Abstract In this article three approaches to define and explain negative ethnic attitudes are discussed: the anthropology of cultural misunderstanding, the sociology of how differences in group positions are justified ideologically, and the social psychology of maintaining self‐esteem through intergroup differentiation. The‐ aim is to integrate these approaches into an interdisciplinary model. Social identity theory is used as a frame for this integration. The argument developed is that ingroup values are used for intergroup differentiation and evaluation. This leads to the development of stereotypes. Stereotypes reflect misunderstanding, but also anchor social representations of a hierarchy of group positions (ethnic hierarchy). Depending on the ethnic composition of the larger society, majority and minority groups will differ in their ethnic hierarchies. Discrepancies between ethnic hierarchies will lead to ethnic tension. From the perspective developed, a number of hypotheses is derived about how changes in the socio‐economic position of minority groups will affect intergroup evaluations. Hypotheses based on the category differentiation model and the social identity model are specified with respect to the expected changes in stereotypes and intergroup discrimination of the ethnic majority and minority groups.

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