Propensity to Assimilate: A Grounded Theory Development of the Consumer Acculturation Process: An Abstract

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date





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. However, 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 an important measurement tool for understanding consumer behavior and for segmenting and targeting multi-cultural consumers appropriately (Poulis et al. 2013; Ogden et al. 2004). Acculturation is defined as a process, but it has not been treated as a process, and the literature calls for a desire to assimilate first before an individual is able to do so. Past research has suggested that first an individual has a desire to acculturate and this desire influences the acculturation process and outcomes (van den Berghe 1981; Bun and Kiong 1992). Acculturation is defined as all the changes that arise following contact between groups and individuals of different cultural backgrounds as well as the adoption by a person or group of the culture of another social group or the process leading to this adoption (Berry 1997). Assimilation is the adoption by a person or a group of the culture of another social group to such a complete extent that the person or group no longer has any characteristics identifying him or her with their former culture and no longer has any particular loyalties to the former culture, or the process leading to the adoption (Berry and Sam 2016). The findings from extant literature suggests that acculturation is a multi-process variable that starts with first a desire or a propensity to assimilate, which then influences acculturation behavioral outcomes. We conducted an in-depth literature review and two qualitative studies in order to uncover the acculturation process and establish the Propensity to Assimilate construct. To control for possible cultural confounding, this study focuses on the Chinese American cultural demographic and 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. Thus, through a combination of deduction and induction methods, we contributed to the theoretical understanding of the acculturation process and offered a new construct in that process.

First Page


Last Page