Class Perceptions and Attitudes Toward Immigration and Race Among Working-Class Whites1

Monica McDermott, Eric D. Knowles, Jennifer A. Richeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As neighborhoods that were predominantly White become more racially and ethnically diverse, many Whites in those communities respond with feelings of threat and political shifts to the right. Trump's election in 2016 has often been attributed, at least in part, to such responses among members of the White working class. Building on this work, in the summer of 2017 (and thus after the election) we interviewed 77 working-class White residents of three majority-White cities from the Midwestern United States that had recently become more diverse due to an influx of Latino immigrants and/or an increase in native-born racial minorities. Respondents were asked about their class identity, perceptions of change in their communities, and their attitudes about immigration and racial minorities. Contrary to prevailing narratives regarding the White working class, we found considerable variation in respondents’ reactions to these demographic changes. Notably, these differential reactions are organized by, and potentially rooted in, variation in class identity. Despite all being members of the working class, our respondents conceptualized their class identity according to three types—Class Conflict Aware, Working-class Connected, and Working-class Patriots—that were associated with more favorable or more antagonistic attitudes toward Latino immigrants and domestic racial minorities. This work, therefore, offers a more nuanced picture of how members of the White working class are responding to ethnoracial demographic changes in the nation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-380
Number of pages32
JournalAnalyses of Social Issues and Public Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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