Posted on August 7, 2022

People in the United States Strongly Associate Vegetarianism With Whiteness, Study Finds

Eric W. Dolan, PsyPost, August 4, 2022

New research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin provides evidence that people in the United States hold racial stereotypes about vegetarianism. The findings indicate that vegetarianism is perceived to be a “White” behavior.

“Vegetarian diets offer a lot of benefits — they can improve health, support environmental sustainability, and reduce the amount of suffering experienced by nonhuman animals,” said study author study author Daniel L. Rosenfeld, a PhD candidate at UCLA. “As plant-based foods (like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger) become more mainstream and propel cultural shifts toward more vegetarian lifestyles, it’s important to consider how racially inclusive these lifestyles seem.”

“For quite a while before conducting this research, I’d noticed that beliefs about race were intertwined with beliefs about vegetarianism. In many media instances, for instance, it seemed like vegetarians were stereotypically depicted as White people, especially white women who are middle-to-upper class.”

“Consider this: who comes to mind when you imagine the prototypical person who would order kale salad or eat a bowl of quinoa with tofu? Food is a clear marker of identity,” Rosenfeld explained. “And yet, despite these intuitions, there hadn’t been any research delving into the nature of stereotypes about race and vegetarianism. So I was motivated to fill that knowledge gap and see what was going on.”

To better understand racialized perceptions of vegetarianism, the researchers explicitly asked 1,853 adults from the United States how strongly they associated vegetarianism with white people, Black people, Latino people, and Asian people. They found that participants associated vegetarianism most strongly with white people, followed by Asian people, and least strongly with Black and Latino people.


“We found that people in the United States hold strong stereotypes about race and vegetarianism,” Rosenfield told PsyPost. “Namely, people associate being a vegetarian with being white. It’s worth emphasizing that this is a belief people hold, not necessarily a reflection of reality. There have been many surveys in recent years finding that white people are actually less likely to be vegetarians than are people of color.”