Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race

State of the Art


Frank L. Samson 

Department of Sociology, University of Miami


As the White populace in the United States moves toward numerical minority status by 2042, how might Whites respond to impending threat of losing their dominant group position? In particular, how will Whites react at selective, elite universities, where Asians are increasingly prominent and other non-Whites are maintaining or capturing a larger share of enrollments? Drawing on group position theory, I test White commitment to meritocracy as a public policy, using a survey-based experiment (599 California adult residents) to examine the importance grade point average should have in public university admissions. Whites decrease the importance that grade point average should have when Asian group threat is primed. However, White Californians increase the importance that grade point average should have when thinking about group threat from either Blacks or Blacks and Asians simultaneously. Ethnoracial outgroup threat shifts White support for meritocracy in different directions.


  • Group Threat;
  • Meritocracy;
  • University Admissions;
  • Asian American;
  • Race


Frank L. Samson, Department of Sociology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33146. E-mail: flsamson@miami.edu

Frank L. Samson is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Miami. He attended UCLA to earn a Bachelor of Science in Cybernetics with a dual concentration in behavioral and life sciences, followed by a Master of Theological Studies at Harvard University and an MA and PhD in Sociology at Stanford University. He has been a fellow of the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California, and Stanford University's Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. His research interests include race and ethnic relations, inequality, social psychology, and political sociology.


1   The author thanks David Grusky, Monica McDermott, and participants of the Social Psychology Workshop, Inequality Workshop, and affiliates of Stanford University's Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (RICSRE) for their helpful feedback on various aspects of this paper. This research was partly funded by a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant SES-080264, and a Stanford University Graduate Research Opportunity Grant and Sociology Research Opportunity Grant. A RICSRE Graduate Dissertation Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Diversity Dissertation Fellowship supported the author during various stages of the data collection, analyses, and writing.