Working Twice as Hard to Get Half as Far: Race, Work Ethic, and America’s Deserving Poor


  • This work was completed while the author was a graduate student in the Department of Political Science at Duke University. This research would not have been completed without support and guidance from many people, most notably Melissa Spas, John Aldrich, Marc Hetherington, Suzanne Globetti, Candis Watts Smith, Stanley Feldman, Kerry Haynie, D. Sunshine Hillygus, Melanie Freeze, Jacob Montgomery, Brendan Nyhan, David Sparks, Cassy Dorff, Corrine M. McConnaughy, Julie Edell Britton, Cara Wong, and three anonymous reviewers. Data collection would not have been possible without support from the Social Science Research Institute and Duke University. All remaining errors are, of course, my own. Replication data will be made available through the AJPS portal on Dataverse.

Christopher D. DeSante is a visiting Assistant Professor, Oberlin College, Politics Department, 10 N. Professor St., Oberlin, OH 44074 (


Attitudes toward racialized and redistributive policies like welfare are often thought of as a function of both principled ideological positions and the underlying racial attitudes a person holds. Kinder and Sanders (1996) look at racial resentment as one explanation, while Sniderman and his colleagues look to principled conservatism and authoritarianism as viable alternatives, claiming that racial resentment is merely proxying a legitimate race-neutral commitment to equality of opportunity. This article engages this debate through an experimental design which tests whether “hard work” is rewarded in a color-blind manner. The experimental design also affords scholars the opportunity to separate the effects of the two components of racial resentment: principled values and racial animus. The results show that American norms and implicit racism serve to uniquely privilege whites in a variety of ways.