Who should be on the $10 and $20 bills? Preferences based on
gender, sexism, race, racism, political affiliation, and political
Brad J. Bushman
Kevin M. Collier
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Brad J. Bushman, School of
Communication, The Ohio State University,
3016 Derby Hall, 154 North Oval Mall,
In June 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that a woman would replace Hamil-
ton on the $10 bill. In April 2016, it announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew
Jackson on the $20 bill, instead. After each announcement, we surveyed nationally representative
samples of American adults and asked them what they thought of these proposed changes for the
$10 bill (Study 1, N 5 209) and the $20 bill (Study 2, N 5 208). Predictors of currency preferences
were gender, race, political affiliation and their respective prejudices and biases—sexism, racism, and
political ideology. On the basis of social identity, system justification, and social dominance theories
we predicted that privileged groups (i.e., males, Whites) and groups who desire to maintain the sta-
tus quo (i.e., Republicans, conservatives, sexist and racist individuals) would prefer to leave
Hamilton on the $10 bill and Jackson on the $20 bill. Results were consistent with these predic-
tions: Overall, we found that under-represented groups and more liberal individuals support the
proposals from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. These findings suggest a bill of money is not
just a piece of paper. The person depicted on U.S. currency can be perceived as an in-group or out-
group member and this can affect judgements in line with relevant social psychological theories.
social dominance theory, social identity theory, system justification theory, U.S. currency
Currency, like many other symbols, is used to highlight particular
groups of people. On the United States (U.S.) currency, only one group
of people has been highlighted—white males. Although the history of
the US dollar dates back to 1775, it took 240 years for the US to con-
sider putting a woman on a paper bill. In June 2015, the U.S. Depart-
ment of the Treasury announced that a woman who “contributed to
the development of democracy in the United States” would replace
Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill in 2020, and asked the public for
feedback on who that woman should be (Lew, 2015). Alexander Hamil-
ton (1755–1804) was one of the Founding Father of the U.S. and the
creator of the nation’s financial system. Ten months later, the Treasury
Secretary announced that Alexander Hamilton would stay on the $10
bill, but Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill
(Lew, 2016). Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) was the 7th U.S. President.
His family owned over 300 slaves that worked on their large Hermitage
plantation in Tennessee (Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation, n.d.).
Harriet Tubman (1820–1913) was an African American abolitionist
nicknamed “Moses” because she helped free over 300 slaves; she also
fought for women’s suffrage (The New $20 Note, n.d.). There are good
theoretical reasons for predicting how different types of individuals
would respond to these U.S. currency announcements.
Although the present research was not specifically designed to test
deductions from any theory, the selection of predictor variables for this
research was guided by three theories: (a) social identity theory, (b) sys-
tem justification theory, and (c) social dominance theory.
Social identity theory
According to social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978; Tajfel & Turner, 2001),
an individual’s identity is partly based on the groups they belong to.
J Appl Soc Psychol. 2018;48:339–348. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jasp
2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Received: 7 December 2017
Revised: 15 April 2018
Accepted: 29 April 2018