Race, Campus Climate, and Social Change Behaviors for Asian American College Students

Jacqueline Yi, Nathan R. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study addresses a gap in the literature on how Asian American college students work toward social change in their campuses, as well as contributes to scholarship on differences in engagement in social change behaviors among Asian Americans, White Americans, and students from other racial minority backgrounds. We examined individual-level predictors (e.g., racial group and racial identity salience) and campus-level predictors (e.g., discriminatory campus climate) of social change behaviors. Our sample consisted of 37,692 students from 88 campuses who participated in the 2015 Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership. We used a multilevel modeling approach, which allowed us to test individual and campus-level direct and interactive effects. In general, we found racial group differences where Asian American students reported lower social change behaviors than African American and Multiracial students. Also, race interacted with racial identity salience such that compared to Asian Americans, associations were stronger for African American and Latinx students and weaker for White students. Moreover, race interacted with individual perceptions of discriminatory campus climate such that compared to Asian Americans, associations were weaker for American Indian and White students. Finally, there was a campus-level effect for discriminatory campus climate, indicating that a campus-level variable of greater discriminatory campus climate predicted less individual social change behavior, over-and-above an individual’s perceptions of the campus climate. Moreover, compared to Asian American students, this campus-level association was stronger for African American, American Indian, and Latinx students. Our findings have implications for future research and practice that aim to support Asian American students working for social change in campus environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-465
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Diversity in Higher Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Asian americans
  • Campus climate
  • Perceptions of discrimination
  • Racial identity salience
  • Social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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