants (Sanchez, 2006).
Lastly, an immigrant can state a preference for staying to live
in the United States. Many Latino immigrants have torn na-
tional allegiances between their mother country and their host
country, with many returning to their mother country after a
period of time in the United States (Oboler, 2006; Jones-Correa,
1998). If Latinos immigrants do not wish to return to their
mother country to live, then they have likely established ties to
their host country. The proposal here is that contact with out-
groups is one means in which to establish those ties.
Potential Alternative Explanations for Latino
Immigrant Engagement with the
American System
The contact hypothesis is not the only available explanation
for engagement with the American system. In-group ties have
been shown to influence how individuals think about their ori-
entation towards the system. Huddy (2003) states group identi-
fication entails a subjective sense of membership. Possessing a
social identity means an individual believes they belong to a
social group, and this knowledge has some level of significance
tied to it (Tajfel, 1981; Berman & Wittig, 2004). Some believe
the possession of a group identity helps to frame the way in
which individuals view the political world. For instance, Conover
(1984) and Tate (1993) find that group identifiers devote more
attention than others to issues linked to their group’s interests.
This group identification is thought of as one element of
group consciousness. Group consciousness means an individual
identifies with a group, is aware of the group’s position in soci-
ety, and is committed to acting with the group to improve the
groups’ interests (Jackman & Jackman, 1973; Gurin, Miller, &
Gurin, 1980; Miller et al., 1981). A substantial amount of re-
search has already looked into whether group consciousness
can help drive political action (e.g. Olsen, 1970; Miller et al.,
1981; Sanchez, 2006). Efforts to produce change comes largely
from individuals that feel they belong to a disadvantaged group,
and see working within the group as the best means in which to
improve their relative position in life (Kelly & Breinlinger,
1996; Kawakami & Dion, 1993; Garcia, 2003; Berman & Wit-
tig, 2004).
Studies looking into influence of group consciousness in
fostering political action believe there are three necessary fac-
tors. First, there has to be a sense of group identification. Sec-
ond, individuals should believe the group is fraternally deprived.
This means that the group one belongs to has a consistently low
level of status in society, especially in comparison to other
groups. Third, the system of government is blamed for exclu-
sion from the socio-political system. This is reflected in part by
feelings that there is a disparity in terms of what the in-group
enjoys compared to out-groups, and that members of the in-
group lack a voice in what the government does. The presence
of these three factors produces political cohesion that could
drive political action (Huddy, 2003: pp. 529-531). It could be
that Latino immigrants who exhibit all three of these views are
more likely to make an effort to advance the cause of their
group. The first step to go about this is to establish ties to the
American system (naturalize, participate in group activities, and
abstain from returning to the mother country).
The last potential explanation is the standard model to ex-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 9
plain participation in the United States, the socioeconomic
model. An increase in personal socioeconomic levels should
increase the likelihood of social and political activity. The be-
lief is that individuals with certain qualities, like enjoying a
higher level of formal education or coming from a higher level
income bracket, will be more likely to engage with the system
(Verba & Nie, 1972; Verba, Nie, & Kim, 1978). Latino immi-
grants could be more willing to develop ties to the American
system if they enjoy higher socioeconomic status.
Research Hypotheses
Given all these potential explanations, there are three hy-
potheses evaluated to help determine which factors will predict
whether Latino immigrants will establish ties to the host coun-
try of the United States.
Hypothesis #1—An increase in social contact with Blacks
will help Latino immigrants develop ties to the American po-
litical system.
a) Latino immigrants with higher levels of social interaction
with Blacks are more likely to become naturalized citizens of
the United States.
b) Latino immigrants with higher levels of social interaction
with Blacks are more likely to participate in the activities of a
community group in the United States.
c) Latino immigrants with higher levels of social interaction
with Blacks are less likely to have plans to return to their mo-
ther country.
Hypothesis #2—An increase in group consciousness will
help Latino immigrants develop ties to the American political
a) Latino immigrants who increasingly identify with their
in-group, have a sense their group is fraternally deprived, and
believe the system of government is exclusionary, are more likely
to become naturalized citizens of the United States.
b) Latino immigrants who increasingly identify with their
in-group, have a sense their group is fraternally deprived, and
believe the system of government is exclusionary, are more likely
to participate in the activities of a community group in the United
c) Latino immigrants who increasingly identify with their
in-group, have a sense their group is fraternally deprived, and
believe the system of government is exclusionary, are less
likely to have plans to return to their mother country.
Hypothesis #3—An increase in personal socioeconomic status
will help Latino immigrants develop ties to the American po-
litical system.
a) Latino immigrants with higher socioeconomic status (edu-
cation and income) are more likely to become naturalized citi-
zens of the United States.
b) Latino immigrants with higher socioeconomic status (edu-
cation and income) are more likely to participate in the active-
ties of a community group in the United States.
c) Latino immigrants with higher socioeconomic status (edu-
cation and income) are less likely to have plans to return to
their mother country.
Data and Model Specification
To examine the impact of out-group contact on Latino immi-
grant behavior given alternative explanations, interview re-
sponses from the Latino National Survey are used. The survey,
conducted between late 2005 to midway through 2006, consists
of responses from native and non-native born Latinos living in
471 counties of 17 American states (Georgia, Virginia, North
Carolina, Illinois, Arkansas, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Ca-
lifornia, Florida, New York, Iowa, New Jersey, Maryland, Co-
lorado, Nevada, and Washington). The survey has the advan-
tage of having responses from areas with a history of having
sizable Latino populations residing there, and areas where there
are emerging Latino populations (Fraga et al., 2006).
Although over 8600 interviews were completed, the analysis
here looks only at the preferences of non-native/non-Black iden-
tifying Latino immigrants. The project evaluates the answers of
4258 respondents. Since the study in part is interested in ex-
plaining the decision to naturalize, respondents of immigrants
from the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are not included.
There are three dependent variables analyzed. The first looks
into whether the respondent has become a naturalized citizen (1
= yes, 0 = no). The second measures whether the respondent has
participated in the activities of a social, cultural, civic, or po-
litical group (1 = yes, 0 = no). Lastly, whether the respondent
plans to go back to their mother country to live permanently is
studied (1 = yes, 0 = no).
A random intercept hierarchical linear model is used because
it allows one to construct the most accurate representation of
the available information about respondents. Individuals in the
population reside in counties of specific states. This means there
is a data hierarchy wherein separate units are grouped at differ-
ent levels—simply put, multiple levels of data exist (Luke, 2004).
In this case, Latino immigrant respondents can be thought of as
the level-one unit, counties are the level-two units, and states
are the level-three unit. In multilevel modeling, we can make
inferences about our dependent variables using a function made
up of variables at multiple levels, while simultaneously model-
ing possible systematic differences between levels (such as
between counties and between states).
Using a random intercept model in this case is not superflu-
ous usage of sophisticated quantitative methodology. In using
this model, we are taking into full consideration the possibility
that there is a different intercept within each group (Gelman &
Hill, 2007). In random intercept models people in different
groups start in different places. Due to the random intercept, we
say some groups have on average higher responses on the de-
pendent variable, while other groups have lower responses. In
other words, the multilevel model takes into consideration that
certain groups will tend to have a particular response for the
dependent variable, while others groups will tend to have an-
other response (Snijders & Bosker, 1999: p. 41). A legitimate
proposal to make is that Latinos from certain counties and
states will tend to have more of an allegiance to the American
system than others, as there are numerous communities with
socially and politically established Latino populations (Stamps
& Bohan, 2006). This aspect is something that needs to be con-
sidered when mapping out the empirical analysis, and the ran-
dom intercept model is one means in which to do this.
Since all dependent variables studied are binary dependent
variables, a transformation using the logit link function is used:
ηijk = logit (Yijk). Here, the letter “i” indexes individual respon-
dents. The letter “j” is the index for the county level grouping,
and the letter “k” is the index for the state level grouping. We
are looking at the dependent variable Yijk for respondent “i” in
county “j” in state “k”. The full structure of the model can be
represented using notation employed by Steenbergen and Jones
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
In level-one, the model is represented below:
ηijk = α0jk + α1jk Social Contact with Blacksijk + α2jk Strength
of Latino Identityijk + α3jk Believe Government is Exclusionaryijk
+ α4jk Fraternal Deprivationijk + α5jk Household Incomeijk + α6jk
Length of Time in the United Statesijk + α7jk Educationijk.
It is important to see that there is no term identified here for
the level-one error variance. As Luke (2004: p. 55) states, with
binary dependent variables, the variance will be determined by
the mean and is not estimated as a separate term. In addition,
the variables Fraternal Deprivation, Household Income, and
Length of Time in the United States are grand-mean centered
and all other level-one predictors are not centered. Grand-mean
centering means you center a predictor on the grand-mean of
that particular variable. The intercept in this case can be inter-
preted as an adjusted mean.
In terms of level-one predictors, Social Contact with Blacks
is the key variable of interest, with a higher score representing a
higher degree of personal interaction with Blacks. Respondents
were asked to describe the racial composition of their friends.
Survey participants that state their friends were mostly Black
receive a score in this analysis representing the highest degree
of social contact with Blacks (the coding of this variable and all
others derived from the survey instrument are presented in the
Appendix). Given the coding of the variable, the measure also
accounts for whether respondents interact primarily with non-
Black out-group members (Whites, Asians, etc.) and/or mem-
bers of the in-group (other Latinos/Hispanics). The benefit of
using this survey item as the representation of social contact is
that it implicitly follows the conditions some scholars see as
necessary for propinquity to have its proposed effect. When one
interacts with a friend, there should not be a competitive con-
text attached to interactions. The interaction is also consistent
over time, instead of infrequent. In addition, friends should
certainly consider each other of equal status (Jackman & Crane,
As stated previously, there are other possible explanations as
to the orientation of Latino immigrants toward the United
States. It might be that interaction with out-groups is less of an
influence on ties to the United States than feelings about the in-
group. Strength of Latino Identity is based on the response to
the question of how strongly the respondent thought of them-
selves as a Hispanic or Latino. Higher scores mean the respon-
dent thinks more strongly of themselves as Latino. The variable
Believe Government is Exclusionary is an additive-index score
based on the response to several questions evaluating govern-
ment in the United States. A higher score means the respondent
thinks the government has little beneficial impact on their life.
The variable Fraternal Deprivation measures the perception of
whether Latinos have the opportunity to advance in the United
States through hard work. A higher value on this variable means
the respondent is more pessimistic about the prospects for La-
An alternative to consider is that personal demographic fac-
tors drive how much Latino immigrants will develop social and
political ties with the U.S. system. Latinos who make more, have
spent more time in the United States, or have more formal edu-
cation, could be more likely to see utility in actively participat-
ing with American social and political structures. Household
Income is the natural log of the total household income. Length
of Time in the United States measures the number of years in
which the respondent has lived in the U.S. This is calculated by
subtracting the year in which the interview occurred from the
time in which the respondent said they arrived to live in the U.S.
The last level-one predictor, Education, describes the highest
level of formal education the respondent completed at the time
of the interview.
Going forward, α0jk is the intercept for level-two unit j within
level-three unit k. For this intercept, we construct the level
two-model as follows:
α0jk = β00k + β01k Population African-Americanjk + δ0jk
where Population African-American represents the percent of
the county’s population that is African-American. This variable
is considered in an attempt to control for the concern that the
ability to engage socially with an out-group is influenced by the
size of the African-American population in the area. One’s
friendships are not going to be totally based on personal choice,
as patterns of interaction will be determined by the social
proximity of individuals (Festinger, Schacter, & Back, 1950;
Vander Zanden, 1984). The information for this variable comes
from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 county demographic pro-
file. This indicator is also grand-mean centered. As should be
clear, α0jk in part is a function of a level-two predictor. All other
level-one coefficients are fixed. β00k is the average intercept in
level-three unit k. For this intercept, we need to introduce the
level-three model with state level predictors:
β00k = γ000 + γ001 African-American Per Capita Income Ad-
vantagek + γ002 African-American Elected Officials Advantagek
+ γ003 Percent of Latinos Unemployedk + γ004 Percent of Lati-
nos Uninsuredk + νook.
The effects of all the state level predictors are fixed. The in-
tention of including these variables is to consider the possible
impact of aggregate economic, political, and social performance
of Latinos on individual behavior. African-American Per Cap-
ita Income Advantage measures how much greater the average
aggregate income divided by total population is for Blacks
relative to Latinos. The information for this variable is calcu-
lated from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 state demographic
profile. African-American Elected Officials Advantage meas-
ures how many more African-American elected officials there
are in the state compared to Latino elected officials. The num-
ber of elected officials for each minority group is measured by
adding information collected about state legislatures and gov-
ernorships in 2006 and 2007 by the Gender and Multicultural
Leadership Project’s National Database of Non-White Elected
If there is a sharp and clear disparity in the sociopolitical
level Blacks have relative to Latinos within a state, Latino im-
migrants could be less willing to establish ties to the host coun-
try. Latino immigrants that perceive it to be difficult to reach a
certain level of status in the state they reside in relative to oth-
ers might see little benefit in becoming more closely linked to
the United States.
Percent of Latinos Unemployed is collected from Wendel’s
(2002) state economic profiles. Percent of Latinos Uninsured
comes from information collected between 2005 and 2006 by
the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All state level pre-
dictors were grand-mean centered except for African-American
Elected Officials Advantage. Latino immigrants who live in a
state with a high unemployed or uninsured Latino population
could perceive little benefit in making the effort to establish ties
to the system.
Given this, we can rewrite the α0jk intercept function by con-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 11
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
sidering aspects of the level-three model:
α0jk = γ000 + γ001 African-American Per Capita Income Ad-
vantagek + γ002 African-American Elected Officials Advantagek
+ γ003 Percent of Latinos Unemployedk + γ004 Percent of Latinos
Uninsuredk + β01k Population African-Americanjk + νook + δ0jk.
All three levels of the model can now be combined into a
single equation. The ultimate model used to analyze the three
dependent variables is presented as follows:
γ000 + γ001 African-American Per Capita Income Advantagek
+ γ002 African-American Elected Officials Advantagek + γ003
Percent of Latinos Unemployedk + γ004 Percent of Latinos Un-
insuredk + γ010 Population African-Americanjk + γ100 Social
Contact with Blacksijk + γ200 Strength of Latino Identityijk + γ300
Believe Government is Exclusionaryijk + γ400 Fraternal Depri-
vationijk + γ500 Household Incomeijk + γ600 Length of Time in
the United Statesijk + γ700 Educationijk + νook + δ0jk.
One thing that should be clear upon a full review of the
model is that it does not factor in the possibility of a self-selec-
tion bias on the part of Latino immigrants in their contact with
out-groups. Some work engaged with the contact hypothesis
believes there is a strong possibility of a self-selection bias pre-
sent (e.g. Sigelman & Welch, 1993; Jackman & Crane, 1986).
The concern is that individuals who lack prejudice toward an
out-group are more apt to interact with the out-group than indi-
viduals who are prejudiced.
Powers and Ellison (1994) helped to assuage these fears in
their usage of endogenous switching regression models. The
two found that models employing contact with out-groups as an
exogenous variable to predict racial attitudes fail to exhibit the
sample selection bias critics suggest exists. Oliver and Wong’s
(2003) study of the impact of living with out-groups on atti-
tudes toward out-groups also found no evidence of a self-se-
lection bias. Given that there is a history of research that shows
no evidence of a self-selection bias present, and also an inabil-
ity to construct a reasonable (given existing literature) repre-
sentation of prejudice with the survey instrument, this issue is
not addressed in the empirical analysis.
It should be noted that the models evaluated here do not in-
clude a country of origin variable. A reason for this is that this
would introduce a fourth level of grouping into the model where
a lack of accurate information exists about the relative size of
the non-White population within that country. Indeed, as men-
tioned above, some Latin American countries either previously
or currently refuse to collect racial demographics for informa-
tion gathering purposes like census data (Safa, 1998; de la
Torre, 1999). In addition, the Latino National Survey instru-
ment does not ask questions regarding an individual respon-
dent’s level of interaction with out-groups in their mother coun-
try. Models unreported in this paper were performed that treated
country of origin as a level-one variable; the inclusion of this
variable as a level-one indicator did not change any of the find-
ings that are reported in the results section. A table of descrip-
tive statistics for the variables used in this project is provided
immediately below (Table 1).
The results of the three multilevel models across the board
confirm the main proposal of the project. Increased social con-
tact with Blacks increases the likelihood Latino immigrants will
establish ties to the American system. The initial results analyze
the determinants of Latino immigrant naturalization. The results
are reported in Table 2.
The coefficient of Social Contact with Blacks is significant
and positive. Gelman and Hill (2007: p. 82) offer a relatively
easy way in which to interpret logistic regression coefficients
like this one. All coefficients other than the intercept term can
be divided by four to obtain an upper bound of the predictive
difference that corresponds to a unit difference in that predictor.
The reason for this is that the upper bound is a legitimate ap-
proximation near the midpoint of the logistic curve. In the case
of the Social Contact with Blacks coefficient, each additional
unit in the level of social contact with Blacks corresponds to an
approximate 5% positive difference in the probability of the
immigrant having become a naturalized citizen of the United
States. Latino immigrants who develop friendly relationships
with Blacks are more likely to make the effort to obtain most of
the rights enjoyed by natural-born citizens.
Table 1.
Descriptive statistics.
Variable Name Mean Std. Dev Min Max
Social Contact with Blacks 1.289 0.545 0 4
Strength of Latino Identity 2.540 0.734 0 3
Believe Government is Exclusionary 0.866 3.973 –8 8
Fraternal Deprivation 1.230 0.542 1 4
Natural Log Household Income 9.070 0.732 6.908 11.156
Length of Time in the United States 17.540 12.115 1 79
Education 2.683 1.500 0 6
Percent Population African-American in County 13.665 13.107 0.1 66.1
African-American Per Capita Income Advantage 2859.626 2419.942 –2613 6455
African-American Elected Officials Advantage –96.853 484.618 –1182 451
Percent of Latinos Unemployed 6.194 1.389 3.8 8.1
Percent of Latinos Uninsured 35.841 7.872 23 53
Dependent Variable 1—Naturalized Citizen 0.331 0.471 0 1
Dependent Variable 2—Civic Engagement 0.152 0.359 0 1
Dependent Variable 3—Return to Mother Country 0.280 0.449 0 1
Table 2.
Determinants of Latino immigrant naturalization.
Parameter Multilevel Logit Estimate
Intercept –2.31*** (0.243)
Individual Level Predictors
Social Contact with Blacks 0.192* (0.0935)
Strength of Latino Identity 0.106 (0.0684)
Believe Government is Exclusionary –0.011 (0.0128)
Fraternal Deprivation 0.178* (0.0858)
Natural Log Household Income 0.511*** (0.0797)
Length of Time in the United States 0.11*** (0.00533)
Education 0.332*** (0.0358)
County Level Predictor
Percent Population African-American in County 0.003 (0.00581)
State Level Predictors
African-American Per Capita Income Advantage –0.00004 (0.00004)
African-American Elected Officials Advantage –0.0001 (0.000189)
Percent of Latinos Unemployed –0.084 (0.0956)
Percent of Latinos Uninsured –0.018 (0.0119)
Variance Components
County Level 0.295 (0.543)
State Level 0.0106 (0.103)
Deviance (–2 x Log Likelihood) 150564
Number of Observations Individual Level 4258
Number of Counties 471
Number of States 17
Std. errors are placed in parentheses Significance Codes *** = 0.001, ** = 0.01, * =
There is relatively little support for the hypothesis suggesting
group consciousness boosts efforts to engage in the system. Only
the Fraternal Deprivation variable is significant in the pre-
dicted direction—those with increased feelings that the in-
group lacks the opportunity to advance in the U.S. are more
likely to strive towards citizenship.
The hypothesis related to the importance of personal socio-
economic status in determining efforts to engage in the system
cannot be ignored in this analysis. Both indicators, Income and
Education, were each significant in the predicted direction. For
instance, each additional unit in the level of formal education
corresponds to about an 8% positive difference in the probabil-
ity of an immigrant being naturalized. In addition, the personal
demographic factor of Length of Time in the United States was
also significant. For the Length of Time in the United States
variable, each additional unit in the amount of time spent in the
U.S. corresponds to an approximate 3% positive difference in
the probability of the immigrant having become a naturalized
citizen of the United States.
While the personal demographic and socioeconomic indica-
tors appear to be a factor in the decision to naturalize, none of
the county or state level predictors were significant in the
model. It should also be noted that the estimated probability of
having become a naturalized citizen with all predictors at a
relevant value (with Social Contact with Blacks, Strength of La-
tino Identity, Believe Government is Exclusionary, Education,
and African-American Elected Officials Advantage at zero, and
all other predictors at their average value) is about 10% when
looking at the inverse logit of the intercept term.
The results for the determinants of Latino immigrant civic
engagement are fairly similar to those seen in the analysis on
naturalization. The results of the second analysis are presented
in Table 3. In terms of the intercept, we should predict the
probability of civic engagement to be about 4% when all pre-
dictors are at a legitimate value of interest, as discussed above.
Again, the coefficient for Social Contact with Blacks is sig-
nificant in the predicted positive direction. An additional unit in
the level of social contact with Blacks corresponds to about a
5% positive difference in the probability of a Latino immigrant
participating in a civic activity in the United States. Latino im-
migrants who engage with African-American citizens are in-
creasingly likely to participate in the activities of a civic group
in the United States.
Much like the previous analysis, there is not much empirical
support for the proposal that group consciousness boosts par-
ticipation in the American system. The coefficient for Believe
Government is Exclusionary is significant in a direction oppo-
site to predictions shaped from theories of group consciousness.
The hypothesis is that if government fails to perceivably offer
beneficial outcomes the in-group can enjoy, the likelihood of
civic engagement would increase, not decrease. Instead of hav-
ing a mobilizing effect as predicted by group consciousness
research, Latino immigrants believing that government is ex-
clusionary actually demobilizes. Latino immigrants that feel
disenfranchised by government are less apt to develop ties to
the system through civic engagement. In this instance, the view
that government does a poor job of advancing the interests of
the in-group lowers Latino immigrant civic engagement.
Table 3.
Determinants of Latino immigrant civic engagement.
Parameter Multilevel Logit Estimate
Intercept –3.33*** (0.241)
Individual Level Predictors
Social Contact with Blacks 0.181* (0.0889)
Strength of Latino Identity 0.016 (0.0663)
Believe Government is Exclusionary –0.0332** (0.0124)
Fraternal Deprivation 0.031 (0.0844)
Natural Log Household Income 0.114 (0.0751)
Length of Time in the United States 0.0271*** (0.00413)
Education 0.431*** (0.0342)
County Level Predictor
Percent Population African-American in County –0.0041 (0.00598)
State Level Predictors
African-American Per Capita Income Advantage 0.00003 (0.00004)
African-American Elected Officials Advantage 0.0002 (0.00019)
Percent of Latinos Unemployed 0.003 (0.0911)
Percent of Latinos Uninsured –0.005 (0.0119)
Variance Components
County Level 0.295 (0.543)
State Level 0.0106 (0.103)
Deviance (–2 x Log Likelihood) 148873
Number of Observations Individual Level 4258
Number of Counties 471
Number of States 17
Std. errors are placed in parentheses Significance Codes *** = 0.001, ** = 0.01, * =
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 13
Personal demographic and socioeconomic indicators, as was
the case in decisions to naturalize, are indeed relevant in deter-
mining the likelihood of civic engagement. Increases in Length
of Time in the United States and Education increase the likely-
hood of participating in a civic group activity in the United States.
For the last analysis, there is the evaluation of Latino immi-
grant plans to return to their respective mother country. The
presentation of the results is seen in Table 4. The proposal
derived from the contact hypothesis is that increased social
contact with African-Americans will lower the likelihood of
wanting to return to one’s mother country. This would reflect
an increased willingness to develop ties with the United States.
The hypothesis is confirmed once again, with each additional
unit in the level of Social Contact with Blacks corresponding to
an approximate 5% negative difference in the probability of an
immigrant expressing plans to return to their respective mother
Yet again, there is little support offered for the group con-
sciousness hypothesis, as none of the indicators are significant
in the predicted direction. It appears Social Contact with Blacks
plays more of a consistent factor in explaining whether Latino
immigrants establish ties to the United States than specific views
regarding the in-group. Personal demographic and socioeco-
nomic variables are still relevant, as increases in Income and
Length of Time in the United States each lower the likelihood of
wanting to return to one’s mother country. Latino immigrants at
a certain demographic level in the United States are less willing
to return to their country of origin.
Table 4.
Determinants of Latino immigrant preference to return to mother country.
Parameter Multilevel Logit Estimate
Intercept –0.655** (0.218)
Individual Level Predictors
Social Contact with Blacks –0.203* (0.0893)
Strength of Latino Identity –0.036 (0.0604)
Believe Government is Exclusionary 0.017 (0.0115)
Fraternal Deprivation –0.066 (0.0848)
Natural Log Household Income –0.201** (0.0658)
Length of Time in the United States –0.0535*** (0.00514)
Education –0.016 (0.0326)
County Level Predictor
Percent Population African-American in County 0.009 (0.00553)
State Level Predictors
African-American Per Capita Income Advantage 0.00005 (0.00004)
African-American Elected Officials Advantage 0.0006** (0.0002)
Percent of Latinos Unemployed 0.069 (0.0939)
Percent of Latinos Uninsured 0.008 (0.0109)
Variance Components
County Level 0.295 (0.543)
State Level 0.0106 (0.103)
Deviance (–2 x Log Likelihood) 144282
Number of Observations Individual Level 4258
Number of Counties 471
Number of States 17
Std. errors are placed in parentheses. Significance Codes *** = 0.001, ** = 0.01, * =
One result that stands out compared to the prior analyses is
that a state level indicator, African-American Elected Officials
Advantage, is both positive and significant. This could mean
that an increase in the political advantage African-Americans
appear to hold at the aggregate level could detract some Latino
immigrants from staying in the United States.
In sum, the most consistent result seen in these analyses per-
tain to the possible link between social contact with Blacks and
an increased willingness to establish ties to the United States.
This gives some credence to the suggestion that through out-group
contact, Latino immigrants can go through a process of de-
provincialization. Latino immigrants perceive a different socio-
cultural framework exists in the United States relative to the
mother country that they can potentially benefit from. This
makes Latino immigrants less reluctant to establish formal ties
with the host country.
This study makes two contributions to the contact theory lit-
erature. First, the proposed positive effects of out-group contact
are not merely confined to a potential drop in hostile attitudes
toward other groups. Out-group contact can lead individuals to
establish more of a link to the social and political system they
live in. Out-group contact then does have the ability to influence
behavior not explicitly tied to a racial context. This could mean
the impact of propinquity is much wider than originally antici-
pated. Second, the study shows that proposed positive outcomes
of out-group contact do not hold only in a White in-group/Black
out-group setup. Latino immigrants responded in a positive way
to high social contact with African-Americans. This means con-
tact theory has the potential to be applicable to other combina-
tions of groups in the United States. The implication of these
findings will be worth exploring in multiple contexts, such as
with immigrants to nations other than the United States, or with
immigrants from alternative racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Future work should continue to explore whether inter-group
contact has an impact on behavior with different sets of in-groups
and out-groups. In the United States context regarding relations
between Latinos and Blacks, extended study should see whether
contact influences Latino immigrant behavior for more complex
forms of participation, such as voting registration and participation.
Said analyses should then be compared with native-born La-
tino behavior following increased contact with Blacks to see if
there is a difference in the response to out-group contact. And
while it was not possible with the current survey instrument, the
response of African-Americans to social interactions with Lati-
nos is necessary to see if there is some equivalency in the posi-
tive impact of out-group contact on social behavior. Attempts
should also be made to see if past experiences Latino immi-
grants have had with out-groups or exposure to certain socio-
cultural values in the mother country help to shape the role of
out-group contact in the host country through the usage of a
more expansive survey instrument.
Although contact theory has been around for decades, there
are many untapped research questions tied to the hypotheses
that should be explored. This analysis hopefully serves as an
inspiration for further study.
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Presentation of Survey Items and Variable Codings
All variables that required manipulation from their original
coding are presented below.
-Naturalized Citizen
NATUSCIT B10. Are you a naturalized American citizen?
1 Yes
2 No
Research Project Coding
1 Yes
0 No
-Civic Engagement
COMPARP D1. Do you participate in the activities of one
social, cultural, civic or political group, more than one such
group, or do you not participate in the activities of any such
1 Yes, one (CONTINUE)
2 Yes more than one (CONTINUE)
3 None (SKIP TO D3)
Research Project Coding
1 Yes
0 No
The reason this is collapsed into a dichotomous variable is
that the original coding for the two “yes” responses are not
informative enough-the “yes, more than one” response is much
too vague about the actual number of activities participated in
that it does not merit modeling as an ordered logit.
-Return to Mother Country
TRGOBACK M8. Do you have plans to go back to (mother
country) to live permanently?
1 Yes
2 No
Research Project Coding
1 Yes
0 No
-Social Contact with Blacks
Original Survey Instrument Item
FRIENDS G6. How would you describe your friends? Are
they (read response items)
1 Mostly Latino/Hispanic
2 Mostly White
3 Mixed Latino/Hispanic and White
4 Mostly Black
5 Mixed Latino/Hispanic and Black
8 (DO NOT READ) Other
0 (DO NOT READ) Mix of all of the above
[For respondents in CA, TX, NY, IL add categories of:]
6 Mostly Asian
7 Mixed Latino/Asian
Research Project Coding
4 Very High Social Contact with Blacks (Mostly Black)
3 High Social Contact with Blacks (Mix of Latino and
2 Moderate Social Contact with Blacks (Mix of all of the
1 Low Social Contact with Blacks (Mostly Latino, Mostly
White, Mix Latino and White, Mostly Asian, Mix Latino and
Asian, Other)
0 Very Low Social Contact (Cannot identify racial/ethnic
makeup of friends)
-Strength of Latino Identity
Original Survey Instrument Item
LAIDENT L10. Finally, [In general,] how strongly or not do
you think of yourself as Hispanic or Latino?
4 Very strongly
3 Somewhat strongly
2 Not very strongly
1 Not at all
Research Project Coding
3 Very strongly
2 Somewhat strongly
1 Not very strongly
0 Not at all
-Believe Government is Exclusionary
Original Survey Instrument Items
People have different ideas about the government in the
United States. Please tell me how strongly you agree or dis-
agree with each of these statements…
BIGINTST K3. A “Government is pretty much run by just a
few big interests looking out for themselves, and not for the
benefit of all the people.”
4 Strongly agree
3 Somewhat agree
2 Somewhat disagree
1 Strongly disagree
9 Unsure
SAYSO K3. B “People like me don’t have any say in what
the government does.” [Repeat on ly if nece ssary: Do yo u agree,
neither agree nor disagree, or disagree with this statement?]
4 Strongly agree
3 Somewhat agree
2 Somewhat disagree
1 Strongly disagree
9 Unsure
COMPLIC C “Sometimes politics and government seem so
complicated that a person like me can’t really understand
what’s going on.” [Repeat only if necessary: Do you agree,
neither agree nor disagree, or disagree with this statement?]
4 Strongly agree
3 Somewhat agree
2 Somewhat disagree
1 Strongly disagree
9 Unsure
NOCONTACT D “People are better off avoiding contact
with government” [Repeat only if necessary: Do you agree,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 17
neither agree nor disagree, or disagree with this statement?]
4 Strongly agree
3 Somewhat agree
2 Somewhat disagree
1 Strongly disagree
9 Unsure
Research Project Coding
Each of the four items is recoded as follows
2 Strongly agree
1 Somewhat agree
0 Unsure
–1 Somewhat disagree
–2 Strongly disagree
After recoding, the scores from each response are summed
into one total.
-Fraternal Deprivation
Original Survey Instrument Items
LATDISC N1.B Latinos can get ahead in the United States
if they work hard?
4 Strongly Agree
3 Somewhat Agree
2 Somewhat Disagree
1 Strongly Disagree
Research Project Coding
1 Strongly Agree
2 Somewhat Agree
3 Somewhat Disagree
4 Strongly Disagree
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.