Politics: Racist & Sexist Attitudes Hurt Fair Pay Policies

“The concept of political intersectionality highlights the fact that women of color are situated within at least two subordinated groups that frequently pursue conflicting political agendas.” Kimberlé Crenshaw, February 27, 2015, Brown University

Profs Erin C. Cassese, Tiffany D. Barnes, and Regina P. Branton published their study, “Racializing Gender: Public Opinion at the Intersection,” in Volume 11, Issue 1 of Politics & Gender, 2015.

Why the study? Profs Cassese, Barnes, and Branton conducted the study because most political science research looks at race and gender separately. When that happens, those studies promote misleading results about the influence of racial and gender attitudes on public policy. So, they asked two research questions:

  • “Do race and gender attitudes operate relatively independently, or do they work together to jointly shape policy attitudes?”
  • “What does the relationship between them suggest about the ‘double jeopardy‘ facing black and Hispanic women in the United States?”

Results of the study? The survey results show that “racial resentment” and “modern sexism” can both work together to negatively influence support for fair pay policies that are supposed to help women’s economic situation.

Quick summary? The study used a survey method. The final group of study participants consisted of 551 white Americans, about half women and half men. Survey questions were about fair pay policies. Some questions mentioned race, some did not, and they were administered randomly to participants. All together, the results of the study show that racial attitudes can matter more than real need when it comes to supporting fair pay policies for women.


  • People support fair pay policies for women if they think women are discriminated against by the system.
  • White liberals with racial resentment reduced their support for fair pay when race was part of the survey question.
  • White moderates with racial resentment reduced their support for fair pay only when black women were mentioned in the survey question
  • White conservatives oppose fair pay policies based on ideological principles regardless of how recipients were described in the survey question
  • Many white Americans think white women are more deserving than black women or Latinas, so they are less willing to support fair pay policies
  • This prejudiced political attitude makes it difficult to solve race and gender-based economic inequality with public policy

So what?

  • With this knowledge, voters can reflect on their own responses to fair pay policies
  • With this knowledge, journalists can recognize how gender and race interact in their stories
  • With this knowledge, political analysts can increase the sophistication of their work

Erin C. Cassese is an Associate Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV: Erin.Cassese@mail.wvu.edu; Tiffany D. Barnes is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY: tiffanydbarnes@uky.edu; Regina P. Branton is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas, Denton, TX: branton@unt.edu.


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