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Beliefs about minority groups

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 10 January 2019

This article has been updated

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2018)

Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are more likely to suffer the adverse consequences of climate change, and tend to have high awareness of these risks, yet are underrepresented in environmental decision-making. Because perceived norms influence pro-environmental behaviour, it may be that beliefs about environmental attitudes in minority groups influence their public participation around these issues.

Adam Pearson from Pomona College and co-authors asked US adults to indicate their level of concern for the environment generally, or climate change specifically, and estimate the level of concern of each of 12 US demographic groups. All participants, regardless of their demographic group, underestimated the level of concern of minority (black, Latino and Asian) and lower-income groups relative to each of these groups’ reported levels of concern, and misperceived these groups as less concerned than whites and wealthier US citizens. Similar results were obtained for environmental and climate change problem framing. All respondents also associated the term ‘environmentalist’ with being white and well-educated. Shared cultural stereotypes about the environmental attitudes of vulnerable populations may impede efforts to address environmental inequalities and limit the scope of outreach initiatives.

Change history

  • 10 January 2019

    In the version of this Research Highlight originally published, Adam Pearson’s institute was incorrectly given as ‘Ponoma College’; it should have read ‘Pomona College’. This has now been corrected.

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Correspondence to Jenn Richler.

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Richler, J. Beliefs about minority groups. Nature Clim Change 8, 1033 (2018).

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