Charles Chu is a PhD student in Micro-Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. His research interests center on how social structures (e.g., contract work, modern work arrangements) influence people’s sense of identity and meaning in life. His work through the Center for American Democracy at IRiSS examines whether challenges to the existing racial hierarchy (e.g., presenting information about demographic shifts) disrupt Americans’ experience of meaning in life and whether the presence of strong social connections might mitigate such an effect.
In the current research, we propose that exposure to demographic shift information (i.e., the idea that America will become a majority-minority country) has a much broader effect than suggested by the previous research. Specifically, our research examines the question, “What is the effect of exposure to demographic shift information on people’s sense of MIL?” MIL is defined as the subjective judgment of whether one’s life is meaningful, or having coherence (i.e., comprehension of our environment), purpose (i.e., directed plans for the achievement of a desired future), and significance (i.e., a sense that our lives matter and transcend current experience; Heintzelman & King, 2014; Steger, 2012). We suggest that the racial hierarchy is embedded within and a part of every person socialized in our society, and challenges to the stability of this hierarchy shifts our very understanding of our social reality (i.e., coherence). Therefore, we hypothesize that demographic shift information will undermine people’s (both Whites and racial minorities) sense of meaning in life (MIL). We further predict, drawing from the MIL literature, that other sources of meaning such as affirming people’s sense of social connection and belonging can mitigate the negative effects of demographic shift on people’s sense of MIL.