Making Meaning out of Numbers: Demographic Knowledge and Evaluations of Racial Diversity [post]

Janet Xu
2020 unpublished
In recent years, cultural sociologists have analyzed how "diversity" emerged as the dominant framework for discussing racial and ethnic inequality in neighborhoods, schools, and organizations. Less attention has been paid to what people actually consider "diverse". Social psychologists have studied how evaluations of racial and ethnic diversity vary systematically across individuals of different racial identities, but they have not theorized the role of socially shared reference points in
more » ... g these judgments, or how evaluations may vary across other salient dimensions, such as political party affiliation. Using a survey experiment (N= 2009), I examine how ratings of diversity for white-majority neighborhoods and white-minority neighborhoods vary by respondents' political party affiliations and how the presence of commonly shared demographic reference points shapes these judgments. When evaluating white-majority populations, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans draw different qualitative interpretations from the same quantitative data, but this evaluative disagreement is ameliorated when people are anchored with shared reference points. This research contributes to our understandings of how people interpret and evaluate racial diversity, and to how people make meaning from numbers in the absence of strongly institutionalized commensuration.
doi:10.31235/ fatcat:ju5maetbfvhtlppkhdn5y3tf5i