White attitudes toward equal opportunity and affirmative action

Nancy DiTomaso, Rochelle Parks-Yancy, Corinne Post

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


White attitudes toward equal opportunity and affirmative action are explored through semi-structured interviews with 246 middle and working class respondents from three areas of the USA. Both working and middle class interviewees espouse a consistent and coherent view: that opportunity is widespread for anyone willing to take advantage of it, that facing adverse conditions or obstacles is not a sufficient excuse for lack of success, and that government help in the form of affirmative action gives women and/or minorities unfair advantage over men and/or whites. In the responses, however, we also find that whites apply standards to others about being the 'best person for the job' that they do not apply to themselves in their own career histories. Using the interviews with these respondents, we explore the implications of this inconsistency in how whites apply normative standards about what constitutes merit and fairness. This research helps elucidate the meaning of previous research on white racial attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-629
Number of pages15
JournalCritical Sociology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • affirmative action
  • diversity
  • equal opportunity
  • inequality
  • racial attitudes
  • white privilege


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