Racial and Political Dynamics of an Approaching “Majority-Minority” United States (Maureen A. Craig, Julian M. Rucker, Jennifer A. Richeson)


1. Do demographic shifts in the racial composition of the United States promote positive changes in the nation's racial dynamics? Change in response to the nation's growing diversity is likely, but its direction and scope are less clear. This review integrates emerging social-scientific research that examines how Americans are responding to the projected changes in the racial/ethnic demographics of the United States. Specifically, we review recent empirical research that examines how exposure to information that the United States is becoming a “majority-minority” nation affects racial attitudes and several political outcomes (e.g., ideology, policy preferences), and the psychological mechanisms that give rise to those attitudes. We focus primarily on the reactions of members of the current dominant racial group (i.e., white Americans). We then consider important implications of these findings and propose essential questions for future research.

2. Keywords: majority-minority; demographic changes; racial/ethnic diversity; political ideology; racial attitudes


3. We have replicated and extended this work, finding that white Americans exposed to the racial shift information (relative to a number of control conditions) express greater preference for racial homophily in their social settings and interpersonal interactions, and have more negative evaluations of racial minority groups on both self-report and reaction-time measures (Craig and Richeson 2014a; see also Schildkraut and Marotta, forthcoming; Skinner and Cheadle 2016). Building on this work, Zou and Cheryan (2018) found similar effects among whites who are informed that their neighborhood will become “majority-minority” in the near future. Specifically, compared with whites who expected their neighborhood to stay majority-white, those who thought that another racial group (i.e., BLACK, Latino, or Asian Americans) would become the majority reported being significantly more likely to move. Further, as alluded to previously, concerns about group status statistically mediated the effects of the future white minority (i.e., racial shift) information on whites' intergroup emotions, explicit racial attitudes, and desire to exit “majority-minority” neighborhoods (Craig and Richeson 2014a; Outten et al. 2012; Zou and Cheryan 2018).

4. In addition to these outcomes for intergroup emotions, attitudes, and perceptions, information about changing national racial demographics can elicit racial discrimination. Specifically, whites who read about the growth in the Hispanic population donated more money to an unknown white recipient, compared with an unknown BLACK recipient (Abascal 2015). If nonracial information were made salient (i.e., iPhone market share growth), however, white participants donated equal amounts of money to BLACK and white recipients. Taken together, this growing body of research suggests that communications about the changing racial demographics of the nation (or, even one's local community) readily trigger multiple concerns about the status, standing, and potential vulnerabilities of one's racial group among whites, which, in turn, promote increased favoritism toward the racial ingroup and derogation of relevant outgroups (i.e., racial minorities). In the next section, we explore the effects of these group status concerns on political outcomes.

5. Although most of the research conducted thus far has understandably focused on white Americans, the dominant majority racial group, recent work finds similar effects among racial minority participants. Specifically, Craig and Richeson (2017a) examined the effects of making salient the growth in the Hispanic population in the United States on the political ideology and policy preferences of non-Hispanic racial minorities (i.e., BLACK, Asian, Native Americans, multiracial). Similar to the findings for white Americans, members of these non-Hispanic racial minority groups, on average, also endorsed politically conservative policies more strongly and identified as more conservative (or, qualitatively, less liberal) after exposure to the Hispanic growth, rather than control, information. Although the mechanism underlying these findings is not yet known, they suggest that the impacts of salient shifting demographics are not unique to whites--that is, members of dominant societal groups. They also highlight the need to examine how racial minorities are responding to the omnipresent information regarding the changing demographics of the nation (see also Abascal 2015).