Why do children show racial biases in their resource allocation decisions?

Tara M. Mandalaywala, Josie Benitez, Kaajal Sagar, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Young children often prefer people high in status and with access to resources. Children also favor fairness and equality, especially when it comes to sharing. Two studies examined how children (N = 185; age range = 4.0–6.9 years, Mage = 5.49 years; 45% White, 12% Asian, 11% Black, 7% Hispanic, 24% other or undisclosed) reconcile these conflicting preferences by investigating the relation between children's social preferences and resource allocations to White and Black children. Race provides an important case to examine how children resolve this conflict given that children show preferences for stereotypically high-status (White) people but also show awareness of systemic racial inequality that disadvantages Black people. In a costly sharing resource allocation task (i.e., Dictator Game) where participants were asked how much of a limited resource they wanted to share with a Black child and a White child, Study 1 revealed that participants sometimes chose to share more with a White child compared with a Black child but that biased giving was unrelated to children's biased feelings of warmth toward White children. Study 2 confirmed that biased giving was unrelated to children's feelings of warmth and instead implicated children's beliefs about race and wealth; children who expected White people to have more wealth showed more pro-White bias in their giving behavior. Together, these results suggest that cultural stereotypes about wealth might shape children's economic decision making in a way that perpetuates disadvantage, but they also indicate that the processes underlying resource allocation decisions warrant further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105224
JournalJournal of experimental child psychology
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Bias
  • Economic decision making
  • Intergroup attitudes
  • Race
  • Resource allocation
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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