Racial demographics in America are shifting. By 2060 there will be more Americans identifying as an ethnic minority than as White (United States Census Bureau, 2012). For Whites, the rise in ethnic minorities has led to increased concerns of a loss of status (Craig et al., 2018), as for much of American history Whites have enjoyed disproportionate social, economic, and political power relative to their numbers. For ethnic minorities, shifting demographics has created concerns over increased competition for limited resources as well as highlight potential opportunities for new allies in the fight for racial equality (Craig & Richeson, 2012, 2018a). Given the fact that the changing composition of races within America is causing both Whites and ethnic minorities to be concerned with the stability of the racial status quo, both groups are likely motivated to engage in group-based collective action to protect the interests of their specific group. While identity politics and group consciousness have always defined the actions of Blacks, Asians, and Latinos agitating for equality (Chong & Rogers, 2005; Junn & Masuoka, 2008), White identity politics is becoming increasingly connected with efforts that undermine equality and maintain status quo (F. Danbold & Huo, 2015; Petrow, Transue, & Vercellotti, 2018).
One relatively unexplored facet in research on shifting demographics is the importance not only of perceptions of the stability of group positions within the racial hierarchy but whether the group positions as they stand now are legitimate. Research within classical intergroup relations theories (Jost & Major, 2001; Pratto, Stewart, & Zeineddine, 2013; Tajfel & Turner, 2004) discuss the importance of hierarchical legitimacy in motivating group-based actions and ultimately societal change. Perceived hierarchical instability leads individuals to believe change is possible while legitimacy dictates the form of the collective action engaged in. Yet, to date there has been little research connecting conversations around shifting demographics in America to perceived legitimacy. Legitimacy also differentiates the kinds of collective action taken on behalf of both dominant and subordinate groups; thus, it is an open question as to whether shifting demographics not only alters perceptions of stability but of legitimacy, leading to engagement of collective action that benefits in-groups or benefits all Americans.
With Dr. Jennifer Richeson and Dr. Michael Kraus I am investigating the sociocontextual factors that undergird people’s reactions to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in America. In particular we are focusing on the relationship between the diversity represented in people’s local contexts and their overestimation of racial progress. With Dr. Ivy Onyeador we are also researching overestimation of racial economic progress intersectionally, by asking how gender complicates people’s understandings of progress. Finally, Dr. Richeson, Xanni Brown, Dr. Michael Kraus, and I are researching the importance of shifting demographics in America in altering people’s perceptions of the legitimacy and stability of racial hierarchies.