Developmental origins of anti-Black bias in White children in the United States: Exposure to and beliefs about racial inequality

Michael T. Rizzo, Tobias C. Britton, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anti-Black racism remains a pervasive crisis in the United States. Racist social systems reinforce racial inequalities and perpetuate prejudicial beliefs. These beliefs emerge in childhood, are difficult to change once entrenched in adolescence and adulthood, and lead people to support policies that further reinforce racist systems. Therefore, it is important to identify what leads children to form prejudicial beliefs and biases and what steps can be taken to preempt their development. This study examined how children’s exposure to and beliefs about racial inequalities predicted anti-Black biases in a sample of 646 White children (4 to 8 years) living across the United States. We found that for children with more exposure to racial inequality in their daily lives, those who believed that racial inequalities were caused by intrinsic differences between people were more likely to hold racial biases, whereas those who recognized the extrinsic factors underlying racial inequalities held more egalitarian attitudes. Grounded in constructivist theories in developmental science, these results are consistent with the possibility that racial biases emerge in part from the explanatory beliefs that children construct to understand the racial inequalities they see in the world around them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2209129119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number47
StatePublished - Nov 22 2022


  • development
  • essentialism
  • racial bias
  • racial inequality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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