The social identity and social networks of ethnic minority groups in organizations: A crucial test of distinctiveness theory

Ana Sierra Leonard, Ajay Mehra, Ralph Katerberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

Distinctiveness theory posits that patterns of social identity and friendship are based on numeric rarity within specific contexts. In ethnically diverse organizations, the theory predicts that members of the smaller ethnic group (relative to members of the larger ethnic group) will: (a) tend to identify and form friendships within their own ethnic group, and (b) lack access to well-connected individuals in the network of friendship relations. Prior tests have supported these predictions, but they have been unable to rule out the possibility that it was chronic differences in social status and numeric representation in society at large (rather than numeric distinctiveness within specific contexts) that explained the observed patterns of social identity and friendship. In this field-based study, we examined an organization whose social composition effectively controlled for these confounds. We found that members of the smaller ethnic group tended to identify and form friendships within group, as predicted by distinctiveness theory. However, in contrast to previous work, we found that members of the smaller ethnic group were equally well connected to the center of the friendship network as were the members of the larger ethnic group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-589
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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