Income inequality and white-on-black racial bias in the United States: evidence from project implicit and Google trends

Paul Connor, Vasilis Sarafidis, Michael J. Zyphur, Dacher Keltner, Serena Chen

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Several theories predict that income inequality may produce increased racial bias, but robust tests of this hypothesis are lacking. We examined this relationship at the U.S. state level from 2004 to 2015 using Internal Revenue Service–based income-inequality statistics and two large-scale racial-bias data sources: Project Implicit (N = 1,554,109) and Google Trends. Using a multimethod approach, we found evidence of a significant positive within-state association between income inequality and Whites’ explicit racial bias. However, the effect was small, with income inequality accounting for 0.4% to 0.7% of within-state variation in racial bias, and was also contingent on model specification, with results dependent on the measure of income inequality used. We found no conclusive evidence linking income inequality to implicit racial bias or racially offensive Google searches. Overall, our findings admit multiple interpretations, but we discuss why statistically small effects of income inequality on explicit racial bias may nonetheless be socially meaningful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-222
Number of pages18
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • income inequality
  • intergroup dynamics
  • open data
  • open materials
  • prejudice
  • racial and ethnic attitudes and relations

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