Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Marketing

Committee Director

John Ford

Committee Member

Kiran Karande

Committee Member

Altaf Merchant

Committee Member

Weiyong Zhang


The United States is becoming increasingly multi-cultural and there are various new immigrant consumer groups that businesses try to reach through ethnic-based segmentation and targeting. Often, businesses offer accommodation strategies to their ethnic consumer groups through language or other cultural accommodation tactics. There are inconsistencies in the literature for the efficacy of ethnic-based targeting and accommodation strategies: often these do not have the desired results and there is evidence that ethnic identification may be fading over time for many immigrant groups.

There is evidence that acculturation may be a better predictor of consumer behavior such as preferences for brand, services, and/or marketing communications. Acculturation is the adoption by a person or group of the culture of another social group, or the process leading to acculturation, and assimilation is the complete adoption so that a person has left behind their former culture. There are various existing measurement tools to identify an individual’s level of acculturation; however, there are concerns with the existing tools. All but one measurement tool treat acculturation as a reflective scale, all view acculturation as a one-time event, and the tools have been largely developed for specific contexts such as mental healthcare. Also, many scales lump all ethnicities into one group such as the Suinn-Lew Asian Acculturation Measurement Scale, and this presents theoretical cultural concerns. The difficulty is that the acculturation process involves both formative and reflective components, and it is a process which can change over time.

Through conducting two qualitative studies with 57 participants on both the east and west coasts of the country (Virginia, New York, and California), we found that in order to effectively examine acculturation, there must first be a desire or propensity to assimilate and then that propensity in turn will influence actual acculturation behaviors. Through two separate studies we then developed (N=222) and validated (N=248) a parsimonious propensity to assimilate index. Testing it in a nomological net (N=504), we found that the index causally influences subsequent acculturation behaviors, cultural orientations, and brand preferences. To develop the index, we used Diamantopoulos and Winklhofer’s (2001) index-development protocols. We also adapted existing Asian context acculturation measures using the Churchilll (1979) scale-development ptotocols (N=222 for the EFA and N=504 for the CFA). In order to eliminate cultural confounding effects, we kept our sample to the Chinese culture and used only Chinese immigrants and first- and second-generation Chinese Americans. All data was collected by Qualtrics panels and included strong quality control measures. The index and scale were developed, refined, and tested in a nomological net, and the index was reduced to three items and the scale was refined to ten items. Antecedents to someone’s propensity to assimilate are cosmopolitanism, age, and generational status. Through testing in structural equation modeling in AMOS, we show that the index influences an individual’s acculturation behaviors, brand preferences, and cultural orientations. Additionally, strength of ethnic identity is a moderator in the theoretical model with stronger ethnic identity weakening the relationship between an individual’s propensity to assimilate and their acculturation behaviors. We found that the higher an individual’s propensity to assimilate, the more likely they are to prefer American-made brands. The insights from this research will help marketing managers better understand, segment, and target their consumers’ propensity to assimilate and subsequent acculturation behaviors. Future research may examine the predictive capacity of the propensity to assimilate index vs. the acculturation behavior scale; explore the acculturation behavior segmentation categories; examine other outcomes such as purchase intentions; and conduct experiments on the index’s ability to predict consumer’s preferences for advertisements, sales personnel, products, and desired aspects of services encounters.


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