Racial Status Threat May Produce Backlash Against Federal Assistance Programs

A new study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley analyzing data from American National Election Studies finds that when White Americans are made aware that their demographic group will no longer be majority of the population of the United States, they become more resentful of minorities and are less likely to support federal entitlement programs like welfare.

“We find that Whites’ racial resentment rose beginning in 2008,” wrote authors Robb Willer of Stanford and Rachel Wetts of Berkeley. “These findings are consistent with our claim that feeling of racial threat – particularly, the perception of increased political power among minorities during a period of economic recession – helped shape Whites’ welfare attitudes in recent years.”

The authors explain that “in the case of American social welfare programs, this further implies that evidence of increased racial equality could exacerbate overall economic inequality. As Whites attempt to undermine racial progress they see as threatening their group’s status, they increase opposition to programs intended to benefit poorer members of all racial groups.”

The study, “Privilege on the Precipice: Perceived Racial Status Threats Lead White Americans to Oppose Welfare Programs,” was published on the website of the journal Social Forces. It may be accessed here.

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