Whites' Beliefs about Blacks' Opportunity

James R. Kluegel, Eliot R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a description and explanation of the current character of whites' beliefs about blacks' opportunity: perceptions of equality of opportunity, discrimination, "reverse discrimination," and the over-time trend in black opportunity. Data from a recent national survey show that whites tend to perceive widespread reverse discrimination, to see blacks' opportunity as having greatly improved in recent years, and in general to deny structural limits to blacks' opportunity. We propose that these perceptions are, in part, the product of the prevailing beliefs about stratification held by the American public. Empirical analysis shows that whites' beliefs about blacks' opportunity are significantly influenced by persons' perceptions of their own opportunity, by stratification ideology explaining opportunity in general, and by feelings of relative deprivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-532
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican sociological review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 1982


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