Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

A Matter of Solidarity: Racial Redistribution and the Economic Limits of Racial Sympathy

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Abstract:  The goal of horizontal redistribution is to provide economic resources to groups that have experienced discrimination and exploitation. In the United States, horizontal redistribution based on race remains controversial, particularly among white Americans. Not surprisingly, many white Americans oppose racial redistribution policies in some cases because of resentments they have toward racial outgroups. But this is not the only way that racial attitudes shape policy support. Chudy (2021) demonstrates that racial sympathy, or white distress over the misfortune of racial outgroups, can increase support for racially redistributive policies. However, supporting horizontal redistribution may be easier for individuals who are more economically secure, even when they are racially sympathetic. In this study, we explore whether the influence of racial sympathy is conditional on economic position. We expect that the influence of racial sympathy will be strongest among individuals who have higher incomes, as they are less concerned with competition over resources. Using the 2013 CCES, we use a newly developed measure of racial sympathy (Chudy, 2021) to study white Americans’ support for policies designed to provide resources to black Americans. Consistent with expectations, we find that whites with higher levels of racial sympathy have higher levels of support for such policies, but that this pattern is stronger among whites who are more affluent. For white Americans of lesser means, the relationship between racial sympathy and support for racial redistribution is weaker, likely because of concerns for their own relative economic status.

Keywords:  American politics; economic position; group position theory; horizontal redistribution; racial sympathy


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© Tarah Williams, Andrew J. Bloeser. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.