Structural explanations for inequality reduce children’s biases and promote rectification only if they implicate the high-status groupRachel A. Leshin, Marjorie Rhodes
Children begin to participate in systems of inequality from a young age, demonstrating biases for high-status groups and willingly accepting group disparities. For adults, highlighting the structural causes of inequality (i.e., policies, norms) can facilitate adaptive outcomes—including reduced biases and greater efforts to rectify inequality—but such efforts have had limited success with children. Here, we considered the possibility that, to be effective in childhood, structural interventions must explicitly address the role of the high-status group in creating the unequal structures. We tested this intervention with children relative to a) a structural explanation that cited a neutral third party as the creator and b) a control explanation ( N = 206, ages 5 to 10 y). Relative to those in the other two conditions, children who heard a structural explanation that cited the high-status group as the structures’ creators showed lower levels of bias, perceived the hierarchy as less fair, and allocated resources to the low-status group more often. These findings suggest that structural explanations can be effective in childhood, but only if they implicate the high-status group as the structures’ creators.