Ethnic market operations and organizational changes: An open-system model analysis of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York approaching Asian-Americans

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Richard R. Loder


Minority & ethnic groups, Sociology, Marketing

Subject Categories

Race and Ethnicity


Before the 1980s, the life insurance industry showed little interest in Asian-Americans as a market segment worthy of attention. Over the last decade, however, many large insurance corporations have actively geared their market operations toward this ethnic minority group. This case study was conducted on The Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York (MONY), a giant industrial organization, which launched its Asian-American market campaign in 1993. Applying the open-system model of sociological theory of organization (Aldrich and Pfeffer 1976, Katz, Kahn and Adams 1980, Meyer and Scott 1983, Perrow 1983, Scott 1981, 1992, Scott and Meyer 1994, Luhmann 1995), this study examines how industrial organizations were compelled by social, economic and cultural environmental forces to reach out for an ethnic minority group which had been treated as marginal to the market.

The empirical core of this study is a qualitative analysis of how MONY designed its ethnic market strategies, operations and products/services in the course of approaching Asian-Americans. The study also shows that Asian-American demographic increases, economic development, community establishment and persistent cultural practices constitute an important environmental force, driving a mainstream organization to adapt itself to the conditions and characteristics of a minority group at market. Asian-Americans are therefore understood as an active force for racial/ethnic relational changes in a diverse society. A strong challenge is thus posed to assimilationism (Glazer 1985, Gordon 1978, Myrdal 1964, Parsons 1965) by this study. Diversity appears as a potent environmental catalyst for pluralism to prevail and for changes to be enforced in the mainstream industrial establishment. Finally, drawing on changes in social relationships between mainstream industrial organizations and minorities as the result of organization-environment interaction, this study tries to increase the explanatory power of the open-system theory models, and further differentiate the sociological studies of organization from those of other disciplines.


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