Is perception of the mainstream legal system homogeneous across ethnic groups?

Estefanía Estévez, Marina Rachitskiy, Carla Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a great social debate regarding possible legal privileges favouring some ethnic groups over others in a particular society. This fact may negatively influence citizens’ perceptions about fairness and legitimacy of the mainstream legal system and, thus, compliance with established social norms. The main purpose of the present study was to analyse the perception of the mainstream legal system in citizens belonging to different ethnic groups. In particular, this work had two objectives. First, the purpose was to explore interethnic perceptions of legal authorities and the justice system by examining the following variables: procedural justice, distributive justice, legitimacy of the legal system, contact with police, and reasons for obeying the law. A second objective was to test the predictive power of perceived procedural justice, distributive justice, and contact with police in the subsequent perception of legitimacy across the different ethnic groups. The sample was composed of 351 participants, who were split into two groups: White-Europeans (76.4%) and ethnic minorities (23.6%). Results revealed ethnic group differences in all study variables, showing ethnic minorities a more general negative attitude towards the legal system in terms of procedural justice, distributive justice and legitimacy conceded to the legal system, in comparison with the majority group. Moreover, legitimacy conceded to legal authorities was predicted by procedural justice, but not by distributive justice neither contact with police, in both groups. Practical and policy implications are discussed based on the importance of citizens’ perceptions about the legal authorities in order to legitimate the mainstream legal system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-161
JournalThe European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2003


  • Ethnicity
  • Procedural justice
  • Distributive justice
  • Legitimacy
  • Legal system

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