Tipping point: Perceptions of diversity in black and white

Tabitha Grier-Reed, James Houseworth, James Moody, Miguel Quiñones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By 2044, the USA is projected to be a majority-minority nation. Research suggests that when people of color reach 40–60% of the population, a tipping point occurs in which white individuals experience a collective existential threat and threat to their status and resources, resulting in more negative attitudes toward diversity. Institutions of higher education are microcosms of society. We were interested in how perceptions of diversity might differ across two universities—one that had reached the tipping point of only 50% white Americans; 543 black and white undergraduates completed items from the Diverse Learning Environment Core Survey measuring perceptions of belonging, diversity, and discrimination. We found that white students in the more diverse context were less satisfied with diversity on campus than their white counterparts (at the less diverse university); moreover, these students reported the highest level of discrimination in the study—even higher than that of black students in the less diverse context. These findings highlight the ways in which increasing representation and enfranchisement of racially and culturally different others may result in feelings of disenfranchisement for white Americans. With implications for the larger society, we argue that centering and deconstructing whiteness and white racial socialization is essential for the next era of equity and diversity aimed at redressing structural inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number241
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research received no external funding but was supported by the Duke Social Science Research Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Belonging
  • Institutional commitment to diversity
  • Perceptions of discrimination
  • Predominantly white institutions
  • Satisfaction with diversity
  • White college students
  • White institutional presence


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