Education and understanding structural causes for group inequalities

Gretchen E. Lopez, Patricia Gurin, Biren A. Nagda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Group inequalities in the United States are most often attributed to the characteristics the individuals who belong to these groups; thinking about structural causes of group inequalities is rare. This paper reviews cognitive, cultural, and systemic reasons for this bias. The efficacy of education as a way to increase structural thinking was investigated in two studies of college students' causal thinking about group inequalities. Both studies involved a course on intergroup relations that covered structural sources of racial or ethnic inequalities. Results supported hypotheses that the course would incease structural thinking about racial or ethnic inequality, and that structural thinking would generalize to inequalities not explicitly covered in the course. Both course content and active learning pedagogy were related to structural thinking about inequalities. Active learning was also related to applying structural thinking to targets of change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-329
Number of pages25
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1998


  • Causal attribution
  • Individualism
  • Intergroup relations
  • Structural causation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Education and understanding structural causes for group inequalities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this