Thinking Opportunity

Kevin Lewis

September 29, 2022

Distinctively Black Names and Educational Outcomes
Daniel Kreisman & Jonathan Smith
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming


Names can convey information about race or ethnicity, and therefore can be used to discriminate against protected groups; many researchers have demonstrated as much through audit studies. Yet, few studies link life outcomes with names using observational data. We use administrative data from over 3 million Black students to ask whether those with more statistically Black names have differential educational outcomes. We find that while test scores, college enrollment, and college completion are negatively correlated with Black names net of background characteristics, this relationship is absent when we compare across siblings within households.

Stereotype Promise: Racialized Teacher Appraisals of Asian American Academic Achievement
Keitaro Okura
Sociology of Education, forthcoming


Asian American students are frequently stereotyped to be hardworking and academically talented. To what extent are teacher appraisals of Asian students influenced by such racial stereotypes? This article investigates this question through a quantitative analysis of high school students from the Educational Longitudinal Study. I find that even when controlling for a wide range of student and family characteristics, including standardized test scores, and comparing students within the same school, high school teachers express more favorable appraisals of Asian students relative to academically comparable White students along three dimensions. First, teachers report more positive assessments of Asian students' attentiveness and performance in their classrooms. Second, they hold higher expectations for Asian students' future educational attainment, typically expecting a college degree or more. Third, they are more likely to recommend Asian students for Advanced Placement and honors courses, signaling one concrete action by which teachers may act as gatekeepers to further reify Asian students' academic success. Importantly, I find that math teachers remain more likely to engage in such behaviors net of their own subjective evaluations of student attitudes and behaviors, lending suggestive evidence to the claim that Asian youth benefit from racialized teacher expectations. The results more broadly suggest that differential teacher appraisals are a source of educational inequality across racial groups in the United States.

The Racial Wealth Gap, Financial Aid, and College Access
Phillip Levine & Dubravka Ritter
NBER Working Paper, September 2022 


We examine how the racial wealth gap interacts with financial aid in American higher education to generate a disparate impact on college access and outcomes. Retirement savings and home equity are excluded from the formula used to estimate the amount a family can afford to pay. All else equal, omitting those assets mechanically increases the financial aid available to families that hold them. White families are more likely to own those assets and in larger amounts. We document this issue and explore its relationship with observed differences in college attendance, types of institutions attended, degrees attained, and education debt using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). We show that this treatment of assets provides an implicit subsidy worth thousands of dollars annually to students from families with above-median incomes. White students receive larger subsidies relative to Black students and Hispanic students with similar family incomes, and this gap in subsidies is associated with disadvantages in educational advancement and student loan levels. It may explain 10 percent to 15 percent of white students' advantage in these outcomes relative to Black students and Hispanic students.

Effects of Mandatory Sexual Misconduct Training on University Campuses
Mala Htun et al.
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, September 2022 


The authors explore whether mandatory, universal, in-person sexual misconduct training achieves its goals to build knowledge about sexual assault and harassment and increase intentions to report episodes of assault. The authors present results from three studies with quasi-experimental designs as well as interviews with students and staff members at a diverse public university in the western United States. The surprising finding is that participating in training makes women students less likely to say they that will report experiences of sexual assault to university authorities. The training produces some small positive effects: students gain broader definitions of sexual misconduct and are less likely to endorse common rape myths, and women students express less sexist attitudes immediately after training. This study raises questions about whether one-shot training helps reduce sexual violence and increase reporting on college campuses and whether universities should invest in these types of training.

White, Male, and Angry: A Reputation-based Rationale 
Stephane Wolton
London School of Economics Working Paper, September 2022


From the bottom to the top of society, white men are angry. This paper provides a reputation-based rationale for this anger. Individuals care about their social reputation and engage in belief-motivated reasoning. In the presence of uncertainty, white men tend to have too high an opinion of their group, whether they belong to the elite or not. When new information reveal that the elite is biased in favor of white men, the reputation of all white men decreases causing a payoff loss and the anger that comes with it. I also show how policies in favor of disadvantaged groups can be supported by some white men and opposed by some individuals from the minority when social reputation is taken into account. Reducing white men's privileges can have a very different effect than disclosing the advantage this group enjoys.

Women in fiction: Bechdel-Wallace Test results for the highest-grossing movies of the last four decades
Markus Appel & Timo Gnambs
Psychology of Popular Media, forthcoming


The representation of women in cultural products is a main concern to the social sciences and humanities and a topic that many citizens care about. We analyzed female characters in the 30 worldwide highest grossing movies per year, for the past 40 years, amounting to 1,200 movies. Our study was based on the Bechdel-Wallace test (BWT, Bechdel test): Are two or more named women present in a movie, and do they talk to each other about something besides a man? We used data from an impromptu online citizen science project ( and complemented the data with analyses of movies that were not covered by this database. Our results show that only half of the most popular movies (49.58%) pass the test. Almost all movies (95.31%) pass the reverse BWT (movies featuring named men who talk to each other about something besides a woman), as indicated by an analysis of a subset of 341 movies. Time trends indicate that the percentage of movies passing the BWT is on the rise for the past 10 years. The probability of a movie passing the BWT and respective changes over time are related to the movies' setting (alternate vs. contemporary world), audience evaluations (IMDb ratings), production budget, and revenue. Implications and limitations are discussed.

Instructor Name Preference and Student Evaluations of Instruction
Melissa Foster
PS: Political Science & Politics, forthcoming


Student evaluations of instruction (SEIs) have an important role in hiring, firing, and promotion decisions. However, evidence suggests that SEIs might be influenced by factors other than teaching skills. The author examined several nonteaching factors that may impact SEIs in two independent studies. Study 1 examined whether an instructor's name preference (i.e., first name versus "Dr." last name) influenced SEIs in actual courses. Study 2 implemented a two (i.e., instructor name preference: first name or "Dr." last name) by two (i.e., instructor gender: male or female) by two (i.e., instructor race: white or Black) between-subjects design for SEIs in a hypothetical course. Study 1 found that SEIs were higher when the female instructor expressed a preference for being called by her first name. Study 2 found the highest SEIs for Black male instructors when instructors asked students to call them by their first name, but there was a decrease in SEI scores if they went by their professional title. Administrators should be aware of the various factors that can influence how students evaluate instructors.

Does Concealing Gender Identity Help Women Win the Competition? An Empirical Investigation into Online Video Games
Xinlei (Jack) Chen, Xiaohua Zeng & Cheng Zhang
Marketing Science, forthcoming


Signs of the gender gap are ubiquitous in society. Psychological theory suggests that, when gender stereotypes are associated with competition, men exert greater effort against women (dominance effect) and women exert less effort against men (submissive effect), which implies that women are at a disadvantage when competing against men. Although multiple factors contribute to the gender gap, attempts to identify these factors are hampered because gender, as a personal trait, is difficult to manipulate. Herein, the authors investigate submissive and dominance effects in the context of an online video game. They exploit a unique feature of the data: players have two-dimensional gender identities, one birth and one virtual. The results provide support for the dominance but not the submissive effect: when men perceive their opponent as female, they exert increased effort in competition, but women seem unaffected by their opponent's gender, which leads to poorer performance for women when competing against men unless women conceal their gender. The findings provide important insights for how firms and regulators can help maintain gender equality in online environments. This paper also provides an example of how to assess social disparity with observational data by using a unique feature of the digital world.

An empirical analysis of price differences for male and female artists in the global art market
Fabian Bocart, Marina Gertsberg & Rachel Pownall
Journal of Cultural Economics, September 2022, Pages 543-565


We study prices paid at auction for artworks created by male and female artists, based on birth-identified sex, and how these prices have evolved over time. Artworks produced by female artists comprise less than 4% of art auction sales; after controlling for artwork characteristics, we find that artworks by female artists are 4.4% more expensive than artworks by male artists. In the top echelon of the art market - for sales above $1 million - artworks by male artists sell for 18.4% more than by female artists. The top 40 artists represent 40% of total market share; no female artist makes the top 40 ranking of artists in terms of total sales value at auction in the period under study, 2000-2017. However, for contemporary artists, our empirical results show that works by male artists sell for 8.3% more than their female counterparts. Overall, this study highlights significant price differences across birth-identified sex in the secondary market for fine art.

The Impact of Female Teachers on Female Students' Lifetime Well-Being
David Card et al.
NBER Working Paper, September 2022


It is widely believed that female students benefit from being taught by female teachers, particularly when those teachers serve as counter-stereotypical role models. We study education in rural areas of the US circa 1940--a setting in which there were few professional female exemplars other than teachers--and find that female students were more successful when their primary-school teachers were disproportionately female. Impacts are lifelong: female students taught by female teachers were more likely to move up the educational ladder by completing high school and attending college, and had higher lifetime family income and increased longevity.

College Gap Time and Academic Outcomes for Women: Evidence from Missionaries
Margaret Marchant & Jocelyn Wikle
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


This study leverages a policy change in the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that exogenously influenced the likelihood a woman took gap time during college to understand how gap time influences women's subsequent choice of major and academic outcomes. If structured gap time shapes educational outcomes, increasing the uptake of gap time by women may be a mechanism to ameliorate later wage gaps. Using administrative data from Brigham Young University (N = 17,402) and an instrumental variables estimation strategy, we find that women who take gap time for missionary service shift into majors with higher expected salaries and are more likely to be in limited-enrollment majors and majors with a higher concentration of men. However, gap time decreases the likelihood of graduating within eight years of entering college, creating tension between the costs and benefits. On average, net benefits of expected wages are close to zero. Gap time most clearly benefits women with relatively low ACT scores who are more likely to be accepted into limited enrollment programs following gap time. This research informs university administrators and students alike seeking to understand the academic implications of taking planned time off during postsecondary education.


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