As the political debate over illegal immigration continues, a West Virginia University political scientist has co-authored a study showing one effect of the rising Latino populations in the United Statesincreased stereotypes.

Thomas J. Scottos study,Racial Distancing in a Southern City: Latino ImmigrantsViews of Black Americans,will appear in the August issue of the Journal of Politics. In it he suggests that the influx of immigration to the South has sparked an increase in racial tension, particularly between Latinos and blacks.

While previous research has reported findings on interactions between whites and minorities, research on interminority group issues of prejudice and stereotyping is limited, making this study of particular interest.

Race relations between African-Americans and whites have always been a defining aspect of southern politics,Scotto explained.However, the 1990s brought changes to the black-white power structure as Latinos made their presence known.

Durham, N.C., was chosen as the city of focus because of the pre-existing black and white communities and the rise in the Latino population from 1.3 percent in 1990 to 8.6 percent in 2000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 53 percent of the growth in the Latino population is the result of immigration.

We were interested in how the Latino community viewed the established African-American and white populations and how these established communities viewed Latinos, many of whom recently immigrated,Scotto said.Our questions focused on whether Latinos held negative stereotypes of African-Americans, whether the amount of time spent in the community would mitigate these stereotypes, and whether Latinos felt that they had more in common with white or African-American residents.

After surveying 500 participants of various racial backgrounds, the study found that blacks viewed Latinos much more favorably than Latinos viewed blacks. Nearly three-fourths of blacks felt most or almost all Latinos are hard-working while only 9.2 percent of Latinos felt that most or almost all blacks are hard-working.

We found higher levels of education and contact with African-Americans in a social setting reduced the stereotyping,Scotto said.Although such a finding makes us hopeful for the future of Latino-African American relations in the South, our results also indicate that it is a relationship that will not simply develop magically over time. This is because the length of time a Latino was in the country did not significantly reduce the stereotypes the individual had toward African-Americans.

Scotto, who has a doctorate from Duke University, teaches courses on American politics and research methods and statistics in WVU s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. The assistant professor specializes in American and Canadian public opinion.

The study was co-authored by faculty members from Duke University, University of Chicago, University of Connecticut, St. Augustines College and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the study is available online athttp://journalofpolitics.org/art68_3.html#a7.