We show that racial perceptions are fluid; how individuals perceive their own race and how they are perceived by others depends in part on their social position. Using longitudinal data from a representative sample of Americans, we find that individuals who are unemployed, incarcerated, or impoverished are more likely to be seen and identify as black and less likely to be seen and identify as white, regardless of how they were classified or identified previously. This is consistent with the view that race is not a fixed individual attribute, but rather a changeable marker of status.
Figure - Racial self-identification and cumulative social status, 2002. Source: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. (A) The percentage of respondents who self-identified as white in 2002, restricted to respondents who identified as white in 1979. (B) The percentage of respondents who identified as black in 2002, restricted to respondents who identified as black in 1979. Ever-incarcerated refers to whether the respondent was ever interviewed while in prison; ever-unemployed refers to whether the respondent was ever unemployed for more than 4 months in a calendar year; and ever-impoverished refers to whether the respondent's household income was ever below the poverty line. Error bars, ± 1SE.
Monday, December 29, 2008
How social status shapes race.
Penner and Saperstein carry out an interesting analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), which contains multiple measures of interviewer-classified and self-identified race over a twenty-year period. Their abstract, followed by one figure from the paper: