Media Briefings

SELF-REPORTED PREJUDICE RISES IN A RECESSION

  • Published Date: April 2014

SELF-REPORTED PREJUDICE RISES IN A RECESSION, ESPECIALLY AMONG EDUCATED, MIDDLE-AGED MEN: UK evidence

Periods of high unemployment in the UK see more people admitting racial prejudice, and ethnic minorities disproportionately suffering in terms of both wages and employment. There is a particularly big increase in self-reported prejudice among highly educated, middle-aged white men, the group most likely to be employers or managers.

These are among the findings of research by Dr David Johnston and Dr Grace Lordan, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference. Their study analyses data on self-reported racial prejudice from the British Social Attitudes Survey (1983-2010) and the quarterly Labour Force Survey (1993-2012). Among the findings:

· The proportion of people who say they are at least a ‘little prejudiced’ towards those from other races increases slightly whenever the economy takes a turn for the worse.

· There is a particularly big increase in self-reported prejudice during recessions among the highly educated – notably full-time employed, middle-aged white men, the group most likely to be employers or managers in the workplace.

· For white women, self-reported racial prejudice is also higher for the highly educated that are full-time employed and aged 35-64.

· Non-white individuals disproportionately suffer in terms of lower wages and poorer job prospects during recessions.

· When the rate of unemployment increases by four percentage points, the existing wage gap between highly educated black and white men increases by 10%.

· The probability of highly skilled black men being employed decreases by more than five percentage points when there is a four percentage point increase in unemployment. This is over and above the decrease experienced by the general population.

Co-author Dr Grace Lordan, a lecturer in health economics at the London School of Economics (LSE), comments:

‘During a recession, people who are normally in secure, well-paid jobs suddenly find their position under threat. Our study suggests that this increased insecurity may turn into an increase in prejudice towards ‘others’ who could be perceived as competitors.’

More…

Periods of high unemployment in the UK see more people admitting racial prejudice and ethnic minorities disproportionately suffering in the job market, according to this research. The study looked at changes in self-reported racial prejudice and found the proportion of people who said they were at least a ‘little prejudiced’ towards those from other races increased slightly whenever the economy took a turn for the worse.

The study found a particularly big increase in self-reported prejudice during recessions among the highly educated; in particular full-time employed, highly educated, middle-aged white men, the group most likely to be employers or managers in the workplace.

In general, highly educated individuals are less likely to express racial prejudice than other sections of the population. Nevertheless, after controlling for variables such as age, education, income and gender, the research highlights how a four percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, as was seen in the recent Great Recession, suggests a 16 percentage point increase in the proportion of educated, employed white men who admitted to some racial prejudice.

For white women, self-reported racial prejudice is also most strongly counter-cyclical for the highly educated that are full-time employed and aged 35-64.

The research also indicated this growth in racial prejudice may translate into worse prospects for ethnic minorities. Regional employment and wage data for native-born British workers shows non-white individuals disproportionately suffer in terms of lower wages and poorer job prospects during recessions.

For example, based on labour force data over the past 20 years, the researchers estimated that when the rate of unemployment increases by four percentage points, the already existing wage gap between highly educated black and white men increases by about 10%.


The results also imply that the probability of highly skilled black men being employed decreases by more than five percentage points when there is a four percentage point increase in unemployment. This is over and above the decrease experienced by the general population.

Dr Lordan argues that policy-makers need to take note of this link between recessions and racial inequality:


‘As well as lowering the standards of living and wellbeing, and increasing insecurity generally, recessions disproportionately harm black and other ethnic minority communities, who are less likely to be employed or fairly paid at the baseline.

‘In addition to promoting economic growth and providing support during hard times, policy makers need to mindful of how recessions can disproportionately penalise minority individuals and should develop policies to avoid these harmful effects in the future.’

ENDS

Notes to editors:

‘When Work Disappears: Racial Prejudice and Recession Labour Market Penalties’ by Dr David Johnston and Dr Grace Lordan

For further information, contact:

Dr Grace Lordan, 07879 741117

Romesh Vaitilingam: romesh@vaitilingam.com, +44 7768 661095