Can White Guilt Motivate Action? The Role of Civic Beliefs

Brandon D. Dull, Lindsay Till Hoyt, Patrick R. Grzanka, Katharine H. Zeiders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Limited research has investigated factors that shape White youth’s civic action aimed at social change. Investigating the relation between Whiteness and civic action is an essential step toward identifying and cultivating environments that encourage White youth to use their racial privilege to combat inequality through civic engagement. To address this gap in the literature, across two distinct samples, this study investigates the role of White guilt in motivating civic action and the moderating role of civic beliefs. Participants included all young adults who self-identified as White from two online survey studies (Study 1, N = 219 college students, 71.9% Women, 28.1% Men, mean age = 19.6; Study 2, N = 185, 50% current college students, 54.6% Women, 45.4% Men, mean age = 23.9). In Study 1, White guilt related to more civic action. In the context of high social responsibility, White guilt related to more civic action; in the context of low social responsibility, White guilt corresponded with less civic action. In Study 2, White guilt also related to more civic action, and civic efficacy emerged as a potential moderator. Collectively, these results highlight the potential for White guilt to be turned into meaningful civic action, particularly when coupled with civic beliefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1081-1097
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Civic beliefs
  • Civic engagement
  • Social justice
  • White guilt
  • White racial identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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