Beliefs about Racial Discrimination: Representative Evidence

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This paper provides representative evidence on people's beliefs about racial discrimination in the United States and to what extent these beliefs drive support for policies aiming to combat racial discrimination. We first elicit incentivized beliefs about the callback rate of resumes with black-sounding names compared to white-sounding names. We find large heterogeneity in beliefs about the extent of racial discrimination in the labor market. A large fraction of our respondents overestimate the true extent of racial labor market discrimination, and this is especially pronounced among Democrats and college graduates. To introduce exogenous variation in beliefs about racial discrimination, we then provide a random subset of our respondents with the true callback rate from an audit study that tested for racial labor market discrimination. We show that this information treatment shifts our respondents' beliefs about racial discrimination in the housing market and increases their donations to an NGO lobbying for blacks in the labor market. However, using data from over 5800 respondents, we find a muted response in terms of attitudes towards several policies aimed at lowering racial discrimination, such as assistance and affirmative action programs for blacks and name-blind screening of resumes. Overall, the results suggest that people's beliefs about racial discrimination are not a causal determinant of their support for policies aiming to reduce racial discrimination in society.