Similar or Different? A Comparison of Environmental Behaviors of US-Born Whites and Chinese Immigrants

  • Guizhen MaEmail author


Although immigration has been singled out as the major source of environmental degradation in the USA, research has found that the US-born population is more likely than the foreign-born population to be associated with worse air quality. This disparity may be a result of differences in environmental behaviors shaped by diverse cultures. While studies indicate that immigrants, in general, tend to be more environmentally friendly, less is known about how specific immigrant groups differ from the US-born population in environmental behaviors and how diverse cultures may contribute to environmentalism. This study compares household environmental behaviors of Chinese immigrants and US-born Whites, based on face-to-face interviews. The findings show differences and similarities in the environmental behaviors of the two groups. The Chinese immigrants were more likely than the US-born Whites to be frugal in household energy use, to drive less, and to recycle. However, the difference became less evident over time. Assimilation of immigrants into American culture thereby increases environmental harm. Instead, reciprocal assimilation that takes advantage of cultural diversity is more promising for environmental sustainability in a multicultural context.


Immigration Assimilation Environmental behavior Ethnic diversity Comparison Chinese 



This research was supported by the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University. I would like to thank Dr. Erin Trouth Hofmann for her comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Social Work, and AnthropologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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