Genes, Race, and Causation: US Public Perspectives About Racial Difference

Published

Journal Article

© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. Concerns have been raised that the increase in popular interest in genetics may herald a new era within which racial inequities are seen as “natural” or immutable. In the following study, we provide data from a nationally representative survey on how the US population perceives general ability, athleticism, and intellect being determined by race and/or genetics and whether they believe racial health inequities to be primarily the product of genetic or social factors. We find that self-described race is of primary importance in attributing general ability to race, increasing age is a significant factor in attributing athleticism and intellect to genes and race, and education is a significant factor in decreasing such racially and genetically deterministic views. Beliefs about the meaning of race are statistically significantly associated with respect to the perception of athletic abilities and marginally associated with the perception of racial health inequalities being either socially or genetically derived. Race, education, socioeconomic status, and concepts of race were frequently found to be multiplicative in their statistical effects. The persistent acceptance of a genetically and racially deterministic view of athleticism among the White and older population group is discussed with respect to its social impact, as is the high level of agreement that general abilities are determined by race among non-White respondents and those of lower socioeconomic status. We argue that these findings highlight that both biological and non-biological forms of understanding race continue to play a role into the politics of race and social difference within contemporary US society.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Outram, S; Graves, JL; Powell, J; Wolpert, C; Haynie, KL; Foster, MW; Blanchard, JW; Hoffmeyer, A; Agans, RP; Royal, CDM

Published Date

  • June 1, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 79 - 90

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1867-1756

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1867-1748

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s12552-018-9223-7

Citation Source

  • Scopus