Free DP Download 16 September 2021 - PERCEPTIONS OF RACIAL GAPS, THEIR CAUSES, AND WAYS TO REDUCE THEM

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Matteo Ferroni and Stefanie Stantcheva CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16529 | September 2021

Using a large-scale survey in the United States, a new CEPR study by Matteo Ferroni and Stefanie Stantcheva documents large differences in how respondents perceive racial inequities between Black and white Americans, what they believe causes them, and what interventions, if any, they think should be implemented to reduce them. Among the findings: 

  • Although there are differences in how respondents perceive the magnitude of current racial gaps in economic conditions and opportunities, the biggest discrepancies are in how they explain them. 
  • There is a stark partisan gap among white respondents, particularly in the perceived causes of racial inequities and what should be done about them. 
  • White Democrats and Black respondents are much more likely to attribute racial inequities to adverse past and present circumstances and want to act on them with race-targeted and general redistribution policies. 
  • At the same time, white Republicans are more likely to attribute racial gaps to individual actions. 
  • These views are already deeply entrenched in teenagers based on their race and their parents' political affiliation. 
  • A policy decomposition shows that the perceived causes of racial inequities correlate most strongly with support for race-targeted or general redistribution policies.

These results imply that voter attitudes on race may be quite different from those of the overall (voting and non-voting) population. For instance, younger and Black respondents are more supportive of race-targeted policies, yet less likely to vote, not the least because of costly and unjustified restrictions that act as substantial barriers to voting.


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