Racial threat

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Broadly speaking, the term racial threat refers to how people react to those of a different race.[1] More specifically, the racial threat hypothesis or racial threat theory proposes that a higher population of members of a minority race results in the dominant race imposing higher levels of social control on the subordinate race, which, according to this hypothesis, occurs as a result of the dominant race fearing the subordinate race's political, economic, or criminal threat.[2][3] Racial threat theory is also known as minority group threat theory.[4] In his 1949 book, political scientist V. O. Key found that white voters in the U.S. South turned out at higher rates and voted more for conservative politicians in areas with high levels of African-Americans; Key argued that whites felt threatened by African-Americans, thus becoming more politically motivated.[5][6]

Research has shown a strong association between the size of a state's nonwhite prison population and the likelihood of that state enacting a felon disenfranchisement law, which supports a link between racial threat and the passage of such laws.[7]

A 2016 study by Harvard University political scientist Ryan Enos, which relied on a quasi-experimental design, found that when public housing projects in Chicago were removed over the period 2000–2004, turnout among white voters decreased substantially and white voters were less likely to vote for conservatives.[6]


  1. ^ Levis, Laura (September–October 2014). "Unraveling "Racial Threat"". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  2. ^ Eitle, D.; D'Alessio, S. J.; Stolzenberg, L. (1 December 2002). "Racial Threat and Social Control: A Test of The Political, Economic, and Threat of Black Crime Hypotheses". Social Forces. 81 (2): 557–576. doi:10.1353/sof.2003.0007. S2CID 145769613.
  3. ^ PARKER, KAREN F.; STULTS, BRIAN J.; RICE, STEPHEN K. (November 2005). "Racial Threat, Concentrated Disadvantage and Social Control: Considering the Macro-Level Sources of Variation in Arrests". Criminology. 43 (4): 1111–1134. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2005.00034.x.
  4. ^ Eitle, David; Taylor, John (2008). "Are Hispanics the new 'Threat'? Minority Group Threat and Fear of Crime in Miami-Dade County". Social Science Research. 37 (4): 1102–1115. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2008.05.005. ISSN 0049-089X. PMC 4221266. PMID 19227693.
  5. ^ Key, V. O. (1949). Southern Politics: In State and Nation. Vintage Books.
  6. ^ a b Enos, Ryan D. (2016). "What the Demolition of Public Housing Teaches Us about the Impact of Racial Threat on Political Behavior". American Journal of Political Science. 60 (1): 123–142. doi:10.1111/ajps.12156. ISSN 0092-5853.
  7. ^ Behrens, Angela; Uggen, Christopher; Manza, Jeff (November 2003). "Ballot Manipulation and the "Menace of Negro Domination": Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850–2002" (PDF). American Journal of Sociology. 109 (3): 559–605. doi:10.1086/378647. S2CID 39843590.

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