AMERICAN & COMPARATIVE POLITICAL BEHAVIOR WORKSHOP
Abstract: In this article, we present the results from a novel large-scale field experimental technique designed to measure racial bias among the American public and their elected officials. We conducted the first audit study on the public—sending correspondence to 250,000 randomly-drawn citizens—and also paired that with the largest audit study of public officials to date. Our within-subjects experimental design tested the public’s and their elected officials’ responsiveness to simple requests for help from either an ostensibly Black or an ostensibly White sender. We show clearly that in everyday interactions, (on average) the public systematically discriminates against Blacks. This discrimination is rampant and suggests that the typical member of the public is at least as racially biased as their elected representatives. This suggests that improved democratic representation that more closely aligns elected officials with the preferences of their constituents may actually incentivize—rather than discourage, as many have assumed—elected officials to discriminate on the basis of race. Our results provide an instance that shows that even when elected officials are aligned with their constituents, democracy may realize outcomes that perpetuate long-lasting social inequalities like racial discrimination. Moreover, our results also provide a window into the discrimination that Blacks in this country face in day-to-day interactions with their fellow citizens.
Charles Crabtree is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on fairness in politics, with applications to several areas, including the study of repression, human rights, policing, and immigration. Most of his work in this vein examines the politics, economics, and and sociology of discrimination. He has published his research in the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, and in other journals across political science, economics, legal studies, public administration, and sociology.
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The series is sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.