The Association of Acculturation with Overt and Covert Perceived Discrimination Against Older Asian Americans

Mar 17, 2020

swr cover croppedAsian older adults are a fast-growing population in the United States. Because Asian older adults are a largely immigrant population, acculturation has an impact on their perceived discrimination, which is negatively associated with health and mental health. Discrimination can be overt, characterized by distrust and direct messages that are hostile and exclusionary, or covert, characterized by unfair treatment and messages that are negative and degrading.

In a recent issue of the journal Social Work Research, published by NASW and Oxford University Press, an article by Keith Chan, PhD, details his findings from a study on this issue. His study investigated the association of acculturation with perceived overt and covert discrimination, measured by the Everyday Discrimination Scale, with a sample of 348 foreign-born older Asian Americans from the National Latino and Asian American Study. Acculturation was measured by English-speaking ability, immigration-related variables, and ethnic identity. His results indicated that perceived covert discrimination was more prevalent than overt discrimination among older Asians. Among acculturation variables, only citizenship was associated with higher perceived covert and overt discrimination. Identifying with the same race was associated with higher covert discrimination.

The findings suggest that higher acculturation is associated with greater exposure to discrimination for Asian older adults. Efforts to increase access and utilization of social and health-related services should consider the context of older Asians’ experiences as a discriminated immigrant group in the United States.

Keith Chan, PhD is an assistant professor at the School of Social Welfare, University at Albany, State University of New York, 135 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12222; e-mail: The study was funded by the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP), Council on Social Work Education, the Hartford Doctoral Fellowship, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program Health Disparities Scholar Award. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the MFP, the John A. Hartford Foundation, or NIH.


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