Race and Gender-Based Perceptions of Older Adults: Will the Youth Lead the Way?

Sade Solola, Luis Luy, Kathryn Herrera-Theut, Leanne Zabala, Elmira Torabzadeh, Edward J. Bedrick, Erika Yee, Ashley Larsen, Jeff Stone, Marylyn McEwen, Elizabeth Calhoun, Janice D. Crist, Megan Hebdon, Natalie Pool, Molly Carnes, Nancy Sweitzer, Khadijah Breathett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Older individuals encounter the greatest racial/gender biases. It is unknown whether younger generations, who often lead culture shifts, have racial and gender biases against older populations. Methods: Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk’s crowdsourcing, we identified how an individual’s race and gender are associated with perceptions of individuals aged mid-60s. Participants were asked to rate photograph appearances on Likert Scale (1–10). Interactions between participant and photograph race and gender were assessed with mixed effects models. Delta represents rating differences (positive value higher rating for Whites or women, negative value higher rating for African-Americans or men). Results: Among 1563 participants (mean 35 years ± 12), both non-Hispanic White (WP) and all Other race/ethnicity (OP) participants perceived African-American photos as more trustworthy [Delta WP -0.60(95%CI–0.83, − 0.37); Delta OP − 0.51(− 0.74,-0.28), interaction p = 0.06], more attractive [Delta non-Hispanic White participants − 0.63(− 0.97, − 0.29); Delta Other race/ethnicity participants − 0.40 (− 0.74, − 0.28), interaction p < 0.001], healthier [Delta WP -0.31(− 0.53, − 0.08); Delta OP -0.24(− 0.45, −0.03), interaction p = 1.00], and less threatening than White photos [Delta WP 0.79(0.36,1.22); Delta OP 0.60(0.17,1.03), interaction p < 0.001]. Compared with OP, WP perceived African-American photos more favorably for intelligence (interaction p < 0.001). Both genders perceived photos of women as more trustworthy [Delta Women Participants (WmP) 0.50(0.27,0.73); Delta Men Participants(MnP) 0.31(0.08,0.54); interaction p < 0.001] and men as more threatening [Delta WmP -0.84(−1.27, −0.41), Delta MnP − 0.77(− 1.20, − 0.34), interaction p = 0.93]. Compared with MnP, WmP perceived photos of women as happier and more attractive than men (interaction p < 0.001). Compared with WmP, MnP perceived men as healthier than women (interaction p < 0.001). Conclusions: Among a young generation, older African-Americans were perceived more favorably than Whites. Gender perceptions followed gender norms. This suggests a decline in implicit bias against older minorities, but gender biases persist. Future work should investigate whether similar patterns are observed in healthcare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1415-1423
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Gender disparities
  • Perceptions
  • Racial disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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