Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Frank L. Samson (a1)

As the White populace in the United States moves toward numerical minority status by 2042, how might Whites respond to impending threat of losing their dominant group position? In particular, how will Whites react at selective, elite universities, where Asians are increasingly prominent and other non-Whites are maintaining or capturing a larger share of enrollments? Drawing on group position theory, I test White commitment to meritocracy as a public policy, using a survey-based experiment (599 California adult residents) to examine the importance grade point average should have in public university admissions. Whites decrease the importance that grade point average should have when Asian group threat is primed. However, White Californians increase the importance that grade point average should have when thinking about group threat from either Blacks or Blacks and Asians simultaneously. Ethnoracial outgroup threat shifts White support for meritocracy in different directions.

Corresponding author
Frank L. Samson, Department of Sociology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33146. E-mail:
Hide All

The author thanks David Grusky, Monica McDermott, and participants of the Social Psychology Workshop, Inequality Workshop, and affiliates of Stanford University's Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (RICSRE) for their helpful feedback on various aspects of this paper. This research was partly funded by a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant SES-080264, and a Stanford University Graduate Research Opportunity Grant and Sociology Research Opportunity Grant. A RICSRE Graduate Dissertation Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Diversity Dissertation Fellowship supported the author during various stages of the data collection, analyses, and writing.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Sigal Alon and Marta Tienda (2007). Diversity, Opportunity and the Shifting Meritocracy in Higher Education. American Sociological Review, 72(4): 487511.

Herbert Blumer (1958). Race Prejudice as a Sense of Group Position. The Pacific Sociological Review, 1: 37.

Lawrence Bobo (1983). Whites' Opposition to Busing: Symbolic Racism or Realistic Group Conflict? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45: 11961210.

Lawrence Bobo (1999). Prejudice as Group Position: Microfoundations of a Sociological Approach to Racism and Race Relations. Journal of Social Issues, 55: 445472.

Lawrence Bobo and Vincent L. Hutchings (1996). Perceptions of Racial Group Competition: Extending Blumer's Theory of Group Position to a Multiracial Social Context.” American Sociological Review, 61: 951972.

Lawrence Bobo and Camille L. Zubrinsky (1996). Attitudes on Residential Integration: Perceived Status Differences, Mere In-Group Preference, or Racial Prejudice? Social Forces, 74: 883909.

Ted Brader , Nicholas A. Valentino , and Elizabeth Suhay (2008). What Triggers Public Opposition to Immigration? Anxiety, Group Cues, and Immigration Threat. American Journal of Political Science, 52(4): 959978.

Emilio J. Castilla (2008). Gender, Race, and Meritocracy in Organizational Careers. American Journal of Sociology, 113: 14791526.

Richard P. Eibach and Thomas Keegan (2006). Free at Last? Social Dominance, Loss Aversion, and White and Black Americans' Differing Assessments of Racial Progress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(3): 453467.

Stanley Feldman (1988). Structure and Consistency in Public Opinion: the Role of Core Beliefs and Values. American Journal of Political Science, 32(2): 416440.

Stanley Feldman and Leonie Huddy (2005). Racial Resentment and White Opposition to Race-Conscious Programs: Principles or Prejudice? American Journal of Political Science, 49: 168183.

Susan T. Fiske , Amy J. C. Cuddy , Peter Glick , and Jun Xu (2002). A Model of (Often Mixed) Stereotype Content: Competence and Warmth Respectively Follow From Perceived Status and Competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82: 878902.

Claudine Gay (2006). Seeing Difference: The Effect of Economic Disparity on Black Attitudes toward Latinos. American Journal of Political Science, 50: 982997.

Robert M. Groves (2006). Nonresponse Rates and Nonresponse Bias in Household Surveys. Public Opinion Quarterly, 70(5): 646675.

Leonie Huddy and David O. Sears (1995). Opposition to Bilingual Education: Prejudice or the Defense of Realistic Interests? Social Psychology Quarterly, 58: 133143.

Matthew O. Hunt (1996). The Individual, Society, or Both? A Comparison of Black, Latino, and White Beliefs about the Causes of Poverty. Social Forces, 75: 293322.

Matthew O. Hunt (2004). Race/Ethnicity and Beliefs about Wealth and Poverty. Social Science Quarterly, 85: 827853.

Matthew O. Hunt (2007). African-American, Hispanic, and White beliefs about Black/White Inequality, 1977–2004. American Sociological Review, 72: 390415.

Mary R. Jackman (1978). General and Applied Tolerance: Does Education Increase Commitment to Racial Integration? American Journal of Political Science, 22: 302324.

Mary R. Jackman and Michael J. Muha (1984). Education and Intergroup Attitudes: Moral Enlightenment, Superficial Democratic Commitment, or Ideological Refinement? American Sociological Review, 49: 751769.

Scott Keeter , Courtney Kennedy , Michael Dimock , Jonathan Best , and Peyton Craighill (2006). Gauging the Impact of Growing Nonresponse on Estimates from a National RDD Telephone Survey. Public Opinion Quarterly, 70(5): 759779.

Claire Jean Kim (1999). The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans. Politics & Society, 27(1): 105138.

James Kluegel and Eliot R. Smith (1983). Affirmative Action Attitudes: Effects of Self-Interest, Racial Affect, and Stratification Beliefs on Whites' Views. Social Forces, 61: 797824.

Maria Krysan (2000). Prejudice, Politics, and Public Opinion: Understanding the Sources of Racial Policy Attitudes. Annual Review of Sociology, 26: 135168.

Monica H. Lin , Virginia S. Y. Kwan , Anna Cheung , and Susan T. Fiske (2005). Stereotype Content Model Explains Prejudice for an Envied Outgroup: Scale of Anti-Asian American Stereotypes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31: 3447.

William W. Maddux , Adam D. Galinsky , Amy J. C. Cuddy , and Mark Polifroni (2008). When Being a Model Minority is Good … and Bad: Realistic Threat Explains Negativity Toward Asian Americans. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34: 7489.

Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers (2011). Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3): 215218.

J. Eric Oliver and Janelle Wong (2003). Intergroup Prejudice in Multiethnic Settings. American Journal of Political Science, 47(4): 567582.

Lincoln Quillian (1995). Prejudice as a Response to Perceived Group Threat: Population Composition and Anti-Immigrant and Racial Prejudice in Europe. American Sociological Review, 60: 586611.

Lincoln Quillian (1996). Group Threat and Regional Change in Attitudes toward African-Americans. American Journal of Sociology, 102: 816860.

Howard Schuman and Lawrence Bobo (1988). Survey-based Experiments on White Racial Attitudes toward Residential Integration. American Journal of Sociology, 94: 273299.

A. Wade Smith (1981). Racial Tolerance as a Function of Group Position. American Sociological Review, 46: 558573.

Marylee C. Taylor (1998). How White Attitudes Vary with the Racial Composition of Local Populations: Numbers Count. American Sociological Review, 63: 512535.

Angela Tsay , Michele Lamont , Andrew Abbott , and Joshua Guetzkow (2003). From Character to Intellect: Changing Conceptions of Merit in the Social Sciences and Humanities, 1951–1971. Poetics, 31: 2349.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 22 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 268 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 27th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.