Past Event

Center for the Study of Wealth & Inequality (CWI) Workshop

October 31, 2019
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
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509 Knox Hall

Eric Knowles
Associate Professor of Psychology,  NYU

Monica McDermott
Associate Professor, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State

"Class Identities and Attitudes towards Immigration and Race Among Working-Class Whites"

Abstract: As neighborhoods that were predominantly White become more racially and ethnically diverse, many Whites in those communities respond with feelings of threat and political shifts to the right. Trump's election in 2016 has often been attributed, at least in part, to such responses among members of the White working class. Building on this work, in the summer of 2017 (and thus after the election) we interviewed 77 working‐class White residents of three majority‐White cities from the Midwestern United States that had recently become more diverse due to an influx of Latino immigrants and/or an increase in native‐born racial minorities. Respondents were asked about their class identity, perceptions of change in their communities, and their attitudes about immigration and racial minorities. Contrary to prevailing narratives regarding the White working class, we found considerable variation in respondents’ reactions to these demographic changes. Notably, these differential reactions are organized by, and potentially rooted in, variation in class identity. Despite all being members of the working class, our respondents conceptualized their class identity according to three types—Class Conflict Aware, Working‐class Connected, and Working‐class Patriots—that were associated with more favorable or more antagonistic attitudes toward Latino immigrants and domestic racial minorities. A follow-up survey supported the existence of the proposed identity types, as well as their relationships with immigration and racial attitudes, among a representative sample of working-class Whites. This research offers a more nuanced picture of how members of the White working class are responding to ethnoracial demographic changes in the nation.


Eric D. Knowles is an Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University and a Faculty Affiliate of NYU’s Center for Social and Political Behavior. He received his B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from Cornell University and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Knowles serves as an Associate Editor of Social Justice Research. His research addresses the issues of White identity, intergroup relations, and political psychology—including the effects of intergroup contact and economic scarcity on Whites’ political attitudes and behavior.

Monica McDermott is an Associate Professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State.  She received her PhD from Harvard and has previously been on the sociology faculty at Stanford and Illinois. Her research focuses on race, class and identity in the United States She is the author of Working-Class White: The Making and Unmaking of Race Relations, an ethnographic study of interracial interactions and white identity Her current research includes a study of class identity and racial attitudes among the white working class and a theoretical analysis of whiteness in contemporary America.

For the full CWI Fall 2019 speaker schedule, please visit our website here.


Contact Information

Greer Mellon