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Study: People Become More Racist During Tough Economic Times

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21:  Students pray in the aftermath of two apparent racially motivated student brawls at Thomas Jefferson High School April 21, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. A number of students suffered injuries this week while fleeing from a lunch period brawl involving about 200 Latino and African-American students, the second racially charged incident in less than a week. Stepped-up school police and Los Angeles police presence, strict regulation of clothing styles that could be associated with gangs, and a tightened school bell schedule that leaves little time to linger between classes are in effect to curb the violence.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21: Students pray in the aftermath of two apparent racially motivated student brawls at Thomas Jefferson High School April 21, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. A number of students suffered injuries this week while fleeing from a lunch period brawl involving about 200 Latino and African-American students, the second racially charged incident in less than a week. Stepped-up school police and Los Angeles police presence, strict regulation of clothing styles that could be associated with gangs, and a tightened school bell schedule that leaves little time to linger between classes are in effect to curb the violence. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (GETTY)

People perceive race differently during hard economic times, with some becoming more prejudiced against people with darker skin.

That’s according to a recent study out of New York University. Researchers “discovered that people with lighter skin were more likely to perceive Afrocentric features as more pronounced or ‘darker’ during an economic downturn,” Time magazine reported.

The different perception tends to increase discrimination against people of color, the researchers wrote.

“Our research reveals that perceived scarcity influences people’s visual representations of race in a way that may promote discrimination,” the authors note in an upcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

In a series of studies, participants were asked to identify whether images showed black people or white people, while researchers manipulated various economic conditions.

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In one study, participants were first asked to express agreement or disagreement with beliefs like “When blacks make economic gains, whites lose out economically,” and then asked to identify the race of the people featured in 110 images—people whose skin color varied greatly.

The study’s results showed that those with stronger “zero sum” beliefs were more likely to consider the images of mixed-race subjects as “blacker” than they actually were.

Read more about the study at PNAS.com

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