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General Ethnicity Questionnaire


Dr. Tsai first became interested in measuring cultural orientation when she was a graduate student in Dr. Robert Levenson's lab at the University of California, Berkeley. After reviewing the literature, she concluded that existing acculturation inventories were insufficient for a number of reasons. First, they were unidimensional (i.e., they forced individuals to choose a dominant cultural orientation, rather than allowing individuals to be oriented to multiple cultures to equal degrees). Second, they were limited in the cultural domains that they sampled. In an attempt to address these issues, she created the "General Ethnicity Questionnaire" (GEQ). At the time that Dr. Tsai created the GEQ, there were no other instruments that addressed these issues; since the development of the GEQ, however, a number of inventories have been developed to address these issues. 


Development. The General Ethnicity Questionnaire was designed so that it could be used with individuals of different cultural backgrounds, simply by changing the reference culture. The GEQ was adapted from four different pre-existing and commonly used measures of acculturation, the Cultural Life Styles Inventory (Mendoza, 1989), the Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans (Cuellar, Harris, & Jasso, 1980), the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Rating Scale (Suinn, Rickard-Figueroa, Lew, & Vigil, 1987), and the Behavioral Acculturation Scale (Szapocznik, Scopetta, Kurtines, & De Los Angeles Aranade, 1978) 
For review of these measures, click here.

Original and Abridged Versions. There are two versions of the General Ethnicity Questionnaire, one "original" version and one "abridged" version. The "original" version includes: (1) a question asking participants what their "culture" means to them, and (2) 75 multiple choice questions that ask about participants' language use, social affiliation, engagement in cultural practices, and cultural identification. The American version of the questionnaire includes several additional items that assess what "being American" means to respondents. The "abridged" version was developed in collaboration with Yu-Wen Ying and Peter A. Lee for use with Chinese Americans. The "abridged" version includes 37 items (a subset of the original 75 multiple choice questions), plus one item that asks participants whether or not they are bilingual. To date, most studies that have used the GEQ have used the abridged version. Therefore, only the abridged version is available for use at this time. 

Cultures. Versions of the GEQ have been created for different cultures/ethnic groups, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Chinese Americans, European Americans, Hmong Americans, Vietnamese Americans, and Mexican Americans. In addition, the abridged version of the GEQ has been translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and German. 

Psychometric Properties. The psychometric properties of the GEQ when used with Chinese American young adults are reported in: Tsai, J.L., Ying, Y., & Lee, P.A. (2000). The meaning of "being Chinese" and "being American": Variation among Chinese American young adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31(3), 302-322. pdf

Scientific Use. The GEQ has been used in a number of studies, most often with Chinese Americans. It has been used to describe the cultural orientation of study samples, as well as to assess explicitly the relationship between cultural orientation and various outcome measures (e.g., emotional reactivity, self-esteem). A number of laboratories are currently using the GEQ. 


The following studies report results using the GEQ: 

Tsai, J.L., Ying, Y., & Lee, P.A. (2000). The meaning of "being Chinese" and "being American": Variation among Chinese American young adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31, 302-322. pdf

Ying, Y., Lee, P.A., & Tsai, J.L. (2000). Cultural orientation and racial discrimination: Predictors of coherence in Chinese American young adults. Journal of Community Psychology, 28, 427-442. pdf

Tsai, J.L. (2001). Cultural orientation of Hmong young adults. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 3-4, 99-114. Tsai, J.L., Ying, Y.W., & Lee, P.A. (2001). Cultural predictors of self-esteem: A study of Chinese American female and male young adults. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 7, 284-297. pdf

Ying, Y., Lee, P.A., Tsai, J.L., Lee, Y.J., & Tsang, M. (2001). Relationship of young adult Chinese Americans with their parents: Variation by migratory status and cultural orientation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71, 342-349. pdf

Tsai, J.L., Morstensen, H., Wong, Y., & Hess, D. (2002). What does "being American" mean?: Differences between Asian American and European American young adults. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8, 257-273. pdf

Tsai, J.L., Chentsova-Dutton, Y., Friere-Bebeau, L.H., & Przymus, D. (2002). Emotional expression and physiology in European Americans and Hmong Americans. Emotion, 2, 380-397. pdf

Tsai, J.L., Chentsova-Dutton, Y., & Wong, Y. (2002). Why and how we should study ethnic identity, acculturation, and cultural orientation. In G. Hall & S. Okazaki (Eds.). Asian American Psychology: The science of lives in Context (pp. 41-65). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. pdf 

Tsai, J.L., Pole, N., Levenson, R.W., & Munoz, R.F. (2003). The effects of depression on the emotional responses of Spanish-speaking Latinas. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9, 49-63. pdf

Tsai, J.L. & Chentsova-Dutton, Y. (2003). Variation among European Americans in emotional facial expression. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34, 650-657. 

Tsai, J.L., Simenova, D., & Watanabe, J. (2004). Somatic and social: Chinese Americans talk about emotion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1226-1238 


Like any instrument, the GEQ has both strengths and limitations. Researchers are strongly advised to consider these strengths and limitations prior to using the GEQ. 

The strengths of the GEQ are that: (1) it samples multiple domains of experience, (2) it has been shown to be reliable and valid with certain samples, and (3) it can be easily adapted for use with different cultures. 

The limitations of the GEQ are: (1) it does not include all domains of experience (e.g., political activity), (2) its psychometric properties are known only for specific groups, and (3) it measures behaviors and practices rather than values and attitudes. 

If you are unsure whether or not to use the GEQ in your research, please contact the author of the GEQ, Jeanne Tsai (email); however, please be aware that it may take several weeks for Dr. Tsai to respond to your inquiries. 


To download a copy of the GEQ, click here.
To score the GEQ, please click here
To adapt the GEQ for use with a culture not yet studied by previous researchers, please click here


Cuellar, I., Arnold, B., & Maldonado, R. (1995). Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans-II: A revision of the original ARSMA Scale. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 17, 275-304.

Hofstede, G.H. (1980). Culture's consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications. 

Mendoza, R.H. (1989). An empirical scale to measure type and degree of acculturation in Mexican American adolescents and adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 20, 372-385. 

Suinn, R.M., Ahuna, C., & Khoo, G. (1992). The Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale: Concurrent and factorial validation. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 52, 1041-1046. 

Suinn, R.M., Rickard-Figueroa, K., Lew, S., & Vigil, P. (1987). The Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale: An initial report. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 47, 401-407. 

Szapocznik, J., Scopetta, M.A., Kurtines, W., & de los Angeles Aranade, M. (1978). Theory and measurement of acculturation. Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 12, 113-130.