The Great Recession: Implications for Minority and Immigrant Communities

Awarded Scholars:
Gabriel R. Sanchez, University of New Mexico
Jillian Medeiros, University of New Mexico
Kimberly R. Huyser, University of New Mexico
Project Date:
Mar 2012
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
The Social and Economic Effects of the Great Recession

This is a study of the impact of the Great Recession on minorities' political attitudes and actions.

The Great Recession's economic impact on minorities and immigrants has been especially devastating. Between 2005 and 2009, Hispanic households lost 66 percent of their wealth and black households lost 53 percent, while white households lost only 16 percent. By 2010, when the overall unemployment rate was around 10 percent, it was 16 percent for blacks and 13 percent for Latinos. This economic turmoil also came in the midst of a major increase in the minority and immigrant populations. Between 2000 and 2008, a full 83 percent of all population growth was among non-whites. In the youngest age groups, children of color now outnumber whites.

Polls have already demonstrated that the recession has had a notable impact on how the electorate views government and public policy. Approval ratings for Congress are at an all-time low, and it is likely that trust in government is declining as the population increasingly perceives that the government is unable to end the economic downturn. These attitudes may also impact political behavior, since lack of trust in politics and government has been shown to depress voting and other forms of political participation. Sanchez, Medeiros, and Huyser hypothesize that this impact may be especially pronounced among minority and immigrant communities, which have been hardest hit by the recession and have seen public resources devoted to their communities decline.

Before and during the recession, there have been major shifts in the demographics of the U.S. population, notably a rapid increase in the minority population. While this alone has the potential to change the public’s views of minorities and social policies perceived to benefit minorities, the recession may have amplified or modified these effects. Sanchez, Medeiros, and Huyser plan to test two hypotheses that make diametrically opposed predictions about the impact of these major economic and demographic shifts on attitudes towards immigrants and minorities. The first hypothesis is based on previous research showing that increases in populations of color and/or immigrant populations lead to increased racial hostility, perceptions of competition, and increased residential segregation among whites. The second hypothesis is based on theories suggesting that collective economic hardship may lead to a greater sense of empathy for vulnerable groups and greater support for public resources to assist those in need.


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