Are Smart People Less Racist?

Press Release (ePRNews.com) - Houston, Texas - Feb 03, 2016 - ​There’s a disconnect in white Americans’ views on race. Though whites who score higher on intelligence tests are less likely to hold prejudiced stereotypes and profess beliefs in racial justice, they are no more likely to support public policies designed to reduce racial inequality. This is the main finding of research by Geoffrey Wodtke (University of Toronto), recently published by a flagship academic journal of sociology: Social Problems.

Looking at three decades of data from the General Social Survey, one of the most robust sources of information on American attitudes, the study analyzed a nationally representative sample of over 45,000 whites. Those with higher test scores subscribe to negative racial stereotypes at lower rates than those with lower scores. For example, 29 percent of the former group say blacks are lazy and 13 percent claim they are unintelligent. Of the latter group, 46 percent say blacks are lazy and 23 percent claim they are unintelligent. Whites with high test scores report lower disapproval rates (28 percent) of interracial marriage, and fewer (24 percent) say they do not want black families living next door. Meanwhile 47 and 35 percent of whites who scored low on intelligence tests oppose interracial marriage and residential integration, respectively.

The study suggests that both high and low scoring whites share racist attitudes. It is just that those with higher intelligence scores are smart enough to know better than saying so. In other words, they are more sophisticated racists.

Kasey Henricks, Chair of Social Media

Generally speaking, whites with high intelligence test scores have more positive views of blacks and do not blame them for socioeconomic disadvantages they face. These differences, however, did not carry over when asked about racial justice policy. In education, the study found 95 percent of those with higher scores on verbal ability tests said black and white children should attend integrated schools. Only 22 percent of these people support busing programs for desegregating schools. In the labor market, 71 percent recognized black discrimination in employment access but just 12 percent support racial preferences like affirmative action.

How can these paradoxical findings be interpreted? The study suggests that both high and low scoring whites share racist attitudes. It is just that those with higher intelligence scores are smart enough to know better than saying so. In other words, they are more sophisticated racists.

For further information, please contact Kasey Henricks at khenricks@luc.edu. The article appears in the February 2016 Issue of Social Problems, and is entitled “Are Smart People Less Racist? Verbal Ability, Anti-black Prejudice, and the Principle-policy Paradox.” It has now available through Open Access.

Social Problems is the official publication of The Society for the Study of Social Problems and one of the most widely respected and read professional journals in the social sciences. This quarterly journal presents accessible, relevant, and innovative articles that uphold critical perspectives on contemporary social issues. For additional commentary, you can follow the journal on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: Kasey Henricks, Social Media Co-Chair of Social Problems and Arthur J. Schmitt Fellow at Loyola University Chicago

Phone: 423-364-9251

Email: khenricks@luc.edu

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