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COMMUNITY INFLUENCES ON WHITE RACIAL ATTITUDES: What Matters and Why?

Authors

  • Marylee C. Taylor,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Pennsylvania State University
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  • Peter J. Mateyka

    1. U.S. Census Bureau
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    • Peter Mateyka performed his portion of the research while at Penn State. He is now a survey statistician with the U.S. Census Bureau. Any views or opinions expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Census Bureau.


Marylee C. Taylor, Department of Sociology, 211 Oswald Tower, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802; e-mail: taylor@pop.psu.edu

Abstract

Tracing the roots of racial attitudes in historical events and individual biographies has been a long-standing goal of race relations scholars. Recent years have seen a new development in racial attitude research: Local community context has entered the spotlight as a potential influence on racial views. The race composition of the locality has been the most common focus; evidence from earlier decades suggests that white Americans are more likely to hold anti-black attitudes if they live in areas where the African-American population is relatively large. However, an influential 2000 article argued that the socioeconomic composition of the white community is a more powerful influence on white attitudes: In low-socioeconomic status (SES) locales, “stress-inducing” deprivations and hardships in whites' own lives purportedly lead them to disparage blacks. The study reported here reassesses this “scapegoating” claim, using data from the 1998 to 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, suggesting that local processes other than scapegoating must be at work.

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