United We Stand? The Effect of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks on Ethnic Boundary Formation

Ethan Fosse, Harvard University
Nathan Fosse, Harvard University

In this paper we examine the salience and stability of ethnic boundaries in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Data are based on the National Survey of American Life, a nationally-representative cross-sectional survey of African and European Americans conducted before and after 9/11. We examine the effect of 9/11 on two kinds of symbolic boundaries: interethnic, or feelings of closeness between ethnic groups, and intraethnic, or feelings of closeness within ethnic groups. Findings indicate that after 9/11, African Americans did not feel closer to other African Americans but felt closer to other ethnic groups, especially European Americans. In contrast, European Americans did not feel closer to African Americans, nor any other ethnic group. These results suggest that recognition of common obstacles and problems can be a way to building the "bridge over the racial divide,” but only in a way limited by existing ethnic relations.

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Presented in Session 175: Structural Influences on Race/Ethnic Identification