Google Searches for N-Word Show Racism in Different Areas of the Country

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A new study suggests that an accurate way to measure one of the most difficult things to gauge—levels of racial bias and prejudice—can be found by looking at Internet searches. Researchers say that by examining the "proportion of Google searches containing the 'N-word'" in areas around the country, they were able to determine which geographic regions have the highest numbers of racist people. (For the record, the study made distinction between the "N-word" ending in "-er" and versions of the word ending with "-a," "-as" or "-az.")


According to the study findings, the “greater proportions of Google search queries containing the 'N-word' were concentrated in the rural Northeast and South of the US.” Those areas were also found to have other correlating negative outcomes for African-American communities. For example, areas that showed a “greater level of area racism were associated with an 8.2% increase in the all-cause black mortality rate.” Healthcare and economic opportunity for African Americans were markedly lower than in places where there were fewer N-word searches.

It’s generally difficult to accurately measure levels of racial bias. For starters, in direct polls, people often do not cop to racist attitudes due to the attached stigma. Many people are also unaware that they harbor implicit bias. But Google searches are far more honest, since they reveal private habits, with people frankly expressing ideas and attitudes they would likely hide in public.

Read the study in its entirety on the PLOS ONE site, where researchers describe their methodology and fascinating findings in greater detail. 

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(h/t Washington Post)

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