A new study by researchers at Stanford University, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Illinois at Chicago finds that while people may treat African Americans with racial bias, they are also likely to devalue and demean places associated with African Americans.
In one experiment people were shown a picture of a home and asked to provide an assessment of its value. Half the participants were told the surrounding neighborhood was mostly Black and the other half were told the neighborhood was predominantly White. A house where people were told was in a White neighborhoods had an assessed value of $20,000 more than the same house but where people were told it was in a majority-Black neighborhood.
Another experiment asked participants to consider whether a plant producing hazardous chemicals should be built in a particular neighborhood. Those who were told the neighborhood was predominantly Black were more likely to recommend the plant be built than those who were told the neighborhood was largely White.
A third experiment showed prospective home buyers a house. Clues were given telling the prospective home buyers that the current owners were either Black or White. Home buyers were less likely to express interest in buying the house if it had been shown as currently owned by a Black family.
Jennifer Eberhardt, professor of psychology at Stanford University and a co-author of the study, notes that “many studies document that Americans harbor biases against Black people. Ours are the first experiments to show that these biases extend to the physical spaces Black Americans inhabit. In other words, stereotypes drive not only how we treat people, but also how we treat places.”
Dr. Eberhardt has been affiliated with Stanford University since 1998. Previously, she taught at Yale University. Professor Eberhardt is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. In 2014, Dr. Eberhardt was named a MacArthur Fellow and earlier this year was elected into the National Academy of Sciences.
Courtney Bonam, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the study’s lead author, adds: “Together, these studies tell us that space-focused stereotypes may thus contribute to wide-ranging social problems, from racial disparities in wealth to the overexposure of Black people to environmental pollution. These studies also broaden the scope of traditional stereotyping research and can inform policymakers, urban planners, and the public about an insidious form of stereotyping that can perpetuate racial inequalities.”
Dr. Bonam is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
The study, “Polluting Black Space,” was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, General. It may be accessed here.