by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
A few months ago, Harvard Business Review ran a commentary by Katherine Krimmel of Barnard College, Columbia University, and Kelly Rader of Yale University claiming that they had found, according to the article’s title, Opposition to Federal Spending Is Driven by Racial Resentment, based on their paper for American Politics Research.
Krimmel and Rader find Southern states receive more money from the federal government than they pay in taxes and opposition to federal spending is greater in those states. In fact, they find a $0.10 increase in “federal outlays per tax dollar paid” is associated with a 2.7 percentage-point increase in opposition to federal spending.
At HBR, they state “symbolic racism or modern racism, racial resentment is a post-Civil-Rights-era view rooted in the denial of continuing discrimination against African Americans, doubts about their work ethic, and resistance to government efforts to reduce racial inequalities.” In the original journal article, the net is even broader: “Symbolic racism could also work indirectly, if people associate general spending with specific programs that symbolic racism is known to influence” including Social Security, health care, and taxes themselves. The indications of racial resentment are two statements that respondents in a 2010 survey were asked to indicate their level of agreement: “The Irish, Italians, Jews and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors” and “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.” Greater levels of agreement with the first statement and disagreement with the second marked one for racial resentment or symbolic racism.
More recent research suggests that the statements used to identify racist attitudes more likely identify an underlying vision of fairness among conservatives. Not surprisingly, the results for “conservative” in the Krimmel/Rader model are similar to those for “symbolic racism,” as the chart below shows. The authors do not comment on why being black or hispanic also yields more support for cuts to domestic spending. Just another reminder of why Peter Beinart needed to remind readers of the Atlantic that ‘Republican’ Is Not a Synonym for ‘Racist.’