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The Intersection of Racial and Partisan Discrimination: Evidence from a Correspondence Study of Four-Year Colleges (WP-18-23)

James Druckman and Richard Shafranek

Social decisions are often imbued with various types of biases. The consequence can be discrimination against certain groups of people. One of the more widely documented types of discrimination is race-based—racial minorities frequently find themselves at a disadvantage. Recent work also reveals partisan bias such that members of one political party unfairly favor their co-partisans or discriminate against members of the other party in social and economic decisions. In this paper, the researchers use a correspondence study to explore the independent and intersectional impact of racial and partisan discrimination in higher education. Specifically, they investigate responsiveness to e-mail requests for information sent to admissions departments at four-year colleges in the United States. While they find some evidence for partisan discrimination, their central finding is that African-Americans who reference politics of any sort receive substantially fewer responses. This coheres with the theory of racial threat: members of a majority group are averse to minorities who might threaten their political, economic, or social status.

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University 

Richard Shafranek, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University

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