Black women in America have good reason to be pessimistic; their rate of unemployment is nearly twice that of white women. A single black woman in the U.S. is significantly less likely than her other racial-ethnic peers to marry, and she faces a poverty rate – 35.4 percent – higher than that of Latina, white, and Asian women.

Despite these grim statistics, UCI professors Belinda Robnett, sociology, and Katherine Tate, political science, say that black women in the U.S. are surprisingly optimistic about their future and the future of their children, and politics seem to play a big role.

“Political participation and representation are key components of racial acceptance and democratic incorporation,” Robnett says. “The election of President Obama has spurred black optimism, and we believe this spike is importantly linked to positive expectations about their futures and racial group conditions.”

With $260,000 in funding from the National Sciences Foundation, the researchers want to gain better insight to the beliefs, goals, expectations, and political activities of population subgroups – particularly black women - in the U.S.

“There is surprisingly little social sciences research on the positions, politics and beliefs of black women,” says Tate. “We want to provide a rare look at their politics to see things from their perspective and compare their opinions with those of other social groups.”

Online surveys will be used to collect data from 750 black women, 500 black men and 1,000 white/other-race women and men. The results from their 2012 Outlook Survey project will help the researchers pinpoint how beliefs and opportunities to advance shape behaviors and politics, and which factors influence optimism among different ethnic racial groups.

“Currently, there is no database that would allow for such comparative analyses,” says Robnett.

“We’re hoping to fill this gap and inspire further research,” Tate adds.

Funding for the one-year project began in April 2012 with the survey portion starting in July. The researchers will be launching a public website and using Twitter to provide updates on their project findings and share other important racial/ethnic/gender resources. Check back at through the summer for news on when the site and posts will be live.

-Heather Wuebker, Social Sciences Communications
-pictured: Tate (left), Robnett (right)

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