Seeing Difference: The Effect of Economic Disparity on Black Attitudes toward Latinos


  • For useful comments and criticisms the author thanks Chris Afendulis, Regina Branton, Andrea Campbell, Jack Citrin, Darren Davis, Zoltan Hajnal, Eric Juenke, Taeku Lee, Tali Mendelberg, Irwin Morris, Eric Oliver, Deborah Schildkraut, Gary Segura, Lester Spence, Susan Welch, Cara Wong, and Janelle Wong; seminar participants at the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University, the Institute for Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; and three anonymous referees. Special thanks to Michael Dawson and Lynn Sanders for thoughtful feedback on earlier drafts.

Claudine Gay is professor of government, CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge Street, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138. (


Rapid growth in the size of the Latino population has increased the ethnic diversity of urban neighborhoods, transforming the residential experiences of many black Americans. The competition for scarce resources is considered a central force in black-Latino relations and a source of anti-Latino sentiment among blacks. This article examines how the level and the distribution of economic resources within diverse areas affect black attitudes toward Latinos. Drawing on a multilevel dataset of individual racial attitudes and neighborhood characteristics, the analysis reveals that the relative economic status of racial groups is an important influence on black attitudes. In environments where Latinos are economically advantaged relative to their black neighbors, blacks are more likely to harbor negative stereotypes about Latinos, to be reluctant to extend to Latinos the same policy benefits they themselves enjoy, and to view black and Latino economic and political interests as incompatible. While the results suggest that diversity without conflict is possible, they make clear that the prospects for intergroup comity depend on some resolution of blacks' economic insecurities.