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The Journal of Social Psychology. 2007.

747(1), 75-89
Copyright © 2007 Heldref Publications

Ethnic Differences in Endorsement of


the Protestant Work Ethic: The Role of Ethnic
Identity and Perceptions of Social Class
KEVIN COKLEY
Educational. School, and Counseling Psychology
University of Missouri-Columbia

MEERA KOMARRAJU
RACHEL PICKETT
FRANCES SHEN
NIMA PATEL
VINETHA BELUR
Department of Psychology, Southern Illinois University

ROCIO ROSALES
Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology
University of Missouri

ABSTRACT. Tbe authors examined ethnic differences in endorsement of tbe Protestant


work ethic (PWE: M. Weber, 1905) among Black {n = 96) and White (n = 149) college
students and tested whether differences in ethnic identity and perceptions of social class
mediated the relationship between etbnicity and the endorsement of PWE values. Blacks
were higher in levels of ethnic identity, more likely to see themselves as working or mid-
dle class, and less likely to endorse the PWE. Only perceptions of social class partially
mediated the relationship between ethnicity and PWE values. The authors concluded that
perception of social class is an important construct that might influence the cultural psy-
chology of different ethnic groups. The authors recommended further research involving
PWE and other cultural variables.

Key words: ethnic identity, ethnicity, Protestant work ethic

THE PROTESTANT WORK ETHIC (PWE) is an important aspect of U.S. cul-


ture and. therefore, is important to social psychology in the United States. Under-
standing the factors underlying why individuals differentially endorse American
cultural values is an important area of social psychological inquiry, especially
because of the renewed emphasis on patriotism after the terrorist attacks against

75
76 The Journal of Social Psychology

the United States on September 11,2001. Traditional American values, which have
been associated with White culture (Katz, 1985), include rugged individualism,
competition, future orientation, and the PWE. Max Weber (1905) first introduced
the idea of a PWE to represent four fundamental beliefs with religious undertones;
(a) working hard is honorable and is a calling by God, (b) economic success is a
sign of God's grace, (c) an individual is responsible for controlling one's actions
and living a moral life, and (d) an individual should avoid wasteful materialism
that is a result of hard work. The PWE is a value system that stresses the moral
value of work, self-discipline, and individual responsibility in forming a way to
improve one's economic well-being. The core belief of the PWE is the notion that
the success of an individual reflects his or her inner virtue. Although the PWE is
often cast as a sociological construct, some psychologists view it as a dispositional
variable that is a reflection of "a strong belief in hard work, a high motivation to
succeed economically and a willingness to forego immediate pleasures to attain
long-term goals" (Isonio & Garza. 1987. p. 414). Along this line, researchers have
found that the PWE is related to attributions of greater personal obligation, a ten-
dency to advocate for harsher punishment for atypical crimes versus typical
crimes, and the tendency to make internal attributions for social problems, such as
unemployment (Christopher, Marek, & May, 2003; Christopher & Schlenker,
2005; Heaven, 1990). Other psychologists have suggested that PWE is not a dis-
positional variable, but that PWE is more fluid and is related to demographic vari-
ables that fluctuate depending on the time period in which it is measured (Went-
worth& Cheli. 1997).
The term Protestant work ethic can lead to the misconception that values of
work are held only by Protestant countries (Niles, 1999). ln fact, cross-cultural
researchers comparing We.stem countries (e.g., the United States, Australia) and
non-Western countries (e.g.. Eastern cultures such as Japan) have found evidence
contrary to this belief (Engel, 1988; Furnham & Muhiudeen. 1984; Niles, 1999).
Niles stated that "paradoxically there seems to be a stronger commitment to a
'Protestant" wt)rk ethic among non-Protestant cultures" (p. 857). However. Ma
(1986) argued that PWE is a general work ethic or orientation that cuts across all
religions and that the PWE is "no longer Protestant" (p. 220), but that it may
instead be a reflection of culture (Eurnham et al.. 1993: Ma). Because of the pos-
sibility that the PWE is now more a reflection of culture than of religious values
or nationality, one of our purposes in the present study was to examine the abil-
ity of ethnic identity to predict the endorsement of PWE attitudes. !n addition,
most studies of cultural differences in the PWE have been cross-cultural (i.e.,
crossing national boundaries) in nature. Few researchers have examined multi-
cultural differences in the PWE within the United States. Another of our goals in

Address correspondence to Kevin Cokley, Educational, School, and Counseling P.sychol-


ogy, University of Missouri-Columbia, 16 Hill Hall. Columbia, MO 65211; cokleyk®
missouri.edu (e-mail).
Cokley et ai. 77

the present study was to examine the way in which ethnicity might affect endorse-
ment of the PWE within the United States.
Two psychological variables that are related to ethnicity and that are con-
nected to PWE are ethnic and racial identity (Carter, Gushue.&Weitzman, 1994).
As proposed by Katz (1985), White American values include the belief that work-
ing hard brings success. Whites with higher levels of disintegration and reinte-
gration attitudes, as defined by Helms" (1984. 1990) White racial-identity model,
show higher levels of PWE endorsement than do other Whites. The former per-
sons are often very individualistic and adhere to strong PWE values. Whites with
higher racial-identity levels of pseudoindependence and autonomy score much
lower on PWE values (Carter et al.. 1994). Oyserman, Grant, and Ager (1995)
revealed that the PWE was a predictor of achievement-related strategies for
Whites but not tor Blacks. Tbus, in the present study, we hypothesized that Whites
would more sirongly endorse the PWE than would Blacks.

Ethnic Identity

Phinney (1996) described ethnic identity as the subjective sense of ethnic


group membership. To understand the role of ethnicity in the attitudes and
behavior of an individual, it is critical to take into account ethnic identity. Many
researchers have viewed ethnic identity as an enduring and fundamental aspect
of the self that includes (a) a sense of membership in an ethnic group and (b) the
attitudes and feelings that are associated with that membership (Bernal &
Knight, 1993; Keefe, 1992; Phinney, 1990). However, for ethnic identity to be
an important part of the self, ethnicity must be salient to the individual. Hence,
differences in the importance of ethnic identity arise among ethnic minorities
and Whites.
For Whites, ethnicity tends to not be an important part of their identity
(Waters, 1990). This is evident in the fact that many Whites do not think of them-
selves as belonging to an ethnic group (Alba. 1985). Waters contended that
Whites can choose what role ethnicity plays in their lives. However, Phinney and
Alipuria (1990) showed ethnic identity to be a more salient part of the self for
ethnic minority groups than for most Whites. Deaux (1992) stated that a prima-
ry reason why ethnicity is salient for ethnic minority groups is that their group
membership is evident.
Furthermore, ethnic identity varies in importance and strength atnong ethnic
group members (Keefe & Padilla. 1987). In addition, Casas and Pytluk (1995)
stated that because ethnic identity is part of the self-concept and a product of a
socialization process that can be unique to each individual, one should not expect
ethnic identity to be the same for all members of any respective group. Because
of the importance of ethnic identity for ethnic minorities, we believed that cul-
tural values like the PWE that promote individual responsibility while minimiz-
ing the impact of societal oppression on ethnic minorities such as Blacks would
78 The Journal of Social Psychology

be negatively related to ethnic identity. Thus, we hypothesized that ethnic identi-


ty would negatively predict PWE.

Education and Perceptions of Social Class

Researchers have found that well-educated individuals are less likely to endorse
PWE values (e.g., Rosseel, 1985). Wentworth and Cheli (1997) found that under-
graduates had higher scores on the PWE measure than did graduate students. Went-
worth and Cheli also noted that individuals who have spent less time in the work-
force scored higher on PWE values. Therefore, education and work experience
appear to negatively affect one's belief in PWE values, presumably because well-
educated individuals are more likely to be aware of systems of oppression (e.g.,
racism, sexism, homophobia) that differentially affect the life chances of people,
and individuals with more work experience are more likely to witness or experience
unfairness in the workplace (e.g., non-merit-based hirings. raises, and promotions).
The PWE may also be related to social class (i.e., "an individual's position
within an economic hierarchy that is determined by ... income, educational level,
and occupation"; Liu et al.. 2004, p. 8) and perceptions of social class (e.g., work-
ing class or middle class). In a series of interviews, Wilson (1996) reported that
Blacks face more negative perceptions about their work etbic from employers
than do Whites and that employers see inner-city poor Blacks as especially prob-
lematic. Wilson cited a director of an inner-city human-resources firm as saying,
"I see a tremendous amount of difference in the work ethics of the individuals
who come out of different income groups" (p. 113). A vice president of an inner-
city health service firm commented that Black and Hispanic areas had "greater
numbers who have not worked and therefore the work ethic of future generations
is less" (Wilson, p. 115). Researchers might expect individuals who perceive
themselves as of the working class to more weakly endorse PWE attitudes
because of the belief that working hard has not significantly changed their socioe-
conomic status. Thus, in the present study, we hypothesized that participants' per-
ceptions of social class would predict their PWE attitudes.

The Present Study

In the present study, we postulated that ethnicity would predict endorsement


of PWE beliefs and that ethnic identity and perceptions of social class would
mediate this relationship. We tested two mediated models by following the steps
of mediation outlined by Baron and Kenny (1986).

Method

The participants were 290 undergraduate and graduate students from a mid-
western university (122 men and 167 women, 1 who did not identify). The par-
Cokley etal. 79

ticipants included 122 freshmen (1st year), 40 sophomores (2nd year), 39 juniors
(3rd year), 74 seniors (4th year), and 14 graduate students (and I individual who
did not specify). The ages of the participants ranged from 18 years to 54 years
(M =21.04 years, SD = 6.45 years). The participants included 96 Blacks
(33.!%), 149 Whites (51.4%), 7 Latino Americans (2.4%), 4 Asian Americans
(1.4%), 7 biracial individuals (2.4%), 5 international students (1.7%), and 4 .stu-
dents (1.4%) who identified themselves as "Other" (and 18 students who did not
specify). Because of the small numbers of ethnic groups, we used only data from
the Black and White students {n = 245) in the analyses.

Instruments

In the present study, we used three measures, as follows.

Protestant Ethic Scale (PES). Mirels and Garrett (1971) designed the PES to
operationalize Weber's (1905) thesis on the PWE. The scale consisted of 19 items.
Participants responded using a 6-point Likert-type scale ranging from - 3 {dis-
agree strongly) to +3 (agree .strongly). The scoring process included reverse-cod-
ing three items and generating a sum for the 19 items, with higher scores reflect-
ing a stronger belief in the PWE. Because the scale was initially developed in
1971. some of the original language was outdated and needed to be updated. We
modified three items that used sexist language (e.g., "The self-made man is like-
ly to be more ethical than the man bom to wealth") to be gender neutral (e.g.,
"The self-made person is likely to be more ethical than the person born to
wealtb"). In addition, we modified two items that were awkward or difficult to
understand (e.g., "Most people spend too much time in unprofitable amuse-
ments") to ease reading (e.g., "Most people spend too mucb time in unproduc-
tive activities'"). A review of studies using this scale yielded reliability coefficients
ranging from .70 to .75 (Fumham, 1990). In the present study, Cronbach's alpba
was .79. Wentworth and Cheli (1997) demonstrated known-group validity
(Netemeyer, Bearden, & Sharma, 2003) through differences in gender, age, edu-
cation level, and employment status.

Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM). Phinney (1992) developed this


scale to measure common components of ethnic identity across groups. This scale
consisted of 23 items, 14 of which measure ethnic identity. Participants respond-
ed using a 4-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 {strongly di.sagree) to 4
(.strongly agree). The scoring process included reverse-coding two items, gener-
ating a sum for the 14 items, and then calculating the mean of the items. Scores
ranged from 1 to 4, with higher scores reflecting a stronger ethnic identity. The
measure was developed using two separate samples. Phinney (1992) reported the
reliability coefficients as .81 (high school sample) and .90 (college sample). In
the present study, Cronbach's alpha was .74. Goodstein and Ponterotto (1997)
80 The Jourruil of Social Psychology

reported construct validity of MEIM scores through positive correlations with the
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.

Demographic sheet. Demographic information included racial or ethnic back-


ground, sex, age, and perceptions of social class (i.e.. working class, middle class,
upper middle class, upper class).

Procedure

Data entry occurred over a period of two weeks during the summer and
fall semesters. We solicited participants from a research pool consisting of stu-
dents from an introductory psychology course and other undergraduate psy-
chology courses. Students received course credit for participating in the study.
We handed out a packet of surveys with a cover letter and consent form to each
participant. Research team members who received training on standard data
collection procedures read the cover letter to the students and followed a pro-
tocol narrative. The team members stressed voluntary participation. Comple-
tion of the packet of surveys took approximately 20 min. On completion, the
team members gave participants a feedback form explaining the study in
greater detail.

Analytic Approach

We used chi squares and t tests to describe the demographics of the sample
and correlations to examine the relationships of the variables. We used a one-way
analysis of variance (ANOVA) to examine perceived socioeconomic status dif-
ferences in PWE and t tests to examine ethnic differences in PWE and ethnic iden-
tity. We used a series of regression equations to test the two mediated models that
included ethnic identity and perceptions of social class as mediators.

Results

Demographics

Preliminary analyses indicated tbat there were significant differences in age


between Black participants and White participants, with Blacks {M = 22.49 years,
SD - 5.59 years) being significantly older than Whites (M = 20.21 years, SD =
3.93 years), r(155.20) = 3.48,/7< .001. There were also significant differences in
perceptions of social class. X''(3. A'^= 243) = 56.10, p< .001. Approximately 90%
of the Black students described themselves as working class or middle class,
whereas 64% of White students did so. In addition, approximately 36% of the
White students described themselves as upper middle class or upper class, where-
as only 9% of the Black students did so.
Cokley etal. 81

Descriptive Statistics

We conducted separate Pearson R correlations by ethnicity. For Black students,


the PWE was not significantly correlated with ethnic identity. r = -.\5,p> .05. For
White students, the PWE was also not significantly correlated with ethnic identity,
r = . 10. /7 > .05. A one-way ANOVA revealed social-class differences in PWE, F(3,
231) = 3.14, p < .05. Using Tukey's post hoc analysis, we found significant differ-
ences in individuals who identified themselves as working class {M = 70.8, SD =
13.20, « = 64) and upper middle class (M = 76.9, SD = 8.65, n = 58).

Ethnic Group Comparisons

We hypothesized that significant ethnic differences existed between Black and


White students in PWE and ethnic identity. Student's t tests revealed significant
differences in PWE. r( 163.64) = -2.11, p < .01. and ethnic identity, /(230.18) =
12.69, /J < .001. Black students were lower in PWE {M=11A4,SD= 12.51) than
were White students {M = 75.39. SD = 10.25) and higher in ethnic identity (M =
3.51, SD = 0.41) than were White students (A/ = 2.71, 5 0 = 0.56; see Table I).

Mediation Analyses

We conducted tests of mediation to determine whether ethnic identity and per-


ceptions of social class mediated the ethnic differences in the PWE. A mediator
variable is usually an intemal, psychological variable believed to explain why a rela-
tionship (presumably causal) exists between two variables (Baron & Kenny. 1986).
Because of the demonstrated relationship between ethnicity and PWE, we were
interested in why the relationship existed (e.g.. "Are differences in ethnic identity
responsible for the relationship?"; "Are differences in perceptions of social class
responsible for the relationship?"). Following the guidelines of Baron and Kenny,
researchers establish evidence for a mediation effect by conducting a series of

TABLE L Ethnic Differences in Protestant Work Ethic and Ethnic Identity


Among African American and Enropean American Students

African American European American


Variable M 50 M SD t

Protestant work ethic 71.14 12.51 75.39 10.25 - 2 . 7 1 " 234


Ethnic identity 3.51 0.41 2.71 0.56 12.69"* 236

Nole. For African Americans. « = 9.";. For European Americans, n = 149.


82 The Journal of Social Psychology

regression analyses that meet four conditions. First, the independent variable (i.e.,
ethnicity) must be significantly related to the dependent variable (i.e., PWE). Sec-
ond, tbe independent variable must be significantly related to the mediator (i.e., eth-
nic identity, perceptions of sixial class). Third, the mediator variable must be sig-
nificantly related to the dependent variable. Fourth, controlling for the mediator
must significantly reduce the relationship between the independent variable and the
dependent viiriable. To determine wbether the mediation effects were significant,
we conducted the Sobel Test (Preacber & Lconardelli. 2(X}1). The results met the
conditions that were needed to conduct the mediation test for ethnic identity. Eth-
nicity was significantly related to PWE. p = .18. /? < .01. Whites were higher in
PWE than were Blacks. Next, ethnicity was related to ethnic identity, p = -.61. /?
< .001. Blacks were higher in ethnic identity than were Whites. However, the rela-
tionship between ethnic identity and PWE was not significant. P = .01. p = .90.
Thus, the results did not support the mediational hypothesis for ethnic identity.
The results also met the conditions that were needed to conduct the mediation
test for perceptions of social class (see Table 2). In Equation I, ethnicity was sig-
nificantly related to PWE, p = .18, p < .05. In Equation 2, ethnicity was related to
perceptions of social class p = .46. p < .(X)l. In Equation 3. the relationship between
perceptionsof social class and PWE was also significant, p = .15,/J < .01. In Equa-
tion 4, after we controlled for tbe effect of perceptions of social class, the relation-
ship between ethnicity and PWE decreased to nonsignificance. p =. 11. /) > .05. The
Sobel Test indicated that perceptions of stxial class partially mediated the relation-
ship between ethnicity and PWE. Sobefs statistic = 1.92./J < .05 (see Figure 1).
To better understand these results, we calculated additional descriptive statis-
tics. We combined Black students who identified themselves as working class or
middle class into one group. We combined Black students who identified themselves
as upper middle class and upper class into a second group. We divided White stu-
dents in the same way. We conducted a two-way ANOVA using ethnicity and per-
ceptions of social class as independent variables and PWE as the dependent vari-
able. There was a main effect for ethnicity. F(l. 231) = 5.13, p < .05. There were
significant differences in PWE between (a) Wbite students wbo identified them-
selves as working or middle class (A/ = 72.66, n = 175) and (b) White students who
identified themselves as upper middle or upper class (M = 77.02. n = 60). However,
there were no significant difterences in PWE between (a) Black students who iden-
tified themselves as working or middle class {M=ll .25. n = 82) and (b) Black stu-
dents who identified themselves as upper middle or upper class (M = 70.37. n = 8).

Discussion
General
The present study was the first in which researchers tested whether ethnic
identity and perceptions of social class can account for ethnic differences in
endorsement of the PWE. The results present an interesting pattern of differences
Cokley et al. 83

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84 The Journal of Social Psychology

FIGURE I. Mediating effect of perception of social class on the relationsliip


between ethnicity and Protestant work ethic. Mediating effect i.s in parenthe-
ses and indicates a si}inil1cantly reduced relationship between ethnicity and
Protestant work ethic after control for perception of social class. All numbers
represent standardized beta weights. For ethnicity, African American = I,
European American = I.^p < .05. "p < .01. '"p < .001.

that were due to ethtiicity (Black or White) regarding the PWE, ethnic identity,
and perceptions of social class.
Black students had a significantly lower PWE compared with White students.
This finding indicates the possibility that Black students were less likely to sub-
scrihe to the belief that a person who works hard will succeed. The PWE implies
ihat individuals are responsible for controlling their own actions and the conse-
quences that follow. Perhaps the life experiences that these students had did not
support that thesis. The Black students or their close friends and family members
may have had experiences that led them to believe that an individual's life out-
comes are influenced by much more than simply hard work because there are
other external, uncontrollable social forces (e.g., racism, sexism, discrimination)
that can influence outcomes more than does one's own individual effort. In con-
trast. Whites expressed a significantly higher degree of the PWE. They may have
had life experiences that nurtured a stronger belief in the PWE. They may also
have lived among family and community members who advocate such a belief
system because it worked for them. By being part of the dominant majority, the
White students may have experienced a strong positive relationship between
working hard and achieving success. These findings are consistent with those of
Oyserman et al. (1995), who also found that White students were more likely to
endorse PWE beliefs than were Black students.
Besides PWE. the two ethnic groups also differed significantly regarding eth-
nic identity. Black students expressed a stronger ethnic identity than did Whites,
Cokley et al. 85

indicating that their identification with other Blacks was important to their sense
of identity. For Blacks, ethnic identity is more salient and central to their sense
of self than it is for Whites. Because of shared cultural traits and a shared histo-
ry of oppression. Blacks (like other ethnic minority groups) tend to be more aware
of their ethnic identity than do Whites. Ethnic identity is less significant to Whites
because they are part of the majority and may be less aware of their membership
in an ethnic group. These findings are also consistent with those of Oyserman et
al. (1995), who found that Black students were higher in ethnic identity than
White students.
Our primary question in the present study was whether there were ethnic dif-
ferences in endorsement of the PWE and—if so—whether ethnic identity and
perceptions of social class could explain the differences. The most significant
result of this study was the emergence of perceptions of social class as the only
significant mediator. Among Whites, those who perceived themselves as belong-
ing to the upper middle class or the upper class had a significantly stronger PWE
than did those who perceived themselves as belonging to the working class or
middle class. However, among Blacks, there was no statistically significant dif-
ference in PWE between those wbo perceived themselves to be from the work-
ing, middle, upper middle, and upper classes. One limitation of this finding is that
the sample size for Black students who identified themselves as upper class
Blacks was very small: 9 participants. Nevertheless, through mediational analy-
sis, after we controlled for perceptions of social class, ethnic differences regard-
ing PWE disappe^u-ed. This finding initially indicated the possibility that strong
endorsement of the PWE depended more on perceived social class (e.g.. working
and middle classes, upper middle and upper classes) than on ethnicity. However,
it is important to note that both groups of Black participants—(a) perceived work-
ing and middle classes and (b) upper middle and upper clas.ses—had lower PWE
scores than did the White participants in those classes. These results indicate the
possibility that White students in the perceived higher social-class group express
the strongest PWE, indicating that they strongly believe that adhering to a belief
in hard work will lead to success. On the other hand. Blacks in the perceived upper
social-class group express the weakest belief in the PWE, but they were not sig-
nificantly different from Blacks in the perceived working social class.
Why does perceived social class account for ethnic differences in endorsement
of the PWE? Cole and Omari (2(X)3) argued that the intersection of race and class
"does not assume that class categories have the same meaning for members of dif-
ferent racial or ethnic groups" (p. 786). Eor example. Cole and Omari argued that
middle class status for Blacks has a very different meaning than does middle class
status for Whites because the Black middle class has less accumulated wealth and
less economic privilege than its White counterpart. Furthermore, most middle class
Blacks have achieved middle class status, rather than inheriting it (Oliver &
Shapiro, 1997; Shapiro, 2004). Achieving a middle class status rather than inherit-
ing it produces a different psychology, one that recognizes that sustaining upward
86 The Journal of Social Psychology

mobility is not guaranteed (Cole & Omari, 2003). Even when Blacks have achieved
occupational and educational success, there persists the perception that they belong
to the working class, and they are more likely to identify them.selves as working
class when compared to compaiably educated Whites (Cole & Omari). Thus, the
ethnic differences in PWE endorsement could be a result of deeply entrenched eth-
nic differences in perceptions of social class, regardless of actual class status. It is
important to note that most people, regardless of actual class status, perceive them-
selves to be middle class (Shapiro, 2004). ln our data, 53.4% of Whites perceived
themselves to be middle class compared to 38.3% of Blacks. Despite Blacks'
achievement of some occupational and educational success, there are good reasons
for Blacks to perceive themselves as working class. Liu et al. (2004) reported that
Blacks are three times more likely to be living in poverty than Whites. Shapiro
(2(M)4) reported that the net worth of the typical White family was $81,000, where-
as that of the typical Black fatnily was $8,000, and that "nine of every ten black
Americans will encounter poverty during their working adult years" (p. 37). It is
because of this stxial reality that Liu et al. argued that social class is an important—
but largely understudied—cultural construct in psychological research. Against the
backdrop of stark ethnic differences in poverty and wealth, it becomes even more
important for psychologists studying ethnic minority issues to be mindful of how
perceived or actual differences in social class might influence the cultural psychol-
ogy of different ethnic groups. For members of some ethnic groups, in growing up
in a society in which hard work is emphasized as the key to achieving the Ameri-
can dream, what are the psychological implications when the reality is that more
than hard work is necessary for economic success (Shapiro). In the case of Blacks,
what are the psychological consequences of residential segregation, discrimination
in home loans, the cost of home loans, and other systematic deterrents against accu-
mulating wealth (Shapiro)?

Limitations

Because previous research has shown that undergraduates have scored high-
er on PWE than have graduate students, it is possible that as individuals get older,
they have more opportunities to experience or witness unfairness, which may neg-
atively affect their belief in PWE values. Because the Black sample was signifi-
cantly older than the White sample, age—in addition to ethnicity—may have con-
tributed to the significant difference in PWE.
We measured perception of social class by a single item. Although social psy-
chological research has a history of using single-item measures of constructs,
there are methodological limitations to this practice. It is possible that a more
comprehensive measurement of the perception of social class would have result-
ed in different outcomes than those of the present study.
A related limitation is the small number of Black participants who identified
themselves as upper middle or upper class (n = 8) relative to the number of White
Cokley et al. 87

participants who identified themselves as upper middle or upper class (« = 60). It


is not clear whether this disproportionate self-identification arose on the basis of
real social-class differences or simply perceived social-class differences. In either
ca.se. a larger number of Black participants who self-identified as upper middle or
upper class would have greatly strengthened the validity of the findings.
The findings indicated that the Blacks in the present study, regardless of per-
ceived social class, were less likely to endorse the PWE. perhaps because they
may have experienced first hand that the application of the PWE does not always
result in meritocratic economic outcomes. The majority of the Black students in
this sample, who were representative of the Black population on campus, were
from urban enclaves in Chicago, many of which are marked by poverty and crime.
There can be no doubt that their experiences in growing up in these areas have
shaped their attitudes and beliefs about equal opportunities, hard work, and suc-
cess. Future researchers should compare Blacks from different demographic
backgrounds to determine whether there are differences in PWE endorsement.
Additionally, investigators should research other ethnic groups to determine how
endorsement of the PWE relates to other cultural variables. Researchers should
examine mechanisms in addition to perceptions of social class as possible medi-
ators of ethnic difterences in PWE endorsement. Because of the characterization
of Black students as anti-intellectual (McWhorter, 2(X)0), future researchers
might also explore the extent to which endorsement of the PWE relates to atti-
tudes toward grades in particular and academic achievement in general.

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Received January 22, 2006


Accepted May 16, 2006