Nice to Know You? Testing Contact, Cultural, and Group Threat Theories of Anti-Black and Anti-Hispanic Stereotypes


  • *Direct correspondence to Jeffrey Dixon, Indiana University Department of Sociology, 744 Ballantine Hall, Bloomington, IN 47405 〈〉. The authors will share all data and coding materials with those wishing to replicate the study. The authors thank David Blouin, Emily Bowman, Clem Brooks, Suzanna Crage, Mary Dagaz, Kristin Geraty, Claudia Geist, Isaac Heacock, Cheryl Hunter, Andrew Fullerton, David James, Karen Kaiser, Sven Klingeman, Joshua Klugman, Jose Mata, Janice McCabe, Sigrun Olafsdottir, Brian Powell, Rob Robinson, Alicia Suarez, Quincy Stewart, Steve Viscelli, Pam Walters, Jun Xu, and anonymous SSQ reviewers for their valuable comments on previous versions of this paper. Authors' names are listed in alphabetical order; each is an equal co-author.


Objective. Many racial/ethnic policies in the United States—from desegregation to affirmative action policies—presume that contact improves racial/ethnic relations. Most research, however, tests related theories in isolation from one another and focuses on black-white contact. This article tests contact, cultural, and group threat theories to learn how contact in different interactive settings affects whites' stereotypes of blacks and Hispanics, now the largest minority group in the country.

Method. We use multi-level modeling on 2000 General Social Survey data linked to Census 2000 metropolitan statistical area/county-level data.

Results. Net of the mixed effects of regional culture and racial/ethnic composition, contact in certain interactive settings ameliorates anti-black and anti-Hispanic stereotypes.

Conclusions. Cultural and group threat theories better explain anti-black stereotypes than anti-Hispanic stereotypes, but as contact theory suggests, stereotypes can be overcome with relatively superficial contact under the right conditions. Results provide qualified justification for the preservation of desegregation and affirmative action policies.