Northwestern Events Calendar


IPR Colloq. with I. Onyeador (Kellogg/IPR) - Investigating Misperceptions of Progress to Social Equality

When: Monday, February 13, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM CT

Where: Chambers Hall, Ruan Conf. Room (lower level), 600 Foster St, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Carlton Langford   (847) 491-3395

Group: Institute For Policy Research

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings


"Recasting the Past to Protect the Present: Investigating Misperceptions of Progress to Social Equality" *

by Ivuoma Ngozi Onyeador, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations and IPR Associate

Abstract: While most Americans believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed, the US is marked by a wide array of deep and persistent inequalities. One way this disconnect manifests is in people’s perceptions of equality between groups of differing social status. Previous research has documented that Americans overestimate equality between White and Black Americans. Americans’ perceptions of gender equality have not yet been explored, nor have these perceptions been explored intersectionally. Onyeador and her colleagues find that, as with equality between White and Black Americans, Americans overestimate equality between men and women—in the past and the present—and progress toward equality between men and women. Further, (mis)perceptions of gender equality differ depending on the race of the men and women under consideration. These misperceptions matter because they might undermine support for policies to redress inequality. And indeed, the tendency to overestimate equality between men and women is negatively related to support for policies to address inequality. One way to address misperceptions of contemporary economic equality and progress could be to inform people about the persistence of discrimination. The researchers test one such intervention and find that reminding people about the persistence of discrimination does reduce estimates of progress, but participants’ estimates are reduced because they recast the past as more equal than they would have otherwise, rather than reevaluating the present to be less equal than they expect. People might overestimate progress because they distance the present from a more bigoted past, so the researchers explore temporal distancing from major incidents of racial oppression and find that the more people distance from periods of racial oppression, the less inequality they perceive in the present. Ultimately, a better understanding of not only how Americans perceive equality, but also how they perceive America’s history of inequality, is required to ensure a system where equal opportunity is present. 

This colloquium is part of the Fay Lomax Cook Monday Winter 2023 Colloquium Series.

Please note all colloquia this quarter will be held in-person only.

* This presentation will cover work in progress.

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