Racial and ethnic groups have not been immune to the rise in economic inequality—intra-group economic inequality has grown as well. But what do these increased inequalities mean for different racial and ethnic groups? In academic and media discourse, racial and ethnic groups are often portrayed as relatively homogenous in terms of their political and social views. There are some grounds for believing this to be true. For example, non-white support for Barack Obama through two presidential elections was very substantial, and most non-whites still share perceptions of persistent discrimination and disadvantage regardless of their economic standing. However, some polling evidence, as well as local policy conflicts, sometimes shows sharp class divides within black and Latino communities. These differences suggest that in some cases, affluent and poor non-whites are divided politically as well as economically and residentially.
Professors Jennifer Hochschild of Harvard University and Vesla Weaver of Yale University note that crucial life experiences—such as being the victim of a crime, living in a segregated neighborhood, obtaining higher education, being arrested, or benefitting from access to public officials—are more class-stratified within racial and ethnic groups today than they have been since the nineteenth century. They suggest that diverging intra-group racial and economic views that are associated with high levels of inequality and increasingly disparate life experiences may have political consequences. Their main goal of their project is to document and explain the political effects of differences tied to increased intra-group class stratification.
Despite the evidence that the political preferences of non-whites have seldom varied by class, Hochshild and Weaver hypothesize that this pattern may mask intra-group tensions. First, they will examine whether non-whites have experienced the kind of liberal and conservative political and economic divisions that characterize the white population. They suggest that there are no theoretical grounds for non-whites to divide with regard to group identity issues, and no reason to expect intra-group class divisions in regard to group-specific policies such as affirmative action. Finally, if they find evidence of diverging racial and economic views, they will analyze what these mean in terms of political efficacy and impact.