How Does Interracial Contact Among the U.S.-Born Shape White And Black Receptivity Toward Immigrants?

Helen B. Marrow, Tufts University
Meta van der Linden, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Publication Date:
Dec 2019
Published In:

A notable increase in immigration into the United States over the past half century, coupled with its recent geographic dispersion into new communities nationwide, has fueled contact among a wider set of individuals and groups than ever before. Past research has helped us understand Whites’ and Blacks’ attitudes toward immigrants and immigration, and even how contact between Blacks and Whites have shaped their attitudes toward one another. Nevertheless, how contact between Blacks and Whites may correspond with attitudes toward immigrants is not as well understood. Drawing on an original representative survey, the study's authors examine U.S.-born Whites’ and Blacks’ attitudes toward Mexican and South Asian Indian immigrants within the context of ongoing relations between the former two U.S.-born communities. Informed by research on the secondary transfer effect (STE), the authors model how the frequency of contact between U.S.-born Whites and Blacks predicts each group’s receptivity toward two differentially positioned immigrant groups, first-generation Mexicans and South Asian Indians. Multivariate analysis indicates that, among Whites, more frequent contact with Blacks is positively associated with greater receptivity toward both immigrant outgroups, even after controlling for Whites’ individual perceptions of threat, their direct contact with the two immigrant groups, and the perceived quality of such contact. Among Blacks, however, they find less consistent evidence that frequent contact with Whites is associated with attitudes toward either immigrant group. While varied literatures across multiple disciplines have suggested that interracial relations among the U.S.-born may be associated with receptivity toward immigrant newcomers, these research results uniquely highlight the importance of considering how U.S.-born groups are positioned in relation to immigrants and to each other when examining such effects.


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