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Smart Enough to Know Better:
Intelligence is Not a Remedy for Racism

NEW YORK CITY, August 11, 2013 — Smart people are just as racist as their less intelligent peers — they’re just better at concealing their prejudice, according to a University of Michigan study. 

“High-ability whites are less likely to report prejudiced attitudes and more likely to say they support racial integration in principle,” said Geoffrey Wodtke, a doctoral candidate in sociology. “But they are no more likely than lower-ability whites to support open housing laws and are less likely to support school busing and affirmative action programs.”

Wodtke will present his findings at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, supported

He analyzed data on the racial attitudes of more than 20,000 white respondents from the nationally representative General Social Survey. He examined how their cognitive ability, as measured by a widely used test of verbal intelligence, was linked with their attitudes about African-Americans, and about different policies designed to redress racial segregation and discrimination.

Respondents were about 47 years old at the time of the interview, on average, and had completed 12.9 years of education. They correctly answered an average of about six of the 10 cognitive ability test questions.

Among Wodtke’s findings:

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The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.

The paper, “Are Smart People Less Racist? Cognitive Ability, Anti-Black Prejudice, and the Principle-Policy Paradox,” will be presented on Sunday, Aug. 11, at 2:30 p.m. EDT in New York City at the American Sociological Association’s 108th Annual Meeting.

To obtain a copy of the paper; for assistance reaching the study’s author(s); or for more information on other ASA presentations, members of the media can contact Daniel Fowler, ASA’s Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer, at (202) 527-7885 or pubinfo@asanet.org. During the Annual Meeting (Aug. 10-13), ASA’s Public Information Office staff can be reached in the on-site press office, located in the Hilton New York Midtown’s Clinton Room, at (212) 333-6362 or (914) 450-4557 (cell).

For more information about the study, members of the media can also contact Diane Swanbrow, University of Michigan, at (734) 647-9069 or swanbrow@umich.edu.     

Papers presented at the ASA Annual Meeting are typically working papers that have not yet been published in peer reviewed journals.