Community Influences on White Racial Attitudes: What Matters and Why?

Marylee C. Taylor, Pennsylvania State University

The impact of race composition on the racial attitudes of white residents has received growing research attention. However, some researchers have argued that low socioeconomic status among local whites is the more potent force, purportedly indexing “stress-inducing” deprivations and hardships in whites’ own lives that lead them to disparage blacks. Here this “scapegoating” claim is re-assessed, using data from 1998-2002 General Social Surveys linked to 2000 census information about communities. Across many dimensions of racial attitudes, there is pronounced influence of both local racial proportions and college completion rates among white residents. However, the economic dimension of SES exerts negligible influence on white racial attitudes. If the environmental education effect is just that, not a proxy for economic hardship and distress, the scapegoating interpretation of contextual education effects is implausible. The conclusion outlines alternate interpretations of the environmental effects of local race composition and white education level.

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Presented in Session 146: Gender, Race and Class