Race Matters

Kevin Lewis

November 13, 2009

Does the River Spill Over? Estimating the Economic Returns to Attending a Racially Diverse College

Peter Arcidiacono & Jacob Vigdor
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

This article evaluates the frequently argued but heretofore little tested hypothesis that increasing minority representation in elite colleges generates tangible benefits for majority-race students. Using data on graduates of 30 selective universities, we find only weak evidence of any relationship between collegiate racial composition and the postgraduation outcomes of white or Asian students. Moreover, the strongest evidence we uncover suggests that increasing minority representation by lowering admission standards is unlikely to produce benefits and may in fact cause harm by reducing the representation of minority students on less selective campuses. While affirmative action may still be desirable for the benefits it conveys to minority students, these results provide little support for "spillover" effects on majority-race students.


Jewish Quotas in Clinical Psychology? The Journal of Clinical Psychology and the Scandal of 1945

Ben Harris
Review of General Psychology, September 2009, Pages 252-261

In 1945 Frederick Thorne, editor of the Journal of Clinical Psychology, proposed to limit the acceptance of Jewish applicants to clinical psychology graduate schools. A public scandal erupted over this proposed limit, which was modeled on Jewish quotas in medical education. Criticized by the mass media and most psychologists, Thorne's proposal was repudiated by the Eastern Psychological Association and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Using private correspondence, oral histories, and published articles, this mostly forgotten episode in the history of clinical psychology is recreated. It is argued that the 1945 campaign against Jewish quotas prepared activists for the 1950s campaign against racial segregation and the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Because the participants in 1945 came from all specialties in psychology, it is suggested that this story is of significance to the field as a whole, rather than just to historians of social issues.


Does Race Matter in Neighborhood Preferences? Results from a Video Experiment

Maria Krysan, Mick Couper, Reynolds Farley & Tyrone Forman
American Journal of Sociology, September 2009, Pages 527-559

Persistent racial residential segregation is often seen as the result of preferences: whites prefer to live with whites while blacks wish to live near many other blacks. Are these neighborhood preferences color‐blind or race conscious? Does neighborhood racial composition have a net influence upon preferences, or is race a proxy for social class? This article tests the racial proxy hypothesis using an innovative experiment that isolates the net effects of race and social class, followed by an analysis of the social psychological factors associated with residential preferences. The authors find that net of social class, the race of a neighborhood's residents significantly influenced how it was rated. Whites said the all‐white neighborhoods were most desirable. The independent effect of racial composition was smaller among blacks, who identified the racially mixed neighborhood as most desirable. Further, whites who held negative stereotypes about African‐Americans and the neighborhoods where they live were significantly influenced by neighborhood racial composition. None of the proposed social psychological factors conditioned African‐Americans' sensitivity to neighborhood racial composition.


An Empirical Analysis of ‘Acting White'

Roland Fryer
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Using a newly available data set, which allows one to construct a novel measure of a student's social status, we demonstrate that there are potentially important racial differences in the relationship between social status and academic achievement. The effect is concentrated among students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher and more pronounced in schools with more interracial contact. Earlier studies showing a positive relationship between popularity and academic achievement for blacks are sensitive to the inclusion of more continuous achievement measures. We argue that the data are most consistent with a model of ‘acting white' in which investments in education are taken as a signal of one's opportunity costs of peer-group loyalty, though imprecise estimates make definitive conclusions difficult.


The Case of the Disappearing Mexican Americans: An Ethnic-Identity Mystery

Richard Alba & Tariqul Islam
Population Research and Policy Review, April 2009, Pages 109-121

We examine the issue of identification stability for U.S.-born Mexican Americans, by far the largest of the ethnic groups growing as a result of contemporary immigration. We demonstrate a significant exodus from the group as identified by the census. Although changes in the wording of the census question may have contributed to this loss, a major portion, as revealed by comparisons of birth cohorts across the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Censuses, occurs because individuals who identified themselves as Mexican American at an earlier point in time do not do so at a later point. In addition, there are exits that occur between generations because of past intermarriage, evident in the number of non-Hispanics who claim Mexican ancestry. The losses appear to be accounted for by two kinds of identity shifts: toward identities that have a mainstream character and thus appear reflect conventional assimilation; and toward identities that have a pan-ethnic character, i.e., with Hispanics or Latinos. These exits are selective, but in complex and partially off-setting ways. Nevertheless, the comparison of the characteristics of U.S.-born members of the Mexican-American group over time is likely to be affected by changing patterns of identification.


Are Ideal Litigators White? Measuring the Myth of Colorblindness

Jerry Kang, Nilanjana Dasgupta, Kumar Yogeeswaran & Gary Blasi
University of California Working Paper, July 2009

This study examined whether explicit and implicit biases in favor of Whites and against Asian Americans would alter mock jurors' evaluation of a litigator's deposition. We found evidence of both explicit bias as measured by self-reports, and implicit bias as measured by two Implicit Association Tests. In particular, explicit stereotypes that the ideal litigator was White predicted worse evaluation of the Asian American litigator (outgroup derogation); by contrast, implicit stereotypes predicted preferential evaluation of the White litigator (ingroup favoritism). In sum, participants were not colorblind, at least implicitly, towards even a "model minority," and these biases produced racial discrimination. This study provides further evidence of the predictive and ecological validity of the Implicit Association Test.


Implicit and Explicit Prejudice in the 2008 American Presidential Election

Keith Payne, Jon Krosnick, Josh Pasek, Yphtach Lelkes, Omair Akhtar & Trevor Tompson
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

The 2008 U.S. presidential election was an unprecedented opportunity to study the role of racial prejudice in political decision making. Although explicitly expressed prejudice has declined dramatically during the last four decades, more subtle implicit forms of prejudice (which come to mind automatically and may influence behavior unintentionally) may still exist. In three surveys of representative samples of American adults, explicit and implicit prejudice were measured during the months preceding the election. Both explicit and implicit prejudice were significant predictors of later vote choice. Citizens higher in explicit prejudice were less likely to vote for Barack Obama and more likely to vote for John McCain. After controlling for explicit prejudice, citizens higher in implicit prejudice were less likely to vote for Obama, but were not more likely to vote for McCain. Instead, they were more likely to either abstain or to vote for a third-party candidate rather than Obama. The results suggest that racial prejudice may continue to influence the voting process even among people who would not endorse these attitudes.


Racial Bias in Expert Quality Assessment: A Study of Newspaper Movie Reviews

Lona Fowdur, Vrinda Kadiyali & Jeffrey Prince
Cornell Working Paper, October 2009

Newspaper critics' movie reviews are often used by potential movie viewers as signals of expert quality assessment. In this paper, we assess if there is any racial bias in these critics' reviews, and if so, what impact these biases have on viewer demand. To do this, we develop a dataset that tracks ratings from 68 popular movie critics for 566 movies released in the U.S. between 2003 and 2007. The data also include measures of movie production costs, marketing expenditures, type of movie (i.e. genre, MPAA rating, etc.), actor and director quality measures, audience tastes and critics' gender, experience and race. Despite inclusion of all these controls for movie quality and other drivers of critic ratings, we find that ratings for movies with a black lead actor and all white supporting cast are approximately 6% lower than for other racial compositions. These results appear consistent with implicit discrimination. Using estimates of the impact of critics' ratings on movie revenues, we find that lower critic ratings for black lead-white support movies translate into lost revenues of up to 4% or about $2.57 million on average. In sum, prejudice concerning race roles (e.g., the race of the leader versus supporters/followers) can have a direct impact on critic quality assessment, and thereby alter market outcomes.


Reverse Deterrence in Racial Profiling: Increased Transgressions by the Non-Profiled Group

Amy Hackney & Jack Glaser
University of California Working Paper, September 2009

A controlled experiment tested the possibility that racial profiling - disproportionate scrutiny of minorities by sanctioned authorities - would have "reverse deterrent" effects on the illicit behavior of members of non-profiled groups (e.g., Whites). Research participants given a task involving extremely difficult anagrams were given the opportunity to cheat. White participants randomly assigned to a condition in which two Black confederates were obtrusively singled out for scrutiny by the study administrator cheated more than Whites in a White-profiling condition and a no-profiling control condition, and more than Black participants in all three conditions. Black participants cheated at comparable levels across the three experimental conditions. The effect of the profiling was therefore a net increase in cheating.


Perceived Racial Discrimination in Health Care: A Comparison of Veterans Affairs and Other Patients

Leslie Hausmann, Kwonho Jeong, James Bost, Nancy Kressin & Said Ibrahim
American Journal of Public Health, November 2009, Pages S718-S724

Objectives: We compared rates of perceived racial discrimination in health care settings for veteran and nonveteran patients and for veterans who used the Veterans Affairs health care system and those who did not.

Methods: Data were drawn from the 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. We used logistic regression to examine whether perceived racial discrimination in health care was associated with veteran status or use of Veterans Affairs health care, after adjusting for patient characteristics.

Results: In this sample of 35 902 people, rates of perceived discrimination were equal for veterans and nonveterans (3.4% and 3.5%, respectively; crude odds ratio [OR] = 1.00; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.77, 1.28; adjusted OR = 0.92; 95% CI = 0.66, 1.28). Among veterans (n = 3420), perceived discrimination was more prevalent among patients who used Veterans Affairs facilities than among those who did not (5.4% vs 2.7%; OR = 2.08; 95% CI = 1.04, 4.18). However, this difference was not significant after adjustment for patient characteristics (OR = 1.30; 95% CI = 0.54, 3.13).

Conclusions: Perceived racial discrimination in health care was equally prevalent among veterans and nonveterans and among veterans who used the Veterans Affairs health care system and those who did not.


Stigma, Secrecy and Race: An Empirical Examination of Black and White Incarcerated Men

Terri Winnick & Mark Bodkin
American Journal of Criminal Justice, June 2009, Pages 131-150

In modified labeling theory (MLT) persons with disreputable labels anticipate stigmatization and adopt coping strategies, among them being secretive. We examine endorsement of secrecy among black and white incarcerated men, focusing on race differences. We find whites are significantly more secretive than blacks about ex-convict status. Race effects are net of other predictors, including devaluation/discrimination beliefs, ex-convict friends, religious affiliation and perceived difficulty finding a job. Split sample analyses show only devaluation/discrimination beliefs predict secrecy among blacks. Thus, white privilege may play a role in stigma management. Since ex-convict status suspends white privilege, secrecy may help white ex-convicts maintain their advantage, especially in the job market. Secrecy is also more successfully enacted among whites, who are not usually assumed to have a criminal record. While black convicts expect their label to prompt rejection, for them racial stigma may supersede ex-convict stigma, making management of the latter status less compelling.


Do sheepskin effects help explain racial earnings differences?

John Bitzan
Economics of Education Review, December 2009, Pages 759-766

This study examines the role of sheepskin effects in explaining white-black earnings differences. The study finds significant differences in sheepskin effects between white men and black men, with white men receiving higher rewards for lower level signals (degrees of a college education or less) and black men receiving higher rewards for higher level signals (graduate degrees). In performing an Oaxaca decomposition of earnings differences, it is apparent that signaling plays an important role in explaining white-black earnings differences and that a portion of the gap may be explained by statistical discrimination.


Defending whiteness indirectly: A synthetic approach to race discourse analysis

John Foster
Discourse & Society, November 2009, Pages 685-703

This article examines the discursive method utilized by a sample of white college students in the United States when engaging in racetalk. Findings reveal myriad contradictions within their responses. It is suggested that these contradictions are not coincidental; rather, they serve two important functions for the speakers: first, they aid the interlocutors in their impression management (i.e. their image of a non racist); and second, the rationalization of the racial order. Utilizing an integrative approach, it is argued that this form of racetalk, whether intentionally or unintentionally, defends the white racial frame. This racetalk allows respondents to (1) project blame onto nonwhite Americans for race problems in US society, and (2) acknowledge racial difference only in contexts in which it favors whites.


Is Race a Determinant of Student Performance in Economics?

Sue Stockly
Review of Black Political Economy, December 2009, Pages 181-195

While several authors have examined gender as a determinant of student performance in introductory economics, few have considered race as a contributing factor. In this study, data collected on over 5,000 students enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin indicate that on average minority students earn significantly lower grades than non-minority students. A probit model is developed to control for a set of variables that measure or proxy student characteristics, academic maturity, previous coursework, and relative high school quality. Race remains statistically significant. A decomposition framework, commonly used in labor economics to study wage gaps, is adapted to predict success in economics classes based on mean variable characteristics. Details on the probabilities of earning specific grades are obtained through development of an ordered logit model and decomposition techniques. Results of these analyses indicate significant and unexplained differences in average grades earned by minority students, relative to non-minority students.


The Impact of Prejudice Screening Procedures on Racial Bias in the Courtroom

Regina Schuller, Veronica Kazoleas & Kerry Kawakami
Law and Human Behavior, August 2009, Pages 320-328

The current study examines the impact of the challenge for cause procedure and its effectiveness in curbing racial prejudice in trials involving Black defendants. Participants were provided with a trial summary of a defendant charged with either drug trafficking or embezzlement. The race of the defendant was either White or Black, with participants in the Black defendant condition receiving (prior to the trial presentation) either no challenge, a close-ended standard challenge, or a modified reflective pretrial questioning strategy. Overall, the results revealed an anti-Black bias in judgments. While the closed ended challenge did little to reduce this bias, the reflective format demonstrated a reduction in racial bias. Theoretical and applied implications of these findings are discussed.


Pot as Pretext: Marijuana, Race and the New Disorder in New York City Street Policing

Amanda Geller & Jeffrey Fagan
Columbia University Working Paper, July 2009

Two of the most striking aspects of New York City's 'Order Maintenance Policing' strategy have been the use of 'stop, question, and frisk' tactics in street enforcement, and the aggressive targeting of marijuana possession. Although possession of small quantities of marijuana has been decriminalized in New York State since the late 1970s, arrests for marijuana possession have increased more than tenfold since the late 1990s. Both the "stop, question, and frisk" tactics and the targeting of marijuana possession raise constitutional questions based on the stark racial disparities in enforcement and questionable Fourth Amendment justifications. These tactics raise policy concerns as well, due to their limited efficiency in detecting serious crimes. We examine the extent to which these two strategies are linked strategically and in terms of the potential for constitutional regulation. We identify significant racial disparities in the implementation of marijuana stop activity; stop levels are higher, and marijuana comprises a greater portion of street-level enforcement, in precincts with large black populations. This disparity is robust to controls for precinct socioeconomic makeup, local crime conditions, and stop activity more broadly. Furthermore, while increased levels of marijuana stops are associated with increased marijuana arrests, we find the practice to have diminishing returns: each additional street stop becomes less likely to lead to an arrest or weapons seizure. We also show that despite recent litigation requiring police officers to specify the reasons for each stop, a substantial portion of these stops lack constitutional justification under both federal and New York law. More than ten percent of stops on suspicion of marijuana are justified with ambiguous circumstances such as 'other,' or being in a 'high-crime' area, justifications that do not pass constitutional challenges. Moreover, systematic differences in stop justifications by precinct fully explain the racial disparities in stop activity, suggesting not only a disparate impact of marijuana policing on the city's black communities, and one with little public safety payoff, but that the targeting of these neighborhoods relies on pretextual police actions lack constitutional validity.


Race/Ethnicity and Workplace Discrimination: Results of a National Survey of Physicians

Marcella Nunez-Smith, Nanlesta Pilgrim, Matthew Wynia, Mayur Desai, Beth Jones, Cedric Bright, Harlan Krumholz & Elizabeth Bradley
Journal of General Internal Medicine, November 2009, Pages 1198-1204

Background: Promoting racial/ethnic diversity within the physician workforce is a national priority. However, the extent of racial/ethnic discrimination reported by physicians from diverse backgrounds in today's health-care workplace is unknown.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of physician experiences of perceived racial/ethnic discrimination at work and to explore physician views about race and discussions regarding race/ethnicity in the workplace.

Design: Cross-sectional, national survey conducted in 2006-2007.

Participants: Practicing physicians (total n = 529) from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds in the United States.

Measurements and Main Results: We examined physicians' experience of racial/ethnic discrimination over their career course, their experience of discrimination in their current work setting, and their views about race/ethnicity and discrimination at work. The proportion of physicians who reported that they had experienced racial/ethnic discrimination "sometimes, often, or very often" during their medical career was substantial among non-majority physicians (71% of black physicians, 45% of Asian physicians, 63% of "other" race physicians, and 27% of Hispanic/Latino(a) physicians, compared with 7% of white physicians, all p < 0.05). Similarly, the proportion of non-majority physicians who reported that they experienced discrimination in their current work setting was substantial (59% of black, 39% of Asian, 35% of "other" race, 24% of Hispanic/Latino(a) physicians, and 21% of white physicians). Physician views about the role of race/ethnicity at work varied significantly by respondent race/ethnicity.

Conclusions: Many non-majority physicians report experiencing racial/ethnic discrimination in the workplace. Opportunities exist for health-care organizations and diverse physicians to work together to improve the climate of perceived discrimination where they work.


Essentialism and attribution of monstrosity in racist discourse: Right-wing internet postings about Africans and Jews

Peter Holtz & Wolfgang Wagner
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, September/October 2009, Pages 411-425

We investigated a total of 4997 postings on an extreme right-wing Internet discussion board with regard to the groups and themes mentioned. The most frequently mentioned target groups were Africans, Jews, Muslims, Poles, and Turks; the most prominent themes and contexts were conspiracy, criminality, exploitation, threats to German identity, infiltration, mind control and harassment, procreation, rape, and sex. We analysed in detail postings about Africans/Blacks and Jews, that is target groups that were the most clearly connected to particular themes. The analysis reveals that extreme right-wing discourse essentializes the target groups of Jews and Africans/Blacks and ascribes them immutable group-specific attributes that effectively make them natural kinds. The group of Jews appears as a kind of their own with super-human powers and influence. Africans and Blacks are despised, firstly because their essential characteristics prohibit them to be categorically mixed with Germans (i.e. to become German by nationality) due to their incompatible essence, and secondly when they procreate with Whites. Such procreation produces bastards that are met with disgust. We argue that essentialist thinking about social and ethnic groups explains a good part of their rejection by right-wing followers.


Convergence and Contact in Milwaukee: Evidence From Select African American and White Vowel Space Features

Thomas Purnell
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, December 2009, Pages 408-427

Past sociophonetic research on African American speakers of the Inland North dialect of American English suggests that speakers in the region do not participate in vowel changes observed among White speakers. Speaker identity to a pan-African American dialect has been often implied as militating against participation in White sound changes.Yet most of these studies analyze vowels as static and single data points, although vowels are known to be articulatorily and perceptually dynamic. It is unclear, then, whether situations involving phonetic convergence co-occur with different vowel properties than previously reported. This study investigates vowel dynamics (raising of vowel qualities and elongation of diphthongs) to test accommodation by Black speakers in southeastern Wisconsin toward White speakers. Results reveal that Black-White contact - either synchronically in an interview or diachronically from historical employment and housing discrimination - influences vowel-quality position and diphthong elongation in vowel space.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.