Portrayals of Asian Americans in Magazine Advertising: An update
Michigan State University
Department of Advertising, CAS 309
East Lansing, Michigan 48824
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University of Michigan
Department of Communication Studies
2020 Frieze Bldg., 105 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285
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Prepared for the 2003 Annual Conference of the Association for Education in
Journalism and Mass Communication (Minorities and Communication Division)
Kansas City, MO
July 30-Aug. 2, 2003
Ki-Young Lee (M.A., Northwestern University) is doctoral student of the
Department of Advertising, Michigan State University. Sung-Hee Joo (M.A.
Northwestern University) is doctoral student of the Communication Studies,
University of Michigan.
We thank Dr. Frederick Fico for his constructive comments on earlier
versions of this paper.
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
This study examines the extent to which portrayals of Asian Americans in
magazine ads reflect a "model minority" stereotype commonly associated with
this group. Portrayals of Asian Americans are content-analyzed in terms of
several dimensions reflecting their model minority stereotype. The findings
are also compared with the portrayals of blacks and Hispanics. The results
of a serious of logistic regression analyses show that despite some
improvement, the presence of Asian Americans is still limited to narrowly
defined stereotypical roles.
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing minorities in the U.S., with
a 99% increase since the 1980 Census (Paisano, 1993). Currently, Asian
Americans account for 4.2% of the U.S. population (11.9 million) and by
2050 the proportion is expected to reach 9.3 % (US Census Bureau, 2001;
2002). With spending power estimated at over $200 billion and with
tendencies toward brand loyalty, Asian Americans form a desirable market.
Despite the fast population increase in Asian Americans, they are not
considered a major minority. Asian Americans in the media are typically
portrayed as "foreigners" (Fruichi, La Ferle, Lee, & Tharp, 2001). They
have been almost invisible in mainstream American popular culture compared
to other American ethnic groups (Wilson & Gutierrez, 1995; Taylor & Lee,
1994). When Asian Americans do appear in movies and other pop culture
venues, stereotyped and narrowly defined roles tend to be pervasive. Asian
women have been frequently portrayed as passive, oversexualized, exotic,
and humble, or as treacherous and evil, while Asian men have been portrayed
as incompetent, asexual beings, as supremely wise, or as martial arts
experts (Fruichi et al., 2001).
Stereotyping of Asian Americans has also occurred in ads that reinforce
simplistic views of them. When Asian Americans appear in ads, their
portrayals have usually reflected the "model minority" stereotype ascribed
to this minority in which Asian Americans are viewed as diligent, hard
working, technologically competent, and mathematically skilled (Cohen,
1992; Delener & Neelankavil, 1990; Taylor & Lee, 1994; Taylor, Lee, &
Stern, 1995; Taylor & Stern, 1997). Although this stereotype sounds
complementary in valence, even a stereotype in positive valence can have
negative consequences on individuals within the group as well as those
outside the group (Jussim, 1990; Taylor & Lee, 1994).
The main focus of this study is to examine the extent to which the model
minority stereotype of Asian Americans is reflected in magazine ads. Asian
Americans are chosen to the exclusion of other racial/ethnic minorities on
the ground that despite their fast growth rate and a desirable set of
characteristics sought by marketers (i.e., high income, high education
level, brand loyalty), they have been relatively overlooked by researchers
and have not been treated as a viable target group yet.
This study is especially needed because even the positive stereotype based
on the model minority prejudice and corresponding positive portrayals of
Asian Americans in ads may have a negative impact unanticipated by creators
of such ads (Taylor & Lee, 1994). This study mainly aims at updating the
portrayals of Asian Americans in media and magazine ads, in particular.
Unlike previous studies of the portrayals of Asian Americans, however, a
primary concern was given to whether the portrayals of Asian Americans are
different from the portrayals of other minority groups and, if so, the
extent and nature of that difference by using logistic regression techniques.
Research questions are first developed to look at the representation of
Asian Americans in magazine ads in terms of the frequency of representation
and role prominence, followed by a set of hypotheses constructed to examine
the extent to which the portrayals of Asian Americans are stereotyped.
Discussion and implications of the findings of the study are also presented.
The Model Minority-Based Stereotypes: Do Harm more than Good?
The present study is couched in two theories cultivation and expectancy
theories. Cultivation theory (Gebner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorelli, 1980,
Signorielli & Morgan, 1990) suggests audience perceptions of social reality
toward a group are subject to how the group is portrayed in media in
general. Specifically, cultivation theory holds that heavy television
viewers of any type of programming would develop a social reality
reflecting the television world because the television world is relatively
"consistent" and "uniform" in images and portrayals it conveys (Gebner et
al., 1980; Signorielli & Morgan, 1990). Although the theory was originally
proposed to explain the impact of networks' violent primetime programming
on viewers, it can be readily applied to the current study. That is, to the
extent to which Asian Americans are stereotypically portrayed in a
consistent manner in magazine ads, readers would develop perceptions of
Asian Americans mirroring the way the group is depicted.
The theory is even more applicable when the geographical concentration of
Asian Americans is considered. Asian Americans tend to be heavily populated
in just a few areas of the U.S. such as the West Coast, Hawaii, New York,
and Los Angeles (Kitano & Daniels, 1995; US Census Bureau, 2001).
Consequently, Americans in many parts of the U.S. will have little or no
personal interaction with Asian Americans. Lacking personal contact with
the group members, the audience is more likely to accept media portrayals
of Asian Americans as a fair and accurate description of the group. (Faber,
O'Guinn, & Meyer 1987; Taylor & Stern, 1997).
Expectancy theory (Jackson, Sullivan, & Hodge, 1993; Jussim, 1986, 1990;
Jussim, Coleman, & Lerch, 1987) provides another justification for the
current study in that it offers a convincing explanation as to why and how
the model minority-based stereotype and corresponding portrayals of Asian
Americans may incur negative consequences for the group members. Expectancy
theory suggests that when an individual's characteristics violate
stereotype-driven expectations, judgments tend to become more extreme in
the direction of the violated expectation (Jackson et al., 1993; Jussim,
1986; Jussim et al., 1987). For example, the violation of a negative
stereotypical expectation has been shown to generate more favorable
judgments for members of the negatively stereotyped group while the
violation of a positive stereotypical expectation has shown to generate
more unfavorable judgments for members of the positively stereotyped group
(Ho, Driscoll, & Loosbrock, 1998; Jackson et al., 1993; Jussim et al.,
1987). This so-called "contrast" effect in judgments due to violation of
expectations proved to be the case for Asian Americans. For example, Ho et
al. (1998) found that Asian American students who performed poorly on a
math test were given substantially fewer points than white students when
judges lacked motivation. In addition, under pressure of high expectation,
the pressure to confirm the expectation is likely to create the potential
for "choking" on the part of performers, thus undermining individuals'
performance on a task. (Cheryan & Bodenhausen, 2000).
Advertising functions as an important social influence agent in developing
social reality in audience perceptions of groups. And for Asian Americans,
to the extent to which advertising portrayals of the group members
continues to be consistent and limited in certain areas, they will
contribute to the creation and reinforcement of the stereotypes parallel to
the portrayals of the group, which is, in turn, likely to yield undue
pressure on the group members to conform to the stereotypes and/or unjust
treatments on them when they fail to confirm the stereotype-driven
expectations. In sum, even positive stereotypes in valence of Asian
Americans would do more harm than good to the group members.
Previous Research on Portrayals of Asian Americans in Advertising
Studies on the portrayals of Asian Americans in advertising only began in
the 1990s (Taylor & Lee, 1994; Taylor & Stern, 1997; Wilson & Gutierrez,
1995). These studies have reported that the portrayals of Asian Americans
in advertising have been sparse and often virtually invisible (Coltrane &
Messineo, 2000; Wilson & Gutierrez, 1995). Content analyses also suggest
that when Asian Americans do appear in advertising, their portrayals tend
to be limited in narrowly defined roles, supposedly configured on the basis
of the model minority stereotype ascribed to this group (Morimoto & La
Ferle, 2002; Taylor & Lee, 1994; Taylor & Stern, 1997). For example, in
both TV commercials and magazine ads, Asian Americans show differential
presence in terms of type of products they endorse. More specifically,
Asian Americans are most often found as endorsers of high-technology
products and banking/finance products and less often found in ads for
domestic products. Related to this, in magazine ads they appear more
frequently in technology and business magazines than in general interest
and woman's magazines (Morimoto & La Ferle, 2002; Taylor & Lee, 1994;
Taylor & Stern, 1997). The presence of Asian Americans has also shown a
unique pattern in terms of settings they appear. That is, they are most
likely to be portrayed in business settings, but rarely in home settings or
social gathering situations (Morimoto & La Ferle, 2002; Taylor & Lee, 1994;
Taylor et al., 1995). This disproportionate portrayal of Asian Americans
with respect to settings has been attributed to the existing stereotype of
Asian Americans being "hard work, no fun" or "all work, no play" (Taylor et
al., 1995). Asian American women are virtually absent (Taylor & Stern, 1997).
In contrast to the relatively consistent support for stereotypical
portrayals of Asian Americans reflecting the model minority status, the
findings on the frequency of representation of Asian Americans are
conflicting within (Morimoto & La Ferle, 2002; Taylor & Stern, 1997) and
across media (Taylor et al., 1995).
Research Questions and Hypotheses
The Frequency of Representation and Role Prominence
The numerical representation of Asian Americans in ads varies. Taylor and
Lee (1994) reported that Asian Americans accounted for 4.0% of the magazine
ads analyzed from 1992 to 1993, and this number was actually higher than
the proportion of Asian Americans at that time (3.3%). In Taylor's other
study on TV ads broadcast in 1994 (Taylor & Stern, 1997) he and his
colleague found even higher representation of Asian Americans (8.4%). In
contrast, Bowen and Schmid (1997) found Asian Americans to be present in
only 2.5%, 1.8% of magazine ads in 1987 and 1992 respectively. Thus, in an
attempt to have better understanding of the frequency of Asian American
representation, the following research question was developed.
RQ1: Does the proportion of Asian Americans in magazine ads reflect its
proportion in the U.S. population?
The second research question addressed role prominence the importance or
significance of the role Asian Americans cast in magazine ads. Previous
studies on portrayals of racial minorities have indicated the presence of
racial minorities is belittled by being assigned to a token role in
contrast to a main character. (e.g., Kanter, 1977). Tokenism is especially
apparent in ads in which minorities are relegated to crowd scenes otherwise
white only characters (Bristor, Lee, & Hunt, 1995). This suggests that the
overrepresentation of Asian Americans found in some studies may masquerade
true nature of portrayals of Asian Americans in ads. In order to tap into a
more accurate description, the following research question was developed.
RQ2: When Asian Americans appear in magazine ads, which role type (e.g.,
primary, secondary, background) are they most likely to be
portrayed to play?
The Model Minority Related Variables
- Magazine Type/Product Type/Ad Setting/Role Portrayal
While there exists a disagreement about the numerical representations of
Asian Americans, there is a consistency in the findings of the ways Asian
Americans are typically portrayed in advertising. A series of studies
conducted by Taylor and his colleagues have steadily demonstrated that
Asian Americans are pictured as hardworking, serious, and technologically
savvy (Taylor & Lee, 1994; Taylor, et al., 1995; Taylor & Stern, 1997),
mostly confirming the model minority stereotype of this group. As indicated
by Taylor and Lee (1994), this stereotype provides a framework for
variables to be investigated when Asian Americans in magazine advertising
are content-analyzed. That is, the model minority stereotype of Asian
Americans is related to (1) type of magazines in which the minority models
are most likely to appear, (2) type of products they are most likely to
endorse, (3) settings in which they are most likely to be featured, and
finally, (4) type of roles they are most likely to play in relation to
other models. Heeding the suggestions from the previous literature, the
following set of hypotheses were developed to examine the extent to which
stereotypical portrayals of Asian Americans as the model minority are
reflected in magazine ads.
H1: Popular technology and business magazines will more frequently
contain ads that portray Asian Americans than non-technology and
non-business magazines (e.g., popular general interests and women's magazines.)
H2: Ads for technology- and business-based products/services will more
frequently contain Asian-American models than ads for non-technology- and
H3: When Asian Americans appear in magazine ads, they are most
likely portrayed in business settings than other settings.
H4: When Asian Americans appear in magazine ads, they are most
likely to play as coworkers in relation to other models in the ads.
A quantitative content analysis was conducted. A content analysis is a
useful way of "checking reality" and frequently used to analyze the
portrayals of minorities (Riffe, Lacy, & Fico, 2001). The authors developed
a sampling strategy for magazine ads that included consideration of the
type of magazines in which they appeared and the popularity of those
magazines. A combination of a random and purposive sampling was employed.
First, a sampling frame was developed for each of four types of magazines -
business, technology, women, general interests in consultation with
Advertising Age 300 for 2001 (Endicott) and Ulrich's Periodicals Directory
(2002). Classifying magazines by type was necessary because one of the main
hypotheses of the study was to explore whether the relative frequency of
representation of Asian Americans differed based on type of magazines.
After the classification, only those publications ranking in the top 10 in
terms of circulation size in their respective categories were considered
for inclusion in the sample. In each category two magazines were then
chosen randomly using a random number table, resulting in eight magazines
total. Finally, two months from August, 2000 through August, 2001 were
randomly selected, again using a table of random numbers. We deliberately
avoided including issues published after September 2001, for the
unprecedented events of September 11 in America may have caused the sample
to be unrepresentative. In each of the two months chosen, all ads that are
one or more pages portraying human models were included for analysis. In
the final sample, Popular Mechanics and PC World were selected for
representing technology magazines, and Fortune and Business Week for
business magazines. Times and US News and World Report were chosen to
represent general interests category, and Woman's Day and Ladies Home
Journal for women's magazine category.
Variables and Coding schemes
All ads containing racial minorities were analyzed in several dimensions
including race, role prominence, and the four model stereotyped-related
variables type of magazine, type of product, ad setting, and role
portrayal. Operational definitions for the variables and coding schemes
employed in this study were mainly adopted from those developed by Taylor
and Lee (1994). Analyses of all the major variables were conducted for
three ethnic minority groups - Asian Americans, blacks, Hispanics. The ads
featuring only white models were counted to provide the baseline for
comparison. White models were also content-analyzed with respect to type of
product they endorse. In this study, Asian Americans were defined as
persons whose ancestry is rooted in any Asian country other than those on
the Indian subcontinent, those countries that Americans refer to as the
Middle East (Taylor & Lee, 1994). Role prominence was analyzed with three
categories primary, secondary, and background  - to see whether Asian
Americans tended to be central or peripheral when they appeared.
The type of product was coded with a set of eight categories. The
categories include: (1) Technology-based electronics computer
hardware/software, semiconductors, hi-tech home electronics such as HDTV,
hi-fi stereos, and DVD players; (2) Telecommunications products and
services Internet service-related services and products (e.g., ISP, cable
modem, DSL, ISDN), mobile phones and services; (3) Banking and financial
services various financial consulting services including mutual fund and
asset management; (4) Automobiles; (5) Food and Beverages; (6) Household
products personal hygiene products such as toothpaste, soap and home
cleaning products, detergents; (7) Fashion and cosmetics products; (8)
Non-profit organization/PSA; (9) Others any other products that do not
fit one of the above categories. In analyzing the data, the categories were
collapsed into a dichotomous category to allow for testing the second
hypothesis. The categories (1) through (3) were collapsed to create
"Tech/Business products" and those of (4) through (9) to create
The settings of the ads containing minorities were recorded to assess
whether they tended to be featured in certain types of settings more often
than others. The categories included: (1) Business setting: factories,
sales, offices, and retail settings; (2) Outdoor/natural setting: forests,
rivers, oceans, fields, streets, and public places; (3) Home setting:
residence, room, garage, and driveway; (4) Social setting outside home:
restaurants, bars, and movie theaters, concerts, and vehicles where people
interact for social purposes; (5) Others: artificial settings and any other
settings not listed here (Taylor & Lee, 1995; Taylor & Stern, 1997).
Role portrayal was coded with a set of four categories: (1) Coworker: two
or more people depicted as coworkers and colleagues in the same profession
or occupation. (2) Family member: husband and wife, parent(s) with a child
(children), grandparent(s) with a child (children); (3) Social circle: two
or more people who appear as friends or any other people depicted in a
social setting; (4) Impersonal relationship: no apparent relationship
between the characters. For role portrayals, coders were instructed to
identify the most salient minority model in the ad and analyze the
relationship of the model with others in the ad.
Both ad setting and role portrayal were collapsed to form two dichotomous
variables to allow for logistic regression analysis. Ad settings were
categorized into either business settings or non-business settings, and
role portrayal divided into either coworkers or non-coworkers.
To test hypotheses, two complementary statistical methods were used the
difference in proportions test and chi-squared test. Since a chi-square
test does not reveal which pairs of categories account for a statistical
significance, a difference in proportions test was subsequently used. In
addition, logistic regression was conducted for stereotyped-related
variables to assess the degree to which the model stereotyped-based
portrayals of Asian Americans were reflected in magazine ads as they are
compared with other minority groups. Logistic regression techniques were
employed to avoid problems associated with nonlinearity of the dichotomous
outcome variables and those related to violation of ordinary least-squares
assumptions. Only those ads containing minority models were included for
logistic regression analysis.
Findings and Discussions
Two coders independently coded the same 10% of the sample to test for
inter-coder reliability. The inter-coder reliabilities of all variables
were in excess of the .85 standard recommended for the figure not corrected
for chance agreement by Kassarjian (1977). After being corrected for chance
agreement, the agreement figures as measured by Scott's Pie of major
variables for Asian Americans role prominence, type of product, ad
setting, role portrayal were .80, .87, .81, and .88 respectively.
Frequency of Representation and Role Prominence
The sampling procedure resulted in a total of 1843 ads with human models.
Of these, 464 (25.2%) contained at least one minority model. Among those
ads containing at least one minority model, 153 ads (8.3%) contained Asian
Americans, 322 ads (17.5%) included blacks, and 47 ads (2.6%) included
The first research question concerned the frequency of representation of
Asian Americans in magazine ads. U.S. Census 2000 data served to provide a
comparison basis. According to U.S. Census 2000, Asian Americans represent
approximately 4.2% of the U.S. population (US Census Bureau, 2001). In the
current study, 8.3% of ads included Asian Americans. The difference between
the two proportions is statistically significant at _ = .001 (z = 6.38, p <
.001). The number of ads analyzed for "Tech/Business" and
"Non-Tech/Non-Business" magazine categories was roughly comparable (987 ads
vs. 856 ads), thus is unlikely to bias the result. In sum, Asian Americans
appear to be represented in magazine ads more than its actual proportion in
The second research question addressed the significance of the role Asian
Americans play in magazine ads whether Asian Americans are cast in a
central or peripheral role. Table 1 provides information regarding the
Table 1 shows that when Asian Americans appear in magazine ads, they are
most likely to be featured in a primary role, followed by a secondary and
background roles in that order. Overall, these results suggest Asian
Americans are not marginalized when they appear in magazine ads. Rather,
they appear in foregrounds of ads. A conditional distribution of role
prominence for Asian Americans is not contingent on type of magazines (_2 =
.10, p >.05, Tech/Business vs. Non-Tech/Non-Business magazines). African
Americans show a pattern similar to Asian Americans. Hispanics exhibit an
even split between a primary role and a secondary and background role
combined. Differences in relative frequencies of role prominence across
ethnics groups are significant (_2 = 10.51, p < .05).
Table 1 around here
Types of Magazine and Representation of Asian Americans
The first hypothesis predicts that technology and business magazines will
more frequently include ads that portray Asian Americans than general
interests and women's magazines. Table 2 summarizes the findings regarding
the hypothesis. The presence of ethnic groups is contingent on the types of
magazines (_2 = 33.53, p < .001). Asian Americans are more likely to be
portrayed in technology and business magazines than non-technology and
non-business magazines such as women's and general interest magazines (9.6%
vs. 4.5%), and the difference in relative frequencies is statistically
significant (z = 8.96, p < .001). Thus, the first hypothesis stating that
technology and business magazines will more frequently feature Asian
Americans than non-technology and non-business magazines was supported.
Blacks and Hispanics were also represented more often in non-technology and
non-business magazines, but the difference was only significant for
Hispanics. Whites more frequently appeared in general interest and women's
magazines than technology and business magazines.
Table 2 around here
Types of Product and Representation of Asian Americans
Support for the first hypothesis does not, however, necessarily
substantiate the proposition that magazine ads reflect the model minority
stereotypes of Asian Americans because it is possible technology and
business magazines may have carried the same number of ads for
non-technology and non-business products/services as women's and general
interest magazines. It is unlikely, but if it is the case, the finding is
then confounded. A more powerful case for the model minority proposition
can be made when the second hypothesis, stating a direct relationship
between type of product and presence of Asian Americans, is supported.
The second hypothesis was supported. The difference in relative frequencies
for Asian Americans holds significant (Table 3, z = 11.07, p < .001), which
indicates ads for technology and business products/services more frequently
feature Asian Americans as endorsers than ads for non-technology and
non-business products/services. A significant chi-square value indicates
the presence of ethnic groups depends on the type of products advertised
(_2 = 32.81, p < .001). It is worthwhile noting a non-significant result
for Hispanics (z = .91, n.s.). This non-significant result contrasts with
the significant finding for Hispanics in Table 2. This suggests even though
Hispanics may more frequently appear in technology and business magazines
than other types of magazines, they do not necessarily endorse technology
or business products/services. As with Hispanics, the presence of blacks
does not show a significant variation across product types. The
non-significant differences for blacks and Hispanics provide further
evidence for the notion that the model minority-driven stereotypes of Asian
Americans are reflected in their portrayals in magazine ads.
Table 3 around here
Ad Setting and Representation of Asian Americans
The third hypothesis concerned the settings in which Asian Americans are
most likely to be portrayed. Specifically, the hypothesis predicts that
Asian Americans will be more likely to appear in business settings, but
less likely in other types of settings (e.g., social, outdoor, home
settings), reflecting their "hard working, no fun" stereotype. Table 4
suggests support for this hypothesis. Of the ads with Asian Americans,
62.4% occurred in business settings. Interestingly, both social settings
and home settings account for 12.4% of the ads with Asian Americans
respectively, and this finding is in a rather stark contrast to Taylor and
Lee's (1994) study that found only 4.1% of the ads with Asian Americans for
each of the settings. This suggests that we may be seeing a broadening of
representation of Asian Americans in the form of greater diversity in
The presence of Asian American in these settings, however, is still
relatively low compared to other minority groups. The "hard working, no
fun" stereotype attached to Asian Americans may have led out-group members
to the belief that this minority group lacks social skills or is less
family oriented, resulting in less presence in social and home settings.
Table 4 around here
Role Portrayal and Representation of Asian Americans
The final hypothesis predicts that when Asian Americans appear in magazine
ads they are the most likely to be cast as coworkers in relation to other
models in the ad. This hypothesis is inherently related to the third
hypothesis, but more specifically asks for the type of role Asian Americans
are portrayed to play. As predicted, when Asian Americans appear, they are
most likely to be cast as coworkers (Table 5). Asian Americans are
described as coworkers in 48 of the 91 ads (51.7%) in which a relationship
with others is portrayed. The differences in relative frequencies across
racial groups are not statistically significant at _ = .05 level. However,
a comparison with other groups suggests a partial support for the
proposition that magazine ads reflect a "hard working, no fun" or "all
work, no play" stereotype of Asian Americans. Among the ads, Asian
Americans are described as family members in 13.2% of cases as opposed to
18.3% for blacks and 20.0% for Hispanics. Asian Americans are also
infrequently depicted as friends (15.4%), as compared with blacks (22.2%)
and Hispanics (16.7%).
Table 5 around here
The prevailing presence of Asian Americans as coworkers confirms the
proposition that magazine ads reflect stereotypes of this minority group.
As suggested by a non-significant chi-square value, however, there is a
chance that this trend may also apply to other minority groups, thus
warranting a need for further investigation.
Logistic Regression Analysis Results
Table 6 summarizes the results for a series of logistic regression
analyses. For each model in Table 6, the dependant variable is the
logarithm of the odds that a minority model will be portrayed in a
particular way (e.g., particular type of magazine, product), divided by the
odds that the model will not be portrayed that way. The reference group is
blacks, and the effect of each independent variable is expressed in terms
of the impact of being a given minority in the independent variable on the
log odds of the dependent variable. Odds ratios are also presented for
easiness of the interpretation of the logged odds.
Table 6 around here
Basically, the results from logistic regression analyses are consistent
with the results from preceding chi-square and z tests, thus providing
further support for the hypotheses proposed. All models are statistically
significant at _ = .05 level. Model 1 in Table 6 shows that compared with
blacks, Asian Americans are more likely to appear in technology and
business magazines. Specifically, by being Asian Americans, the log odds of
being portrayed in technology and business magazines increase by .723, as
compared with blacks. In other words, the odds of Asian Americans being
present in technology and business magazines are over 2 times as great as
they are for blacks. As with Asian Americans, Hispanics are also more
likely to appear in technology and business magazines, as compared with
blacks. Model 2 shows that Asian Americans are significantly more likely to
be represented in ads for technology and business products/services, as
compared with blacks. The odds of endorsing technology and business
products/services for Asian Americans are 2.4 times greater than for
blacks. Hispanics and blacks are not significantly different from each
other in terms of their likelihood of being employed as endorsers for
technology and business products/services (Table 6). Model 3 and 4 show
that how being in different minority groups will affect the likelihood that
a minority model will be shown exhibiting stereotypically in business
settings or as coworkers. Asian Americans are indeed more likely to appear
in business settings and cast as coworkers than blacks. The likelihood of
being depicted in business settings or cast as coworkers for Asian
Americans are 2.8, 1.8 times respectively greater than for blacks. Again,
blacks and Hispanics are not significantly different from each other in
their probability of being depicted in business setting and being cast as
coworkers (Table 6). Overall, the results from logistic regression analyses
confirm the notion that magazine ads reflect stereotypes of Asian Americans.
Research on cultivation effects directs our attention to the possible
impact that stereotypical portrayals of minority groups by media can have
on people's beliefs and attitudes toward minority groups. Once reinforced
and entrenched by the continued media portrayals, group stereotypes can
guide our expectations about the group members stereotyped and color our
interpretations of their behaviors and traits. The representation of
minority groups in media is also indicative of how the host culture and
minority groups themselves perceive these groups as legitimate members of a
society (Mariko & La Ferle, 2002).
With this potentially powerful impact of media portrayals on minority
groups in mind, the current study centered on the portrayals of one
minority group in magazine ads that has been relatively ignored - Asian
Americans. The findings are somewhat encouraging. The frequency of
representation of Asian Americans in magazine ads is higher than its actual
percentage in the U.S. population. There is also a suggestion that Asian
Americans are now seen in broader areas than they once were.
The scrutiny of the data, however, reveals that as compared with other
minority groups, the portrayals of Asian Americans still tend to be limited
in narrowly defined roles, leaving room for improvement. This study
provides further support for the notion that magazines ads reflect the
model minority stereotypes commonly held with this minority group. The
presence of Asian Americans is strong in areas to which the model minority
stereotypes are applied (e.g., technology and banking/finance) at the cost
of other areas. As a consequence, Asian Americans are more likely to appear
in ads for technology and business products than other minorities, but less
likely to appear in ads for domestic and everyday products. They are also
most likely to be pictured in business settings and cast as coworkers, as
compared with other minorities, but poorly depicted in social and family
settings as friends and family members. This narrow scope of the portrayals
of Asian Americans may have a harmful impact on the group members. First,
Asian Americans who are not particularly adept in technology and business
areas would suffer lowered self-esteem, if they fail to live up to the
expectation level anticipated by others (Morimoto & La Ferle, 2002; Taylor
& Lee, 1994). Second, the continued stereotypical portrayals of Asian
Americans yield undue pressure on the group members to conform to the
stereotypes and incur unjust treatments of them when they fail to confirm
the stereotype-based expectations. In addition, the seemingly positive
stereotypes based on the model minority prejudice may contribute to spread
of negative stereotypes related to them. For example, to the extent to that
Asian Americans are viewed as industrious, hardworking, and serious, they
may be seen as less socially skilled and as workaholics. This suspicion was
supported by the logistic regression result that Asian Americans are less
likely to appear in social and family settings as friends and family than
blacks and Hispanics.
This study has limitations and implications. First, it examined just one
medium, magazine. It will be interesting to see whether the findings of
this study can be replicated in other media, especially television. Second,
the findings of this study warrant subsequent research to substantiate
implications of this study. For example, an experiment can be designed to
examine whether violating the stereotype of Asian Americans being good in
math skills actually leads to undue treatment of those who fail to confirm
the stereotyped-based expectancy. Finally, it should be noted that the
representation of Hispanics was nearly invisible in this study. Even though
Hispanics, currently, account for 12.5% of the U.S. population (US Census
Bureau, 2001), only 2.6% of the sample analyzed in this study contained
Hispanic models. This severe underrepresentation of Hispanics can have
important consequences, for it suggests that this ethnic minority lacks
equal access to the symbolic cultural resources commonly available to the
host culture. It also sends a subtle signal to the group members that they
are not fully accepted by the host culture (Taylor et al., 1995) and thus,
delay the assimilation process of the group members to the society. More
inclusion of Hispanics in ads appears necessary.
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Table 1 Representation of Role Prominence by Minorities
Asian Americans (N=153)
a Percentage of ads for a given role from total ads for each minority group
_2 = 10.50, df = 4, p < .05
Table 2 Representation of Ethnic Groups by Type of Magazine
Tech/Business Magazines (N=1149)
Non-Tech/Non-Business Magazines (N=939)
Note: Some ads were counted more than twice since they contained more than
two races. As a result, Ns shown in this table are bigger than actual
number of ads analyzed.
a Percentage of ads for each minority group from total ads containing human
models for a given magazine category.
*p < .001, n.s.: Not significant, _2 = 34.02, df = 3, p < .001
Table 3 Representation of Ethnic Groups by Type of Product
Tech/Business Products/Services (N=1080)
Non-Tech/Business Products/Services (N=1008)
Note: Some ads were counted more than twice since some ads contained more
than two races. As a result, Ns are bigger than actual number of ads analyzed.
a Percentage of ads for each minority group from total ads containing
human models for a given product type.
*p < .001, n.s.: Not significant, _2 =32.81, df = 3, p < .001
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
Table 4 Representation of Minorities by Ad Settings
a Percentage of ads for a given setting from total ads of
each minority group
_2 = 26.29, df = 8, p < .001.
Table 5 Representation of Minorities by Role Portrayal
a Percentage of ads for a given portrayal from total ads
of each minority group.
_2 = 6.93, df=6, p <1.0 (n.s.)
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
Table 6. Logistic Regression Equations Predicting Effects of Asian
Americans and Hispanics on Type of Magazine, Type of
Product, Ad Setting, and Relationship to Others (N = 464
for Model 1, 2, 3. N = 220 for Model 4)
Note: b=coefficient, SE=standard error, *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.
Independent variables: Asian American: coded 1 if Asian American, 0
otherwise; Black: coded 1 if Black, 0 otherwise; Hispanic: coded 1 if
Hispanic, 0 otherwise. Black was a reference group.
Dependent variables: Type of Magazine: coded 1 if Tech/Business magazine, 0
otherwise; Type of Product: coded 1 if Tech/Business product (service),
otherwise 0; Ad Setting: coded 1 if Business setting, 0 otherwise; Role
Portrayal; coded 1 if coworker, otherwise 0.
Running head: Asian American, magazine ads, stereotype
Operational Definitions for Variables Analyzed
1. Primary Role: A character who is very important to the advertising theme
or layout, shown in the foreground or shown holding the product.
2. Secondary Role: A character who is of average importance to the
advertising theme or layout. Generally, such characters are not spotlighted
in the ad and do not hold the product, but are not difficult to find in the
ad while casually looking at it.
3. Background Role: A character who is difficult to find in an ad (i.e.,
not likely to be noticed by a reader glancing at the ad) and is not
important to its theme or layout.
Type of Product
1. Technology-based electronics: computer hardware/software,
semiconductors, hi-tech home electronics such as HDTV, hi-fi stereos, and
2. Telecommunications products/services: Internet-based products/services
(e.g., ISP, ISDN, DSL, cable modem), wireless technology-based applications
and products (e.g., mobile phones/services)
3. Business and finance services: various financial consulting services
including mutual fund and asset
5. Food and beverages
6. Household products: personal hygiene products such as toothpaste, soap
and home cleaning products, detergents
7. Fashion and cosmetics products
8. Non-profit organization/PSA
9. Others: any other products/services that does not fit into one of the
above categories (e.g, media services, drugs, sporting goods)
1. Business setting: factories, sales, or offices and retail settings
2. Outdoor/natural setting: forests, rivers, oceans, fields, streets, and
3. Home setting: residence, room, garage, and driveway
4. Social setting outside home: restaurants, bars, and movie theaters,
concert, and vehicle where people interact with one another for social purposes
5. Others: artificial settings and any other settings not listed here
1. Coworker: two or more people depicted as coworkers. Colleagues in the
same profession or occupation.
2. Family member: husband and wife, a parent(s) with a child (children), a
grandparent(s) with a child (children)
3. Social circle: two or more people who appear as friends or any other
people depicted in a social setting
4. Impersonal relationship: no apparent relationship between the characters.
 For operational definitions for role prominence, please see the
attached coding sheet.