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Vincent Hutchings, the Hanes Walton Jr. Collegiate Professorship in Political Science and Afroamerican and African Studies, Inaugural Lecture

“If They Only Knew”: Informing Blacks and Whites about the Racial Wealth Gap
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
4:00-5:00 PM
Even after the historic demonstrations against racially biased policing in the summer of 2020, most White Americans continue to oppose racially liberal policies such as affirmative action. Social scientists dating back at least as far as Gunnar Myrdal have argued that support for egalitarian policies would increase substantially if Whites only knew about the plight of African Americans. Similarly, Black support for policies of racial redistribution is also less than monolithic. For example, some surveys find only tepid support among Blacks for affirmative action or efforts to “defund the police.” Would this support increase if White and Black Americans were informed about the enormous racial wealth gap? We examine this question with two survey experiments fielded online by CloudResearch. Study 1 (N=1,908) was fielded at the height of the George Floyd demonstrations in June of 2020. Subjects were randomly assigned either to a control condition, where they were merely provided a definition of the racial wealth gap, or to one of two treatment conditions that provided a defintion of the racial wealth gap. They were also provided with textual and visual information on the current size of the Black/White racial wealth gap based on information from the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. In general, we find that the treatment conditions do increase information levels on the perceived size of the racial wealth gap, but they do not increase support for racially redistributive policy proposals. In a second experiment, scheduled for February of 2021, we seek to replicate the results of the 2020 experiment and add two additional treatment conditions highlighting the fact that the median household headed by a Black college graduate has less wealth than the median household headed by a White high school dropout. This Study 2 experiment represents an even stronger test of the hypthesis that public support for racially redistributive policies would increase if Americans only knew the truth. We discuss the implications of our findings for the prospects of racial reconciliation in our conclusion.

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Meeting ID: 997 6138 8651
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: african and afroamerican studies, Political Science
Source: Happening @ Michigan from The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Department for Afroamerican and African Studies, Department of Political Science