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Social Forces, University of North Carolina Press

A Distorted Nation: Perceptions of Racial/Ethnic Group Sizes and Attitudes toward Immigrants and Other Minorities Author(s): Richard Alba, Rubén G. Rumbaut, Karen Marotz Reviewed work(s): Source: Social Forces, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Dec., 2005), pp. 901-919 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3598484 . Accessed: 10/02/2012 10:20
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Nation: A Distorted SizesandAttitudes of Racial/Ethnic Group Perceptions Minorities andOther Toward Tmmigrants
SUNY Richard Alba,University atAlbany, Irvine RubenG. Rumbaut,University of California, SUNY KarenMarotz,University atAlbany,

Abstract SocialSurvey, Americans' module(MEUS)of the2000 General we investigate Usinga special Weshowthat,because States. of the United of of theracialand ethniccomposition perceptions rather thanabsolute, it is critical togauge relative, groupsizes. innumeracy, through perceptions believed thatwhites hadbecome a Evenso,it appears that,as of2000,roughly halfofAmericans such were even more common members numerical minority; perceptions amongminority-group sizesof minorities thanamongwhites. Majority-group of therelative respondents'perceptions and Hispanics, with thosehavingthe most towards blacks affecttheirattitudes immigrants, themostnegative distorted sizesin attitudes. perceptions holding Although perceptions ofgroup the nation are linkedto the perceived racial/ethnic the communities where of composition the on attitudes are the latter. Our reside, independent respondents oftheformer effects largely of the overlooked valueofan oldbromide education. frequently againstprejudice: findings highlight "Ahalf-century from now, when your own grandchildren are in there will be no race in America." college, majority - President BillClinton at the 1998Portland StateUniversity commencement Blumer racial is connected to a sense of group As Herbert observed, (1958) famously prejudice racial andethniccomposition of the United Thechanging States,spurred position. largely by the sense of groupsuperiority of native wouldseem to challenge contemporary immigration, the whites, by alteringrapidly and, in some cases, radically Anglos, i.e., non-Hispanic malls andvotingbooths.Since of schools,neighborhoods, workplaces, shopping compositions on a large scaleinthe late1960s,some regions of the United Stateshave resumed immigration InCalifornia, forexample, remarkable transformations. whiteswent demographic undergone between1980and2000.Equally fromtwo-thirds to less thanhalfof the population greatshifts numerical that the dominance of areforecastforthe future;population projections suggest Research (National Angloscouldend in the nationas a whole by the middleof the century that- as end inmanycitiesandmetropolitan Council 1997).Itwillcertainly regionslongbefore SanFrancisco, urban centerssuchas LosAngeles, indeeditalready hasinsome major Houston, Miami andNewYork. SanAntonio, theoretical has well-known literature, (1967) analysis, exemplified by Blalock's Sociological of threat to the majority withthe perception racial/ethnic demography changing longconnected their service ontheGSS Board became withthis The twosenior authors ofOverseers, topic during engaged the 2000 Multi-Ethnic U.S. the to to board members are andthey shape for opportunity grateful theirfellow Andrew Mellon the the W also module the financial survey. (MEUS) of acknowledge support They of Direct to Richard enabled theMEUS datato be collected. which Alba, Foundation, correspondence E-mail: NY12222. SUNY, r.alba@albany.edu. Department ofSociology, University atAlbany, Albany,
C The Universityof NorthCarolinaPress Social Forces, Volume84, Number2, December 2005

Onone hand.As of 2000.perceive research of the groups Some recent anditseffecton the position to whichtheybelong? survey It finds that Americans the complicates many demography-+threat-*prejudice linkage. with datafromthe the issue of group-sizeperceptions The presentpaperreexamines whichaskedrespondents 2000General SocialSurvey. The inclusion racial/ethnic populations major estimatedsize of the majority us allows to size in a examine relative sense. (Kaiser Family of minority-group sizes couldbe arguedto reflecta Niemi2001).We prefer to reserve the term"innumeracy" intonumerical perception and regard distinct fromdistortions inthe perception of racial thisability it as analytically and ethnic sizes. including of the whites.Onthe group (Gallagher amongthe members heightened andminority areshared of majority insofar as these misperceptions other. the GSSBoard of Overseers "Multi-Ethnic United developeda moduleentitled .Sigelman 2001. about halfof Americans believedthat whites were already a numerical this beliefwas heldeven more by membersof minority. in manycases preaching to the choir. Lincoln Quillian (1995).Niemiand Levine1993). their the sizesof the major racial andethnicminority numbers well misperceive groups. shift and the micro-level Yet between the macro-sociological plane of demographic of individual as registered insurveys Howdo individuals liesperception.its potential impact demography segregated. linkage immigrant of the population inan areaandthe anti-black attitudes Statesbetweenthe blackpercentage of itswhiteresidents.whichwas expandedin the 2000 surveyto includeadditional questionsabout and immigrant attitudestowardimmigration we can address how groups.Onepunchline group-size perceptions correspond fromourfindings is thatPresident inthe quotation of thispaper. ones. inrespondent distortion of racial and ethnic perceptions demography. of the survey. to estimatethe percentage sizes of the in the UnitedStates. group group whichprobably better thanthe absolute one withthe notion of threat inBlumer's corresponds andBlalock's frameworks.A problem withpaststudiesis thattheyhaverelied on respondent estimates group the degreeof of absolute of minority whichappear to overstate population percentages groups. phenomenon prejudice socialcontexts. the changing of theirsociety. itsuggeststhatothermechanisms.numeracy.Number2 * December 2005 of exclusionary andthe institutionalization barriers to preserve its socialprivileges (Bobo1983. Among hostility minorities. Nadeau. at the beginning was Clinton. numerical information Themisperception of group sizes hasbeeninappropriately (Paulos 1988). of prejudice Williams those barriers are and other forms directed towards 1947).902 * SocialForcesVolume84. the other. two distinct labeledas "innumeracy" (Nadeau.thus confounding the ability to translate a mechanisms: one involving the perception of groupsize.Consequently.for example.has foundthat demographically expanding withthe size of the in European countries variesinaccordance prejudice againstimmigrants inthe United Fossett andKiecolt havefound the equivalent (1989) population. and Niemiand Levine ascertained Foundation 1993. The GSS Data TheGeneral SocialSurveyis a nationally representative surveyof the non-institutionalized.whichmaybe highly whose horizons are largely boundedby theireveryday on them. bymembers groups.conducted English-speaking population biannually.one difficulty and manipulate whichwe willdefine as an ability to comprehend mechanism. of the United For the 2000version States.exaggeration of the majority sense of threat 2003). inflating whether thisis inanywaya changefromthe pastcannotbe beyondanydemographic reality. minority groupsthanbywhitesthemselves. TheGeneral SocialSurvey also provides a rangeof attitudinal data aboutrace. withthe attitudes thatrespondents hold. including cognitive of a basic cognitive withthe research to date lies in its treatment Indeed. maybe at work. fora limitation in terms.

presented Inexamining the consequencesof group-size forracial we drawon attitudes.like all we analyze. attitudestowards immigration the items involved. .so we combinethem laterin a simpleadditiveindex. AsianAmericans f. domainof potential Here.Smithand Marsden 2001: design of the survey.forexample. willanalyze an indexconstituted thatsolicited aboutthe bythreequestionsinMEUS opinions of for U. Higher crimerates? B.1 Itincluded a of open-endedquestionsaskingrespondents to estimatethe sizes of racial/ethnic battery whites. of the rotation andthe "ballot" see Davis.losingtheirjobs? Factor analysisconfirmsthatthe responses to these three revealan underlying single we examine dimension. Which statement on the cardcomes closestto how feel? youyourself.are restriction. Hispanics or Latin Americans e. withoutworrying about mathematical consistency: Just your best guess .Inaddition. or notlikely at all? likely. Blacks/African-Americans c.398respondents.S.whichalso presentstheirmeans.what percentageof the UnitedStates is eachgroup? PERCENTAGES DONOT [INSTRUCTIONS: population HAVE TO ADD UP TO 100% AND THELISTED GROUPS MAY OVERLAP ENCOURAGE ESTIMATES FOR ALL GROUPS.of Racial/Ethnic Sizes* 903 Group Perceptions whichwas intendedas a test of new questionson respondent attitudes States.Theinstructions to the interviewers thatrespondents groups. and the racialand ethnic minorities towardsimmigration developingfrom it. Herearesome opinions other withBlackpeople havein connection whiterelations. Whites b. as an appendix table. nottoo likely. Making the country moreopento new ideasandcultures? C. Peopleborninthe U.including emphasized were to be encouragedto give theirbest guesses. perceptions the largerepertoire of race-related itemsinthe GSS.or 1." In the surveyinquired intoa number of immigrationand race-related attitudes. The MEUS modulewas presented to one of the two 2000 samples. Jews d.S. consequences immigration society: What do you thinkwill happenas a result of more immigrants Iseachof these results somewhat comingto thiscountry? verylikely.] % a.we important consequencesis immigration-related. Illustrative of the kindsof attitudes we analyze is: 1525-7)."or MEUS.Our addition. American Indians A similar set of questionswas posed about"thepeoplewho liveinyourcommunity.BUT DISCOURAGE RESPONDENTS REVISING THEIR ESTIMATES. One analysisdrawson these to investigatethe consequences of group-size perceptions. A.Some of these itemsarepartsof rotating sets thatareaskedof partial a discussion (For samplesandthusnotof allMEUS respondents.

S. A consistentproblem the estimatesis a lackof precision.FT w r4 To I F flIr I IFt T . there are respondentswho providethe same estimateforeverygrouporestimateone groupto be 100 percent(or0 percent). andthus halfof the respondents inthe way estimatesof minority-group size are20 percentor more. some 60 percentof the estimatesare multiples they are not divisible seem to be waryof underestimating Further. Some innumeracy.904 * SocialForces Volume84.not usually by 5 when Theytendto give estimatesthataredivisible demographers.r'. strongly] TheProblem of Innumeracy Inspectionof the estimates given by respondents reveals a significantproblem of of numbersthat are highlyimplausible as perceptionsof groupsizes. groups'sizes.buttwo-thirds of the GSSrespondentsestimatedit to be at least 10 percent.disagree disagree slightly. by 10.''-f'tr irI"i I 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 100 Perceived Percentage .GSS2000 Asian Percentage Figure1. throughout afterall. [Responsesare: Agree strongly. respondentsare. intonumerical itappears.Population. agree slightly.TheAsianpercentage 4 percentinthe 2000 Census. Infact. presents the estimates for the AsianAmerican of 5. forthe smaller 1. have very impreciseperceptions. r rIl T .Number2 . cannoteasilytranslate theirperceptions termsorthey respondents. of 10. African shouldn't Americans pushthemselveswheretheyarenot wanted.FF i'iF1---fiti tt. especially Figure groupssuch as AsiansandAmerican reveals(1) the dominanceof population. in the U. which sizes. and(2)the overall of 10 andsecondarily estimatesthatareprimarily multiples multiples was countedat not quite of the population inflation of the estimates. ES o T0 ? . Distribution of Perceived 20 18 161403 a() c () 0 c0 o3 Qr4- 12 - I I I 10 8 6 4 2 0 l FT1 -.Thus.thereare patterns in would to inflate themselves numbers that minority group appear respondentsexpress Indians.Thus.December 2005 A.

Hispanics ora combination relative them as a minority . tend to be moreerror-prone smallestminorities. Blacksappear give slightly. average of numeracy Thisbriefoverview issues leadsto threeconclusions: (andinnumeracy) (1) are highly as reports of theirperceptions of the estimatesof some respondents implausible size are sociological reality. Hispanics.the fivemutually (Hollinger pentagon (whites. Asians. An even greaternumberof estimatingtheir population shareof at least50 percent. of the two largest and Hispanicpopulations comparedto non-Hispanic about25 percentof the totalU.the tendencyto overstateminority-group does indeed the sizes whites'population respondents proportion suggestthatmany exaggerate In these two tendencies combined further for some of minority that. Foundation results.ouranalysis whites .most plausibly. the composition of the inthe GSSsampleto Indian aretoo few AsianandAmerican (There respondents population. population. majority The "Endangered" White Majority tendedto overstateminority-group size. respondent's than Indians andJews.usually whites.S. 1. Blacks theirestimateshere.Thus. everyonein the U.thinks of the population thatwhitesmakeupa significantly smaller thantheydo inreality.Americans willfocus on the relative sizes of the black the others. Thus. blacks believethatone of these two minority groups. The2000 Censusshowedwhitesto be almost70 percent if respondents are "whites" do notinclude (Weassumethat. usingthe terminthe literal of the majority thenthe degreeof misperception size obviously worsens. 23 percentbelievethatthe two minority an additional groupstogetheroutnumber andAmerican into further ifwe addedAsians Indians wouldincrease thislastfraction Obviously. majority To some extent. andHispanics of the population. fact. 20 percentof the respondents depictwhites as a minority Nearly percentageto be less than 50. a smallgroup . they didnotdo the same for Although respondents 2 shows. acceptany 80-percent range. population categories that should includevirtually 150 percenton the percentagesadd upto nearly AsiansandAmerican Indians). whileHispanics estimatesof theirown percentage higher giveslightly overestimate theirfraction. butnevertheless presents respondents assignswhitesa population of the two. loweraverageestimatesthanwhitesdo.S. suggest whites'majority Thisissue is addressed inTable statusis inquestion. more of the population.6 percent to blacks. no longer whitesto be the thatroughly halfof Americans the mix.(2) the absolute sizes of the estimates of minority-group the and need to be relatedto some other magnitude.of Racial/Ethnic GroupSizes * 905 Perceptions of these tendenciesaremadeclearwhenone adds upthe estimatesfor Theramifications exclusive ethno-racial the groupsof the so-called 1995). Table 2 shows howrespondents the size of their belonging overestimating three largest racial/ethnic populationsperceive. untrustworthy and of the of the estimates of the size the estimate (3) majority population.that is. on average.theytendedinstead to underestimate whites.compared comprised percent. sense demographers wouldgiveit. this incorrect perception is a result of minorityrespondents to the own groups.population inthe 2000 who togethercomprised minorities.residents.Indeed.a substantial respondents group . as Figure the whitepercentage of U. in an absolutesense.nearly 40 percent of respondents overestimates whites'size. part size combinedwith that to understate Thus. blacks.) If.2 respondents. groups.a conclusion perceive seems fair.Forthe lasttwo reasons.formost respondents.)For whites'percentage include to butnot significantly.thusincluding whiteHispanics. for GSS respondents.thenslightly While of morethanhalfof the samplehas a good graspof the whiteproportion. of the population.is at leastas largeas whites. to the which 70 Census. Hispanics.S.as a rough group's we in the 60to measureof an accurate estimate.see Kaiser (Forsimilar Family substantially .

Distribution of Perceived 20 18- 1614cl) 12 -I cIn I\ (V) 0D O o~ o- I I I 8 6 4 2 0 Tl T r At : 1nrll?lurnrrmnnnl 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 100 rfv Perceived Percentage Table1:The Perceptionof Whites as a Minority N Total: whogiveat leastone estimate forwhites.50% ~ Hispanics Whites Whites< blacks .6 .blacks + Hispanics Whites Source:GeneralSocialSurvey.Number2 * December 2005 White Percentage in the U. %of usable estimates 1.7 4. Hispanics) Respondentswithnon-usableestimates: Atleastone estimate is missing Atleastone estimate is 100% Atleastone estimate is 0% forallfivegroups arethesame Estimates Respondentswithusableestimates: < 50% Whites Whites .2000.906 * SocialForces Volume84. (Respondents blacks.5 1.320 86 44 18 16 8 1.GSS2000 Figure2.0 18.Population.234 228 1.006 21 52 279 100.S.5 81.2 22.

3 945 158 94 31.225 p *** * *** * .81**' 19.of Racial/Ethnic Perceptions GroupSizes * 907 2001: 4. 3 presentsthe coefficientsfroman OLSregression accountforthem.052 .4 56.710 .Table group sizes.31** 10. raisequestionsaboutbackground thatmight These patterns factors.57** (3/1230) 22.R2 N Source:GeneralSocialSurvey.) Members of all three groups overestimatethe Asian and AmericanIndian butHispanics to do so to a slightly extent.151 1. include.8 15.8 12.age attainment. independent notably.8 34.358 .3 26.3 27. for residenceoutsideof a we also control everyday exposureto minorities area(implying limited and nativity (sinceforeignbirth exposureto immigrants)3 metropolitan correlates withresidenceinareaswithmanyotherimmigrants).2000.090 .8 56.3 15. to varyaccording to the degree of and racial/ethnic origin.295 .1 37.7 20. likely andHispanics of Logged Ratio of Blacks to Whites Table 3:Regression Analysis Variable: Education (years) Age (years) Male Rural residence birth Foreign Hispanic Black Asian Constant Adj.0 20.2000.As an answer.001 p Unstandardized coefficient -. *** < .1 39. appear greater Table2: Mean Group-sizeEstimatesby Race/Ethnicity of Respondents %White Estimated by: Whites Blacks Hispanics F statistic df *** p < .239 .such as education.048 -.Becausewe expect perceptions and immigrants.27 (3/ 1230) %Black % Hispanic %Asian American Indian N 29.081 -.2 16.003** -. The analysis of the influences on distorted perceptionsof racial/ethnic educational and variables most also gender. percentages.001 58.28*** (3/1230) (3/ 1204) (3/1196) Source:GeneralSocialSurvey.6 2.

Thisformulation is a matterof degree and can be greateror lesser. Age is not as strong a factoras these two.paralleling groupsizes thatcallfor perceptions different In to of groupsin"your community. the relationshiphas been argued in two ways: on one hand. and the perceptionsof the foreignbornare not significantly differentfromthose of the nativeborn.Thisis obviouslynot muchbelow the percentageone would of the population. especially since the absolute values of the estimates do not appear trustworthy.4 This measurementof this last effect maybe biased by the exclusionof non-English speakersfromthe GSSuniverse.6 averages112 percent.As a consequence.two expectations do not hold up: the residents of ruralareas.the sum of the estimatesforthe fivepopulations inthe ethnoracial close to the idealof 100 percent. The Impact of Residential Contexts on Perceptions of National Demography An individual's everydaysocial context is a likelysource of his or her perceptionsof the sizes of differentgroups. Hispanicsreportratiosof minority-to-white than whites do. while blacks reportratios that are 24 percent higher.908 * SocialForces 2005 Volume84.andthis is what Nadeau. change in the independent has a pronounced Education. men perceive relativeminority-group size as 30 percent lowerthan do women. and earlierresearch has supportedthe hypothesis that the of the residential area exerts a substantialinfluenceon these racial/ethnic demography perceptions (Nadeau. pentagon . who presumablyhave less are no more likelythan others to have distorted exposureto racialand ethnic diversity. andthe level.Niemi and Levine (1993)infact found. Evenwiththese effects takenintoaccount. also. one could attributedistorted and ethniccompositionto the highlevels of residential perceptionsof the nation'sracial 2001). However.Number2 * December here as the logged ratioof the of groupsizes has been operationalized Misperception to that sum of the estimatesof blackand Hispanic population percentagesof the national of the dependentvariablepreservestwo desirablefeatures: of whites.on theoreticalgrounds. it is a matterof relative misperception group size.Genderhas a sizableeffect.on the other. size of whites is 67 percent. Education effect.A coefficient in a model for a logged variablecan be interpreted as the approximateproportional change in the dependent variablecorrespondingto a unit variable. Loggingthe ratiokeeps extremevalues fromexercisingundueinfluenceon the regression.it can be arguedthatexaggeratedestimates of groupsizes resultfromlackof intergroup contactsandthus an absence of the realism introducedby experience (Gallagher 2003).However. expecton the basisof whites'percentage the estimatesof blacks' andHispanics' sizes aremorerealistic thanis the case forthe national estimates.we findthatthe most usablemeasuresof localcontextstem froma series of those on national of the sizes of questions. at 20 and 14 percent. Niemi and Levine 1993). Likewise. but olderrespondentsdo have morerealisticperceptions."5comparison perceptions groupsat the national of groupsinthe neighborhood to be muchbettergrounded. perceptionsof racialand ethnicgroupsizes.blacksand Hispanics are more likely than whites to have distorted perceptions of the nation'sdemography. segregationinthe UnitedStates (Logan Inthe GSS. with each increase of a year in school reducingthe ratioof perceivedminoritygroupsize to thatof whites by 5 percent. Accordingto their size that are 36 percent higher coefficients.perceptions appear estimates havefargreaternumerical As Table 4 reveals. some researchers have suggested that the perceptionsof relativegroupsizes in the society as a whole are the resultsof faultygeneralizations fromeveryday experience.the averageperceived plausibility. Eitherway. age and gender playkey roles in the model.

388 .4(1.234) 24. addingthe estimatedneighborhood proportions. impliedby the minority-group among residents is.008 .2(1.184) 7.015 . Thelattermaybe redundant rather thanperceptions of the whitepopulation.061 -.200) as respondentssee it. *p<.173) 4. whites' proportion greaterrealismof the neighborhood giventhe apparently perceptions.236 1.208) 13. is quite The demographic compositionof theirneighborhoods. percentagesof blacksand to the equation the loggedratio to majority of minority sizes inthe nation Hispanics predicting raises the variance.01 ***p<.234) 30.4(1.8(1.2(1.of Racial/Ethnic Perceptions GroupSizes * 909 Table4: MeanGroup-sizeEstimatesfor Communityand Nation Race/ethnicity: Whites Blacks Hispanics Asians American Indians Source:GeneralSocialSurvey.042 -.164 -.%Black incommunity Est.002 -.096 .001 Unstandardized coefficient -.205) 14.223) 19.145 .%Hispanic Constant Adj.2000.2(1.2000.170 p *** * ** * *** .05 **p<.R2 N Source:GeneralSocialSurvey. explained substantially Table 5: Regression Analysis of Logged Ratio of Blacks and Hispanics to Whites.) Morespecifically.155) % in nation 58.7(1. relatedto the perceptions they haveof groupsin the national (See powerfully population.4(1. in % community 66.264 .234) 17.6(1. Note:Ns in parentheses. including Perceptionof CommunityDemography Variable: Education (years) Age(years) Male Rural residence birth Foreign Hispanic Black Asian incommunity Est.5(1. sense. at least in an approximate Inany event. herebecause. Table these influencesstem fromperceptions of minority-group sizes 5.005 .

(for consequencesof immigration nationalunity. morelikely Butthe largest changesoccurin minority-group the coefficients forthe Hispanic-origin andblack variables. Logan2001). as noted index..as the perceived on theoretical ratio the of relative andHispanics) the notion Thus.g. althoughthe effects are of moderatestrengthat best.These effects are in everycase net of a series of othercontrols(e.Becauseof residential respondents segregation. logged preserves group size as the key to the perceptionof threat.who arepresumably by increasing minority-group group.The questionnow to be make any sociologicaldifference:are they addressed is whetherthese misperceptions thatrespondents holdaboutracial andethnicdiversity." So far. Amongthe strongest on attitudes Theimmigration effects arethose bearing towardsimmigration. African thisformulation to otherpossibilities sizes of blacks absolute preferring (e.8 6 presents on a seriesof immigrationandrace-related Table the effectsof the loggedratio attitudes. age.. is modestcompared with coefficient Nevertheless. we have sizes. In addition. thatof education. Americans.g.. size inwaysthatmembersof the minority groupsarenot. and immigrants We continueto expressthe perception of groupsizes as a logged ratio.our testing of the main shows that overall the logged ratioperforms at least as well in explaining the alternative attitudinal variables. education andgenderremain as theywere inthe earlier equation.inthe attitudes We of Blalock and Blumer.7 aretwo "objects" forwhichwe examine There attitudes: andimmigration. and immigrants. the effects of age. blacks.forexample. Inregressionsthat predictattitudestowardsimmigration to Hispanics and nonwhites).7-fold increase (Anincrease ratio of groupsizes. causes othersto shift. While dummy theywere largeand in in of We the now are small the case earlier and. obviously a verylargechange. With neighborhoods context whitesand membersof minority controlled. groupsareaboutequally neighborhood of the of to hold distorted the nation. of 1 inthe loggedratio inthe translates intoa 2.butits impact on the indexis equalto that of onlytwo years' increasein education. combinesthreeitemsconcerned withthe perceived earlier.and the items havein each case been orderedso thata positivecoefficient ourexpectation an effect ina less "liberal" indicates forthe logged ratioof group direction. racial/ethnic composition perceptions likely The Consequences of Perceived Group Sizes for Attitudes hastreated of groupsizes as "error. These analyses demonstratethat perceptionsof group sizes bear fairlysystematic to what majority-group and racial relationships respondentsthink about immigration minorities. of groupsizes by blackand Hispanic can concludethat the more severe misperceptions were largely dueto theirresidential contexts. they insignificant. because they are the excludedthe foreignborn(inaddition focus of the surveyquestions. education.a positive Living to inflate sizes thanareurbanites. andfarmoreminority-group ones thando the havefarfewerwhiteresidents their communities in which whites reside (Massey and Denton 1993. grounds.unemployment and crime). echoed.Thus.) The coefficientsindicatethat the respondents' .Number2 * December 2005 The addition of the perceivedneighborhood contextto the equationhas demographic on little the coefficients of some but relatively impact predictors. citedearlier? as one wouldexpectfromthe theoretical reasoning the analysisto membersof the racial/ethnic adhereto this reasoningby limiting majority threatened i. non-Hispanic whites.As measuredby the standardized regression the effect of perceived relative coefficient. positive equation.e. the analysis the distorted perceptions showingfor is stronglyinfluenced examplethattheirlikelihood by education. largely ina rural areanowhasa significant one indicating thatrural are residents effect. powerthere groupsizes has as muchexplanatory the unstandardized as it does anywhere.910 * SocialForces Volume84. gender).

abouthalfof Americans .) inthe itemswhereeffects appear One leitmotif available concernsthe potential inthe socialworldsof personsethnically forminority likethe respondents. we presentthe mainfindingsfrom contexts as perceivedby respondents(operationalized analyses in whichthe community andthe loggedratio of perceived andpercentHispanic) as variables: black two percent again thatdominates. appears to be affected by misperceptionsof group sizes concerns minority in the national who perceiveminorities as dominant tend also to population Respondents aremoreviolent thanaverage.however rootedin everydaycontexts rather logical. perceive magnitudes affect of the national inturn. the loggedratio contextvariables significant if at all. whichfrequently involve extreme distortions demography.e. Thelarger thatnon-Hispanic whites perceiveminority contemporary demography groupsto have grown in numbersrelative to themselves. do you thattheyarehurt ("What strongly. in questiononly to concludethatcommunity contextaffectsthe attitudes One is entitled affectthe way thatmanyrespondents Thatis.Inanyevent.Itis the latter groupsizes on the national Infact.(See LETIN distortedperceptionsof groupsizes correspondsto a hierarchy in the majority group's forimmigrants. the more they desire to see immigration inTable6.in mostof the models. inthese cases. the community context does not appearto playa of national thisremains roleinattitude trueeven ifthe perception formation. The impacton attitudestowardsracialminorities is more scatteredthan is true with (Theitems presentedin Table6 are selected froma sizablearray respectto immigration. and that these distortionsare of and immigrant groupsand consequence for the attitudesthey holdtowardsimmigration is revealed Theextentof the distortion towardsotherminorities. i. away majority attitudestoward continuedimmigration are shaped by perceptionsof Accordingly. theireveryday socialenvironments indirectly. fairly and raceandethnicity. planearebothpresent. Thathypothesis. intrusion Thus. byourrough approximation in a minority thatwhiteswere already believed thatinthe year2000." sizes. the coefficient of the variable is generally affectedonlyslightly.is not borneout by the evidence. in about halfof the cases. (LETINEUR). inthe GSS. believethatblacksandHispanics of the community of groupsizes at the national levelarea function Sincethe perceptions of these aresituated.Theseperceptions. group significant is removed fromthe models.of Racial/Ethnic Perceptions GroupSizes * 911 of immigration become moreunfavorable as theirperceptions of groupsizes tilt perceptions from whites' status. byaffirmative think the chancesarethese daysthata whitepersonwon'tget a jobor promotion whilean or less-qualified blackpersongets one instead?") Theonlyset of stereotypesthat equallyviolence. InTable7. it mightbe hypothesized than distortedperceptions. of groupsinthe nation the demographic as a whole.) Moreover."African-Americans The moredistorted theirperceptions of group pushthemselveswherethey'renotwanted.orat leastof respondents' contextsinwhichrespondents perceptions are ultimately that the effects we havejust identified contexts.the shouldn't logged ratiois associatedwith responses to the statement.. restrictions the perception of threatimplicit in imposed.the loggedratio. theirattitudes towardsimmigration Conclusion of the havehighly distortedperceptions thatmanyAmericans Thisresearchdemonstrates racialand ethnic compositionof the UnitedStates. Theeffectof loggedratio on the desireforimmigration restriction preferences is greatest for Latin Americanimmigrants and least for those from Europe (LETINHISP) withimmigrants fromAsiain between(LETINASN). whenthe community and remains areincluded. sizes. the more likelywhite respondentsare to agree with the statement and to do so Thesame holdsforagreement action.

107 .LzU r' Xa 10 .2000.059 *** ** ** * t -. Notes:The relativegroup size variableis the logged ratio of blacksand Hispanicsto whites. age.024 -.193 .104 .082 . *p<.076 -.Table6: Effectsof PerceivedRelativeGroupSizes and Educationon Attitudes variables: Dependent IMMIGRATION-RELATED ATTITUDES: Index of immigration attitudes Increase ordecreaseimmigration? (LETIN) Latin American immigration? (LETINHISP) Asianimmigration? (LETINASN) European (LETINEUR) immigration? RACEIETHNICITY-RELATED ATTITUDES: Blacks shouldn't push(RACPUSH) tendto be violent Blacks (VIOLBLKS) tendto be violent Hispanics (VIOLHSPS) Whites hurt action byaffirm. as appropriate: that containother independentvariables.030 -.167 .213 -.U.10 .064 -.05 **p<.001 tp<.186 *** *** *** *** *** .077 -. - *** . gender.493 .312 -.139 .252 -.167 .01 ***p<.094 * * Source:GeneralSocialSurvey.129 . The coefficientsrep these include.016 -.090 -.094 * ** * -.152 .251 -.041 -.1 AAf A4fA **n' . foreign bir Indian.095 . ruralresidence. (DISCAFF) Logged ratio b beta Education p b beta p .) IU -.211 -.069 -.090 .104 . .L -.086 .

008 .007 .000 .002 .t gender.000 p * -.Table7: Comparisonof the Effectsof PerceivedGroup Sizes in Community and Nation Community groupsizes % %black b ATTITUDES: IMMIGRATION-RELATED attitudes of immigration Index ordecreaseimmigration? Increase (LETIN) American Latin (LETINHISP) immigration? Asianimmigration? (LETINASN) (LETINEUR) immigration? European ATTITUDES: ETHNICITY-RELATED RACEI shouldn't Blacks push(RACPUSH) tendto be violent Blacks (VIOLBLKS) tendto be violent (VIOLHSPS) Hispanics action(DISCAFF) hurt Whites byaffirm.000 . +p < . Hispanic.10 *p<.001 .003 .001 .001 .001 .002 -. Note:The coefficientsreportedare taken from regressionequations that contain other independent variables. .2000.004 . Asian and AmericanIndian.001 p Hispanic b .007 -.05 **p<. black.002 .ruralresidence.001 * Source:GeneralSocialSurvey.01 ***p<.foreignbirth.001 .004 .

areattributable to community contexts. long as social scientists have investigated they have recommended educational to counteract it (Allport in 1954).Unzsaw two possibleethnicfutures.whites will be a 1998. thisconnection divisions nation. perceptions groupsizes.These scenarios.However.even group-size with the compositions of these contexts controlled. scenariosstemmingfrompopulation for2050.the misperceptions aboutgroupsizes arerelated to the inwhichrespondents live:the moretheyencounter members socialenvironments everyday andethnicminorities intheircommunities." which drastically limited bilingualeducation.the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Proposition for the Children. For as quitepractical forms of prejudice. A consequenceof the emphasison projections a half demography is thatevensome generally intothe future well-informed Americans confused century appear aboutthe nation's as is apparent inthispassagewritten in 1998bythe historian demography.the 1994anti-immigrant (represented incipiently by Proposition State" initiative.Number2 ? December 2005 the totalpopulation. "white" and 'Asian"). manyAmericans appear a result of misperceiving whites' continuingmajority status. uponpast research by uncovering of and or numerical and racial ethnic ability. "English andthe Endof WhiteAmerica" "California (1999). As otherresearch has alsofound. ourtesting of the linkagebetween ability group-sizeperceptionsand attitudeshas been more systematicthan in the past.Future includean independent measureof numerical researchshould probably to disentangle the two phenomena.the persistenceof prejudice programs the face of decadesof educational efforthas ledto a jaundiced viewof the benefits. of racial these groupsto the larger they perceive be on the national This not that the does attitudinal effects of however.914 * SocialForces Volume84. plane. they have emphasizedor allowed others to emphasize. finding imply.moreover. Social scientists themselves may have to take some of the blame for these Intheirown zealto prepare Americans forthe racial andethnicchangesthat misperceptions.67.Bothvisionsarefocused on a worldinwhich"Americans . and in we have shown for the firsttime a substantial connectionto attitudestowards particular on the demography and Given the of of the immigrants immigration. but was ruled unconstitutional of by the courts).rather thanrelative. Unlike to feel less welcoming towards affirmative actionas Wills. conclusion. We haveimproved a confounding betweennumeracy. Thisbeliefwas heldeven moreby membersof minority groupsthanby whitesthemselves.both of a shrinking white minority:" the assimilationism of a "new shapedby "thepolitical reality Americanmelting pot" (representedby his Proposition 227)..Bynow. inthis case. are likelyin the next decades. Wills: Garry Theexplosion of ethnicdiversity thataffirmative actionof guarantees some sortwillbe needed so thateveryonefeels a stakein a country that is literally changingcomplexioneveryday. or "the coming of white nationalism" "SaveOur 187. Thisoccurswhen the measureof perception of groupsize is formulated intermsof absolute.g. ouremphasis) (Wills minority by earlyinthe nextcentury.misperceptionshave significant on attitudes formembersof the majority influences group. hugeimpact immigration forattitudinal inthe future. Theirattitudesare better summarized who spearheaded 227 in by RonUnz. misperceptions to haveconsequencesthatcouldbe addressedby truly appear betterinformation. maycarry largeimplications Itappears to us thatthis research leadsto an additional.Our perceptions analysesshowthat. In California. tend projections to reify the broadest racial andethniccategories(e. thus overlooking theirhistorically nature andthe likelihood thattheywillchangeas the underlying contingent of the United Statesdoes. which passed with 59 percent of the statewide vote.Inaddition. numbers.

would be a contribution. education distortion alone. or(3)estimatewhites. demography and moreon contemporary andthe based on fixedracial/ethnic classifications. demography changes to be anticipatedin the near term. The geographicalidentifiers availablein the GSS. the widespreadmisperceptionsand their Whilebigotry cannotbe eliminated attitudinal by consequencescouldbeginto be addressed. (PSU) sampling generally at the metropolitan-region appearsto show that the metropolitan regionis too coarse a geographyto have any of groupsizes.the director to predict characteristics these tests yielded metropolitan-level respondent perceptions." evolvedsense of groupposition. 2003). meaningful. some respondentsgive what can only be viewed as meaningless estimatesof groupsizes.we settledforthe simplestof geographical distinctions. however reducedwith such corrective lenses. 4. We havedropped fromthe analysis those respondents who:(1) failto givea completeset of estimatesforwhites. . containedin its primary currently are unit level. prejudice Notes 1.since inthe GSS.the questionsaboutcommunity followed demography those aboutthe national We have no way to addresswhetheror not this population. results. 45 years in the futureand with less emphasison a hypothetical Perhaps. hypothesis 5. Sincethe GSShas become a biannual it collectstwo fullsampleseach time it is survey. (2)estimateany of these threegroupsas 0 or 100percent of the population.the perceptual maybe prejudice. 2. fielded. buttheyfailedto provestatistically variation Likewise. One reviewer suggests thatthe greaternumerical consistencyof the community-level in respondents' estimatescouldbe due to an improvement to answerthe groupability size questions. findings.to the creation racial declines. interpretation 7.blacks. AsiansandAmerican Indians as allthe same size (typically of withpercentages Hispanics. These exclusionsresultin a modest deletionof 86 fromthe analysis.we tested the abilityof PSUs suppliedto us by TomSmith.Thatis. proved negligible.of Racial/Ethnic GroupSizes ? 915 Perceptions status duringthe first half of the new into minority European ancestryfall increasingly to a felt challenge to a historically Blumer (1958)mighthaveseen bothas reactions century. Membersof minority For groups may also feel threatenedby changingdemography.blacksandHispanics. Such a correction of conditions whichthe sense of grouppositionrecedes and under modest.Ouranalysis codes. whichexacerbates of the nation. usingthe identifications on perceptions of the explanatory bearing of the GSS. 3. is true. As alreadynoted. Some othervariables not reported herealso failedto producesignificant Thus. We experimented withfinerspatial such as betweenlargecentral citiesand distinctions. we tested the amountof televisionwatchingrespondentsreportedto examinethe thatthe misperceptions arisefromthe mass media(Gallagher. 50 percentor greaterin each case). regional Inthe end. halfof whomcouldnot be included inanyeventbecause respondents are of an estimate for at least one three the they missing key groups. theirsuburbs. uniformly insignificant 6.

html.Number2 * December 2005 example. Hill Paulos." 57:332-47. References Nature of Prejudice.the sum of the percentage estimates of blacks and measures that we analyze. Niemi. Journal andSocial Psychology 2001. and FiscalEffectsof 1997. Race:Explaining of Racial Size." atAlbany. 1993. 1967." andJillKiecolt. Forthe sake of simplicity.Toward a Theory of Minority-Group Relations. Herbert. andNancy Denton.this measure performs much the Hispanics. The alternativeto the relativemeasure is arrivedat by droppingthe estimate of the white percentage.albany."Race andEthnicity in2001:Attitudes. Demographic.James.Cumulative Davis." Group Gallagher." 1:3-7. Group Opposition of Personality 45: 1196-1210." The Perceptions. Family Post/Kaiser Foundation/Harvard Washington Family University.edu/census/report. Richard. some African Americans may perceive an economic threat in the growing numbers of Hispanic immigrants (Waldingerand Lichter 2003).andRichard Sigelman. General SocialSurveys. Group Population Composition andRacial in Europe. 8. andExperiences. Blumer. 1954."Race as a Sense of Group Pacific Review Position.Lawrence."Prejudice as a Responseto Perceived and Threat: Quillian. Economic."Innumeracy aboutMinority African Americans and Lee. Sociological Perspectives David. Sociological Prejudice 1983. Multiculturalism. Social ScienceQuarterly 2003. SUNY: Center.Postethnic BasicBooks America."Whites' to Busing:Symbolic Racismor Realistic Conflict?" Bobo. Populations. Populations 70: 820-35.we have settled on establishing the validityof our formulationof relativegroup size in the case of the majority group.916 * SocialForces Volume84. Foundation. TheNew Americans. Niemi. University http://mumford. Douglas. it becomes. Forthe attitudinal same way as the logged ratio. However.The Addison Allport."Innumeracy aboutMinority Public Nadeau.2001. National Press. &Wang. Academy JohnAllen. Apartheid. Research Center. Codebook." American Review60 (August): 586Prejudice Sociological Anti-Immigrant 611. 1958. Compared. 1995." Opinion Quarterly .Neighborhood Integration Logan. Fossett. Hubert. Gordon. 1988. Hollinger. Immigration.1972-2000. there is no reason to expect that impact to be captured by the same logged ratiowe use in the case of whites. quite simply. 46: 381-96. Capricorn. University Richard andJeffrey Levine. Populations: Whites Public 65: 86-94. Relative Mark. 2001. Beyond Kaiser 2001. "Ethnic Grows.Innumeracy: Mathematical ItsConsequences. 1995. "Miscounting Whites'Misperceptions Charles. Blalock. Wesley. 1993. American Harvard Massey."The Sizeof Minority andWhite Racial Attitudes. Since the resulting measure is no longer a ratio.there is no need to take its log: hence. Opinion Quarterly National Research Council. Diversity LagsBehind. TomSmithand PeterMarsden. LewisMumford John. Illiteracyand Lincoln. National Opinion 1989. Press.

Williams. ."California Commentary and Michael 2003.of Racial/Ethnic GroupSizes * 917 Perceptions 17-28. Magazine (January Garry. Waldinger. andReligious Social ScienceResearch Relations. Tensions. Group Is NotWhere It'sAt. 25). Racial. 1947. University Organization Robin.Ron. Immigration Roger. of Labor. How the OtherHalfWorks: and the Social Lichter." The New York Times 1998.1999." 108(November): andthe Endof White Unz. Council. America."Washington Wills.The of Intergroup A Survey of Research on Problems Reduction of Ethnic. of California Press.

198 1.2 4.234 1.208 1.08 .13 .000 Rural residence notowns having (county ormore) birth Foreign Race/ethnicity (Hispanic) Race/ethnicity (black) Race/ethnicity (Asian) Years Years 0 =female 1 = male 0 =other 1= rural 0 = bom inU.7 3.5 44. their atalllikely bom 1 = Not "People losing jobs?" 4= Very likely** "Do thenumber ofimmigrants from a lot youthink foreign 1 = Increased countries who arepermitted tocome totheUnited 5 = decreased a lot tolive States should beincreased a lot.173 1.228 1.234 1.223 1.7 14. 1 =foreign bom 0 =other 1 = Hispanic 0 =other 1= black 0 =other 1 =Asian 1-12 13.234 ofnational sizes: Estimates group White % %Black %Hispanic %Asian Indian %American Estimates of community sizes: group %White % Black %Hispanic %Asian Indian %American variables: Socio-demographic Education Age Sex of10.6 1.234 1.184 .4 30.45 .5 19.6 N 1.S.184 1.918 * SocialForces Volume84. a increased left thesameas itisnow.S.159 tothis country?" immigrants coming atalllikely 1 = Not ** 4= Very likely rates?" atalllikely 1 = Not crime "Higher ** 4 =Very likely intheU.0 2.186 1. a lot?" decreased itharder tokeep thecountry united?" "Making 2.204 1.08 .8 24.7 3.7 . or little.234 1.4 7.234 1.234 1.02 Attitudinal Variables: index: Immigration "What will doyouthink as a result ofmore happen 6.10 .Number2 * December 2005 Appendix:Variablesand Means Variable Metric Mean 58.4 66.2 13.234 1. decreased a little.234 1.200 1.205 1.2 17.4 1.155 1.231 1.

Source: General Survey Notes: * indicates of theirballotposition. Americas) a lot 1 = increased 5 =decreased a lot 3.because wereaskedonlyof a partof the MEUSsample.Sizes* 919 of Racial/Ethnic Perceptions Group Latin thenumber ofimmigrants from "What about ofthe countries America is. .6 3. decreased little.154 779 Social 2000.4 2. a lot?" decreased from Asia?" thenumber ofimmigrants "What about thenumber ofimmigrants "What about from Europe?" *"Blacks/African shouldn't Americans push themselves where not they're wanted." ortend not "Do blacks tend tobeviolence to prone toviolence?" beprone "Do Americans tend tobeviolence Hispanic prone ortend not to be prone toviolence?" *'What thechances arethesedays doyouthink that a white won't a person get joborpromotion anequally orlessqualified while black person gets oneinstead?" a lot 1 = increased 5 = decreased a lot a lot 1 = increased a lot 5 =decreased 1 = Disagree strongly 4 =Agree strongly** 1= notviolence 7 = violenceprone ** prone 1 = not violence prone 7 =violence-prone** 1 = not very likely ** 3 =very likely 3.180 the same a little.so thatpositivecoefficients fortheloggedgroupsizevariable in a less"liberal" effects as hypothesized.6 1.2 4.192 1.3 1.Spanish-speaking (that a it a be increased increased -should lot. indicate direction.5 4. itemsthat.176 674 1. or left asitisnow. ** indicates reversal of direction of item.171 1.9 1.