Monday, March 03, 2008

Has the South converged with the rest of the country on racial attitudes? Fifty years ago, there was a clear divide between the North and the South on the question of race relations. Since then, has the North converted white southerners to its way of thinking?

The General Social Survey first ask Americans in 1972 if they were in favor of a law against black-white marriages. I averaged the answers for almost 10,000 people for the 1970s and then this decade, and did it by region of the country. Listed below are the nine regions, the estimates for the 70s, and the estimates for this decade.

Percent in favor of a law against black-white marriages--1970s and 2000s

New England 19.0--> 7.4
Mid-Atlantic 27.7--> 8.5
East North Central 31.6--> 9.9
West North Central 37.1--> 13.4
South Atlantic 54.3--> 14.5
East South Central 57.3--> 32.2
West South Central 42.2--> 11.3
Mountain 30.4--> 4.8
Pacific 22.0--> 5.3

Support for this type of law dropped significantly all over the country during this period, especially in the South Atlantic and West South Central divisions. This reflects both the dramatic change in racial attitudes among whites along with the growing feeling that other people should have the right to do whatever they would like, even if I don't personally like it.

The East South Central region (ESC) is the outlier here. While the two other southern divisions are very similar to the rest of the country, the ESC's level of support is still more than double any other area. (By the way, this region includes MS, AL, TN, KY.) The ESC has remained distinctive, indeed.

And notice how the numbers are not perfectly predicted by the politics of the region. Outside of the South, the Mountain States are the most conservative, yet they are the least in favor of anti-miscegenation laws. This ties in with my earlier post that argued that naivete, rather than experience, can encourage non-traditional racial attitudes.


  1. Wow. That's pretty crazy about the ESC region. It'd be interesting to see how attitudes on miscegenation compare to attitudes on gay marriage.

  2. Anonymous12:07 PM

    The obvious correlation in the ESC
    example is actual day to day
    experience (negative) with blacks.

    Google : "Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom"

    Happened in Knoxville. Have heard
    of similar cases in Cincinnati and

    This doesn't happen much in
    Mountain West.

  3. Whatever the law, it should be uniform across all jurisdictions so that everyone has to always contend at a power center far from their home and far from their experience -- accessible only by the enormous resources available to the very wealthy or very politically favored.


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