Big Bad Racists, Subtle Prejudice and Minority Victims: An Agent-Based Analysis of the Dynamics of Racial Inequality

Quincy Stewart, Indiana University

How many racists does it take to maintain racial inequality? Historical evidence suggests one needs a large number of racist advocates. Recent research, however, cites a decline in racist beliefs that has not been paralleled by declines in inequality. Hence, the strong hypothesized connection between racist attitudes and inequality was erroneous. Researchers have responded by asserting that racial inequality does not require an abundance of racists, but only a system of biased (i.e., racialized) institutions—patterns of interaction—which can maintain racial inequality with a few/no racists. This paper answers the question "how many racists—or biased institutional actors—it takes to create and maintain racial inequality" using an agent based model. The results reveal that one needs an enormous amount of discrimination to create/maintain racial inequality. However, when non-racist agents are able to use race of competitors in decision making via social learning, the need for discriminatory agents to maintain inequality is reduced to nil.

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Presented in Session 113: Racial and Ethnic Inequality