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Cultural Contact

Color-Blindness and Diversity: New Report By Former Visiting Scholar Natasha Warikoo

April 3, 2015

In a new paper co-authored with Janine de Novais, former Visting Scholar Natasha Warikoo (Harvard) explores college students' perspectives on affirmative action, analyzing how "diversity" and "color-blindness" frames shape the ways that students perceive different ethnic and racial groups on campus. The abstract states:

In this paper we bring together the literatures on frame analysis, the meaning of race and campus racial climate to analyse the race frames—lenses through which individuals understand the role of race in society—held by white students attending elite US universities. For most, the elite university experience coincides with a strengthening or emergence of the diversity frame, which emphasizes the positive benefits of cultural diversity. Still, many also hold a colour-blind frame, which sees race groups as equivalent and racial identities as insignificant. We highlight the ambivalence that these divergent frames create for student perspectives on affirmative action and interracial contact on campus. Our findings demonstrate the mutability of race frames. We also highlight the impact that institutions may have on individuals' race frames. The paper is based on in-depth interviews with forty-seven US-born white undergraduates attending Brown University and Harvard University.

Winter 2015 Presidential Authority Awards

March 9, 2015

The Russell Sage Foundation has recently approved the following Presidential Authority awards in several programs, including Future of Work, Social Inequality, Cultural Contact, and Immigration programs.

Awards approved in the Future of Work program:

Living at the Minimum: Low-Wage Workers with Children During Seattle's Minimum Wage Increase
Heather D. Hill and Jennifer Romich (University of Washington)
Jointly funded with the MacArthur Foundation

Human development and social policy experts Heather Hill and Jennifer Romich will carry out an in-depth, qualitative study of Seattle workers with children before and after the implementation of the city’s minimum wage increase to $15 per hour starting in April 2015.

New Awards Approved in Future of Work, Social Inequality, and Cultural Contact Programs

March 2, 2015

Seven new research projects were funded at the Foundation’s February 2015 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The Foundation’s Future of Work program examines the causes and consequences of the declining quality of jobs for less- and moderately-educated workers in the U.S. economy and the role of changes in employer practices, the nature of the labor market and public policies on the employment, earnings, and the quality of jobs of American workers. The following project was recently funded under the program:

Minimum Wage Policies and Low-Wage Work: An Assessment of New Methods and Measures
Arindrajit Dube (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Jointly funded with the MacArthur Foundation

Economist Arindrajit Dube, who has been at the forefront of new minimum wage research, will assess the contradictory findings in the recent literature on whether increasing the minimum wage raises labor costs and leads to fewer jobs at the bottom of the labor market.

New Paper: The Genomic Revolution and Beliefs about Essential Racial Differences

March 28, 2013

RSF Visiting Scholar Jo Carol Phelan has co-published a new paper in the latest American Sociological Review. Here is the abstract:

Could the explosion of genetic research in recent decades affect our conceptions of race? In Backdoor to Eugenics, Duster argues that reports of specific racial differences in genetic bases of disease, in part because they are presented as objective facts whose social implications are not readily apparent, may heighten public belief in more pervasive racial differences. We tested this hypothesis with a multi-method study. A content analysis showed that news articles discussing racial differences in genetic bases of disease increased significantly between 1985 and 2008 and were significantly less likely than non–health-related articles about race and genetics to discuss social implications. A survey experiment conducted with a nationally representative sample of 559 adults found that a news-story vignette reporting a specific racial difference in genetic risk for heart attacks (the Backdoor Vignette) produced significantly greater belief in essential racial differences than did a vignette portraying race as a social construction or a no-vignette condition. The Backdoor Vignette produced beliefs in essential racial differences that were virtually identical to those produced by a vignette portraying race as a genetic reality. These results suggest that an unintended consequence of the genomic revolution may be the reinvigoration of age-old beliefs in essential racial differences.

Compliments and Positive Stereotypes

January 15, 2013

RSF Visiting Scholar Sapna Cheryan has co-published a new article in this month's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Here is the abstract:

Five studies show that being the target of a positive stereotype is a negative interpersonal experience for those from individualistic cultures because positive stereotypes interfere with their desire to be seen as individuals separate from their groups. U.S.-born Asian Americans and women who heard a positive stereotype about their group in an intergroup interaction (e.g., “Asians are good at math,” “women are nurturing”) derogated their partner and experienced greater negative emotions than those who heard no stereotype. Negative reactions were mediated by a sense of being depersonalized, or “lumped together” with others in one's group, by the positive stereotype (Studies 1–3). Cross-cultural differences (Study 4) and an experimental manipulation of cultural self-construal (Study 5) demonstrated that those with an independent self-construal reacted more negatively to positive stereotypes than those with an interdependent self-construal. By bringing together research on stereotypes from the target's perspective with research on culture, this work demonstrates how cultural self-construals inform the way people interpret and respond to being the target of positive stereotypes.

Stigma and Status

January 4, 2013

RSF Visiting Scholar Jo Carol Phelan co-published a paper with Jeffrey W. Lucas in the December issue of the Social Psychology Quarterly. Here is the abstract:

This article explicates and distinguishes the processes that produce status orders and those that produce stigmatization. It describes an experimental study in which participants were assigned interaction partners before completing a task where they had opportunities to be influenced by the partners and opportunities to socially reject the partners. Results show clear influence effects of educational attainment and mental illness but no effects for physical disability. Social distance effects are present for mental illness and physical disability but not for educational attainment. Results additionally show that stigmatizing attributes combine with task ability in affecting influence and also suggest that task ability may reduce social rejection. These results indicate that stigmatizing attributes combine with status markers in a way similar to previously studied status attributes. The findings extend traditions of research on status and stigma while also having potentially important implications for strategies to reduce inequalities based on mental illness.

High School Harassment and Collective Norms

December 4, 2012

The December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has published a paper by former RSF Visiting Scholar Elizabeth Levy Paluck and Hana Shepherd. Entitled "The Salience of Social Referents: A Field Experiment on Collective Norms and Harassment Behavior in a School Social Network," the paper examines how norms in high school develop and whether they can be changed. Here is the abstract:

Persistent, widespread harassment in schools can be understood as a product of collective school norms that deem harassment, and behavior allowing harassment to escalate, as typical and even desirable. Thus, one approach to reducing harassment is to change students' perceptions of these collective norms. Theory suggests that the public behavior of highly connected and chronically salient actors in a group, called social referents, may provide influential cues for individuals' perception of collective norms. Using repeated, complete social network surveys of a public high school, we demonstrate that changing the public behavior of a randomly assigned subset of student social referents changes their peers' perceptions of school collective norms and their harassment behavior. Social referents exert their influence over peers' perceptions of collective norms through the mechanism of everyday social interaction, particularly interaction that is frequent and personally motivated, in contrast to interaction shaped by institutional channels like shared classes. These findings clarify the development of collective social norms: They depend on certain patterns of and motivations for social interactions within groups across time, and are not static but constantly reshaped and reproduced through these interactions. Understanding this process creates opportunities for changing collective norms and behavior.

The Impact of School Desegregation

October 26, 2012

Court-ordered school desegregation, perhaps most famously highlighted by Brown v. Board of Education, has been described as among the most ambitious and controversial social experiments of the past fifty years. But what do we know about the long-run impact of school desegregation on students' lives?

In an engaging TEDx talk, former RSF Visiting Scholar Rucker Johnson, argues that desegregation had a major effect on school quality and yielded substantial increases in educational attainment and adult earnings among black students. Johnson argues that two key non-racial aspects of integration -- an increase in per-pupil spending and a reduction in class sizes among blacks -- played a substantial role in helping black students. Watch below for more:

The "Obama Effect" on White Racial Prejudice

Seth K. Goldman, University of Pennsylvania
October 24, 2012

election-2012As part of our Election 2012 series, Seth K. Goldman examines the impact of President Barack Obama's campaign on levels of white prejudice. A Russell Sage grantee, Goldman is a post-doctoral fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication.

In the wake of the presidential and vice-presidential debates, pundits and political scientists alike have dissected the performance and rhetoric of the candidates, hoping to answer one question: Who will win the election? Obviously, this is an important question, but given the historic nature of Barack Obama’s candidacy, we need to also address another issue: Will the campaign to reelect the first African-American president influence white Americans’ racial attitudes? If the 2008 campaign is any indication, it may very well do so. My research demonstrates that during the 2008 campaign, long before Obama's election, levels of white racial prejudice declined significantly.

Using three waves of nationally representative panel data collected during the 2008 campaign, I found that in just a handful of months whites became less likely to rate whites more positively than blacks on three scales ranging from hardworking to lazy, trustworthy to untrustworthy, and intelligent to unintelligent. And although the size of the decline was modest statistically, it was big historically. Between July 2008 and January 2009, racial prejudice declined by a rate that was at least five times faster than the secular trend in prejudice occurring in the United States over the previous two decades.

A True Change of Heart?

These are dramatic changes, but could they be the result of a methodological artifact driven by social desirability bias—that is, did whites become increasingly concerned about looking racist without changing their personal beliefs? Based on a variety of reasons, however, this appears unlikely. As an illustration, consider that in the late summer of 2008 (during the first of the three waves of the panel survey) fully 56 percent of whites rated whites more positively than blacks on the three scales described above. This suggests little aversion to answering the questions in a way that indicates prejudice, probably due to the fact that the measure of prejudice did not require whites to directly compare whites and blacks. The items about the two groups appeared at different points in the survey (with the order randomized), separated by several minutes' worth of items about non-racial topics.

Moreover, although social desirability effects are common in face-to-face and telephone surveys, this study was conducted over the Internet, where such effects are much less common because the respondents do not interact with another person. Nonetheless, as another check, I took advantage of the random order in which whites were asked about whites and blacks. This allowed me to assess whether whites changed their ratings of the second group in an effort to rate the two groups equally. For instance, if fears of looking racist altered whites' ratings, then they should have rated blacks more positively when whites were asked about first (in order to shift closer to a presumably higher rating of whites). Similarly, whites should have rated whites less positively when blacks were asked about first (in order to shift closer to a presumably lower rating of blacks). Completely contradicting the possibility of social desirability effects, neither pattern appeared on any of the three waves of the panel survey.

White Male Managerial Representation by Sector, 1966-2005

October 18, 2012

The figure below, taken from the RSF book Documenting Desegregation, reports sector trends in white male managerial representation. A score of zero indicates that a group is represented on average at the same rate at which its members are employed in local labor markets. A score of 40 indicates that a group is over-represented by 40 percent.

In all sectors other than social services, white men were over-represented in managerial jobs. All sectors showed an increase in white males' access to managerial jobs after 1966, but there was considerable variability in trajectories after the early 1970s. In 2005, white males' representation in management was lowest in retail trade and the three service sectors, which comprise relatively low-wage industries. You can analyze each sector by clicking on the chart's legend below.

Source:Authors' calculations based on data from EEO-1 surveys (EEOC, various years)

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