Identity Style, Acculturation Strategies and Employment Status Of Formally Educated Foreign-Born African Women In The United States

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The culture in which people work and dwell is instrumental in shaping their sense of self. The decision to migrate from the country of one's heritage culture may result in the modification of self-identity in order to accommodate new experiences within the host culture. For working professionals, such modifications may be manifested in a number of different domains, including attitudes, behaviors, values, and sense of culture. When considering America's diverse workforce and the pressures placed upon people to be competitive, educated, and reasonably assimilated, the process of acculturation must also be addressed. This process is best understood when heritage and mainstream cultures are viewed independently. Formally educated foreign-born African women were the focus of this research. The purpose was to increase understanding of the employment status of African women with respect to identity style and acculturation strategies.

Two hundred thirty-eight (238) women in the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Area were surveyed with respect to acculturation, identity style and employment status. The Vancouver Index of Acculturation was used to measure the heritage and mainstream dimensions of acculturation. The Identity Style Inventory was used to measure aspects of individual identity. Differences were found for the acculturation dimension of mainstream acculturation, which was observed to be higher for employed subjects for three of the four analyses used for employment status. No statistically significant differences were found for any of the identity style measures due to employment status, with one exception. The underemployed group of women may have been characterized by an identity orientation based on family and friends. If these women appear to experience problems associated with acculturation and identity, they may require more time to learn about the U.S. culture.

These women represent a heterogeneous group with an amazing diversity in terms of language, culture, religion, and national backgrounds. This research suggests that their goal of securing or maintaining a professional career in the United States while residing in a major metropolitan area does not require assimilating into the U.S. culture at the expense of their own culture. Although, given that the majority of these women plan to remain in the United States as permanent residents, learning as much as possible about their host culture could perhaps benefit them with respect to employment.



assimilation, employment status, acculturation, foreign-born