Back to the past

Kevin Lewis

August 17, 2017

The Determinants of Racial Differences in Parenting Practices
Owen Thompson
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Blacks and whites in the United States adopt widely different parental behaviors, but the underlying causes of these differences are not well understood. This paper documents large scale increases in cognitively stimulating parenting among Southern black mothers who came of age in the period immediately following the Civil Rights Movement. The total magnitude of these improvements was approximately .5 standard deviations between the 1957 and 1964 birth cohorts, while no significant trends occurred among blacks outside of the South or among whites from any region.

Racial and Ethnic Price Differentials in the Housing Market
Patrick Bayer et al.
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming

Constrained choice sets due to discrimination in the housing market should, as Becker noted, lead minorities to pay higher prices for comparable housing. This paper tests for the presence of such racial and ethnic price differentials using a rich new dataset that covers two million repeat-sale housing transactions from four major metropolitan areas. Our analysis applies a repeat-sales framework, including house and neighborhood-by-time fixed effects to control for unobserved differences in the quality of homes and their associated neighborhoods. The results indicate that black and Hispanic homebuyers pay premia of around 2 percent on average across the four cities - differences not explained by variation in buyer income or access to credit. Further, we show that black and Hispanic buyers pay significant premia regardless of the race or ethnicity of the seller. Such racial/ethnic disparities in the prices paid for comparable homes have implications for the persistence of racial differences in home ownership, neighborhood segregation, and the dynamics of wealth accumulation.

Disproportionate Use of Lethal Force in Policing Is Associated With Regional Racial Biases of Residents
Eric Hehman, Jessica Flake & Jimmy Calanchini
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Due to a lack of data, the demographic and psychological factors associated with lethal force by police officers have remained insufficiently explored. We develop the first predictive models of lethal force by integrating crowd-sourced and fact-checked lethal force databases with regional demographics and measures of geolocated implicit and explicit racial biases collected from 2,156,053 residents across the United States. Results indicate that only the implicit racial prejudices and stereotypes of White residents, beyond major demographic covariates, are associated with disproportionally more use of lethal force with Blacks relative to regional base rates of Blacks in the population. Thus, the current work provides the first macropsychological statistical models of lethal force, indicating that the context in which police officers work is significantly associated with disproportionate use of lethal force.

The Gun-Slave Hypothesis And The 18th Century British Slave Trade
Warren Whatley
Explorations in Economic History, forthcoming

The Gun-Slave Hypothesis is the long-standing idea that European gunpowder technology played a key role in growing the transatlantic slave trade. I combine annual data from the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database and the Anglo-African Trade Statistics to estimate a Vector Error Correction Model of the 18th century British slave trade that captures four versions of the Gun-Slave Hypothesis: guns-for-slaves-in-exchange, guns-for-slaves-in-production, slaves-for-guns-derived and the gun-slave cycle. Three econometric results emerge. (1) Gunpowder imports and slave exports were co-integrated in a long-run equilibrium relationship. (2) Positive deviations from equilibrium gunpowder "produced" additional slave exports. This guns-for-slaves-in-production result survives 17 placebo tests that replace gunpowder with non-lethal commodities imports. It is also confirmed by an instrumental variables estimation that uses excess capacity in the British gunpowder industry as an instrument for gunpowder. (3) Additional slave exports attracted additional gunpowder imports for 2-3 more years. Together these dynamics formed a gun-slave cycle. Impulse-response functions generate large increases in slave export in response to increases in gunpowder imports. I use these results to explain the growth of slave exports along the Guinea Coast of Africa in the 18th century.

"It's Hardly Fair to Bring a Child Into the World With the Way Things Look.": Anomie, Mistrust, and the Impact of Race, SES, and Gender
Melvin Thomas
Sociological Inquiry, forthcoming

This article examines the impact of race, socioeconomic status (SES), and gender on subjective outlook using anomie and general mistrust as indicators. Specifically, this study addresses the following questions: (1) How do African Americans and whites compare with respect to anomie and mistrust? (2) Do racial differences in anomie and mistrust vary by SES? (3) Do African American women have higher levels of anomie and mistrust than whites and African American men? and (4) Are African Americans becoming more or less trusting and anomic over time? Using data from the General Social Survey (GSS) (1972-2014), the analysis reveals significant racial differences in social outlook as measured by anomie and mistrust. African Americans indicate higher levels of both anomie and mistrust than whites even after controls for SES and the other variables. The racial gap in anomie and mistrust increases with increases in SES. Being African American and female is associated with higher levels of anomie but not mistrust. African American mistrust decreases relative to whites over time. More affluent African Americans' anomie levels slightly increase relative to similar whites over time. Explanations using the "rage of a privileged class" and "intersectionality" ideas are evaluated.

The Racial Structure of Inequality: Consequences for Welfare Policy in the United States
Rodney Hero & Morris Levy
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Methods: Applying measures developed in Hero and Levy (2016), we use fixed effects regressions to assess the impact of between-race inequality on multiple measures of state welfare effort and generosity.

Results: We find a strong negative association between racial inequality and all measures of welfare policy. The total level of inequality and the racial composition of the population, by contrast, are not associated with the welfare policy measures. The impact of racial inequality emerges after, but does not appear before, the 1996 national welfare reform that increased states' discretion over welfare policy.

Social Capital, Racial Context, and Incarcerations in the American States
Daniel Hawes
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, forthcoming

This article examines the differential effects of social capital on policy equity in state outcomes. Specifically, it explores the relationship between social capital and incarceration rates in the American states paying particular attention to racial disparities in incarceration rates. Building on work by Hero, I present a theoretical explanation and empirical support for how social capital operates differently under different racial contexts. I argue that social capital enhances social empathy in homogeneous contexts and social controls in diverse contexts. Using state-level longitudinal data on the contiguous states, I find that social capital is positively associated with incarcerations, but only for African Americans. Furthermore, the effects of social capital appear to be conditional on racial context where this relationship is stronger as minority group size increases.

Racial Gaps in Labor Market Outcomes in the Last Four Decades and Over the Business Cycle
Tomaz Cajner et al.
Federal Reserve Working Paper, June 2017

We examine racial disparities in key labor market outcomes for men and women over the past four decades, with a special emphasis on their evolution over the business cycle. Blacks have substantially higher and more cyclical unemployment rates than whites, and observable characteristics can explain very little of this differential, which is importantly driven by a comparatively higher risk of job loss. In contrast, the Hispanic-white unemployment rate gap is comparatively small and is largely explained by lower educational attainment of (mostly foreign-born) Hispanics. Regarding labor force participation, the remarkably low participation rate of black men is largely unexplained by observables, is mostly driven by high labor force exit rates from employment, and has shown little improvement over the last 40 years. Furthermore, even among those who work, blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to work part-time schedules despite wanting to work additional hours, and the racial gaps in this involuntary part-time employment are large even after controlling for observable characteristics. Our findings also suggest that the robust recovery of the labor market in the last few years has contributed significantly to reducing the gaps that had widened dramatically as a result of the Great Recession; however, the disparities remain substantial.

Race and representation on Twitter: Members of Congress' responses to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner
Logan Dancey & Jasmine Masand
Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming

This paper investigates the public responses of members of Congress to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the subsequent protests and grand jury decisions. To do so, we examine members' engagement with the issue on Twitter, which became a platform for public protest with such hashtags as #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe. We find that a member's race is a more robust predictor of their engagement on the issue than is the member's partisanship or the partisan and racial demographics of their district. By showing that descriptive representation may overwhelm more traditional notions of district-based representation in responses to a racially charged issue, we further highlight the role descriptive representation in Congress plays in ensuring that the diversity of voices coming out of Congress reflects the diversity of voices in the public at large.

Furling the Flag: Explaining the 2015 Vote to Remove the Confederate Flag in South Carolina
Latasha Chaffin, Christopher Cooper & Gibbs Knotts
Politics & Policy, forthcoming

Public policy scholars have long recognized the importance of focusing events in shaping policy change. We argue that the 2015 Charleston church shooting served as a focusing event that opened a policy window, leading to the vote to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds. While Democrats voted unanimously to remove the flag, we employ logistic regression models to explore the determinants of the decision to remove the Confederate flag in South Carolina among Republican state representatives. There is little evidence for the effect of district racial composition or electoral threat, but our model indicates that a few factors - intraparty legislator ideology, median household income in the district, percent urban in the district, and district educational attainment - best explain Republican decisions to furl the flag. These findings have implications for how policy makers respond to focusing events and our understanding of ongoing debates over the Confederate flag.

School Boards and Student Segregation
Hugh Macartney & John Singleton
NBER Working Paper, July 2017

This paper provides the first causal evidence about how elected local school boards affect student segregation across schools. The key identification challenge is that the composition of a school board is potentially correlated with unobserved determinants of school segregation, such as the pattern of household sorting and the degree to which boards are geographically constrained in defining zones of attendance. We overcome this issue using a regression discontinuity design at the electoral contest level, exploiting quasi-random variation from narrowly-decided elections. Such an approach is made possible by a unique dataset, which combines matched information about North Carolina school board candidates (including vote shares and political affiliation) with time-varying district-level racial and economic segregation outcomes. Focusing on the political composition of school board members, two-stage least squares estimates reveal that (relative to their non-Democrat counterparts) Democrat board members decrease racial segregation across schools. These estimates significantly differ from their ordinary least squares counterparts, indicating that the latter are biased upward (understating the effects). Our findings suggest that school boards realize such reductions in segregation by shifting attendance zones, a novel measure of which we construct without the need for exact geocoded boundaries. While the effect of adjusting boundaries does not appear to be offset by within-district neighborhood re-sorting in the short run, we uncover causal evidence of "white flight" out of public schools in districts in which boards have acted to reduce segregation.

Intergenerational Neighborhood Attainment and the Legacy of Racial Residential Segregation: A Causal Mediation Analysis
Jeremy Pais
Demography, August 2017, Pages 1221-1250

Advances in mediation analysis are used to examine the legacy effects of racial residential segregation in the United States on neighborhood attainments across two familial generations. The legacy effects of segregation are anticipated to operate through two primary pathways: a neighborhood effects pathway and an urban continuity pathway. The neighborhood effects pathway explains why parent's exposure to racial residential segregation during their family-rearing years can influence the residential outcomes of their children later in life. The urban continuity pathway captures the temporal consistency of the built and topographical environment in providing similar residential opportunities across generations. Findings from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and U.S. Census data indicate that the legacy effect of racial residential segregation among black families operates primarily through the neighborhood effects that influence children growing up. For white families, there is less support for the legacy effects of segregation. The findings are supported by a comprehensive mediation analysis that provides a formal sensitivity analysis, deploys an instrumental variable, and assesses effect heterogeneity. Knowledge of the legacy of segregation moves neighborhood attainment research beyond point-in-time studies of racial residential segregation to provide a deeper understanding into the ways stratified residential environments are reproduced.

Paying minorities to leave
Mollie Gerver
Politics, Philosophy & Economics, forthcoming

In April 1962, white segregationists paid money to African Americans agreeing to leave New Orleans. In 2010, the British National Party proposed paying non-white migrants money to leave the UK. Five years later, a landlord in New York paid African American tenants to vacate their apartments. This article considers when, if ever, it is morally permissible to pay minorities to leave. I argue that paying minorities to leave is demeaning towards recipients and so wrong. Although the payments are wrong, it is not clear if they are impermissible, given the benefits for the recipients. I argue that payments are impermissible if at least one of two conditions are met: The payments demean or harm other members of society, or the payments are provided to recipients who have failed to consent to the payments.

Mandated Political Representation and Redistribution
Anirban Mitra
Economica, forthcoming

Mandated political representation for minorities involves earmarking certain electoral districts where only minority-group candidates are permitted to contest. This paper builds a political-economy model to analyse the effect of such affirmative action on redistribution in equilibrium. The model predicts that in situations where the minority is economically disadvantaged and where voters exhibit an in-group bias, such a quota can reduce transfers to poorer groups. This suggests that the gains to the minority group from having such quotas are unevenly distributed. Redistribution in reserved districts leads to a rise in within-group inequality for the minorities.

Marriage, Work, and Racial Inequalities in Poverty: Evidence From the United States
Brian Thiede, Hyojung Kim & Tim Slack
Journal of Marriage and Family, forthcoming

This article explores recent racial and ethnic inequalities in poverty, estimating the share of racial poverty differentials that can be explained by variation in family structure and workforce participation. The authors use logistic regression to estimate the association between poverty and race, family structure, and workforce participation. They then decompose between-race differences in poverty risk to quantify how racial disparities in marriage and work explain observed inequalities in the log odds of poverty. They estimate that 47.7% to 48.9% of Black-White differences in poverty risk can be explained by between-group variance in these two factors, while only 4.3% to 4.5% of the Hispanic-White differential in poverty risk can be explained by these variables. The findings underscore the continued but varied association between racial disparities in poverty and labor and marriage markets. Clear racial differences in the origin of poverty suggest that policy interventions will not have uniformly effective impacts on poverty reduction.

Habitual sleep as a contributor to racial differences in cardiometabolic risk
David Curtis et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 15 August 2017, Pages 8889-8894

Insufficient and disrupted sleep is linked with cardiovascular and metabolic dysregulation and morbidity. The current study examines the degree to which differences in sleep between black/African American (AA) and white/European American (EA) adults explain racial differences in cardiometabolic (CMB) disease risk. Total sleep time and sleep efficiency (percent of time in bed asleep) were assessed via seven nights of wrist actigraphy among 426 participants in the Midlife in the United States Study (31% AA; 69% EA; 61% female; mean age = 56.8 y). CMB risk was indexed as a composite of seven biomarkers [blood pressure, waist circumference, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), insulin resistance, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol (HDL-C), and C-reactive protein]. Covariates included sociodemographic characteristics and relevant health behaviors. Results indicated that AAs relative to EAs obtained less sleep (341 vs. 381 min) and had lower sleep efficiency (72.3 vs. 82.2%) (P values < 0.001). Further, 41% and 58% of the racial difference in CMB risk was explained by sleep time and sleep efficiency, respectively. In models stratified by sex, race was indirectly associated with CMB risk via sleep time and efficiency only among females (explaining 33% and 65% of the race difference, respectively). Indirect effects were robust to alternative model specifications that excluded participants with diabetes or heart disease. Consideration of sleep determinants and sleep health is therefore needed in efforts to reduce racial differences in CMB disease.

Segregation and mortality over time and space
Trevon Logan & John Parman
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Few studies have been able to measure the evolution of segregation on health disparities or assess whether those disparities existed in rural communities prior to the Great Migration of African Americans to urban centers. We use a newly developed measure of historical racial residential segregation based on individual-level data. The measure exploits complete census manuscript files to identify the races of next-door neighbors. This measure is the first and only measure of historical segregation for rural communities, allowing us to greatly extend the empirical analysis of the effects of racial segregation on health over space and time. Using this comprehensive measure of racial residential segregation, we estimate the historical relationship between racial segregation and mortality. We find that conditional on racial composition, racially segregated environments had higher mortality rates and it was not always the case that the outcomes for blacks were worse than those of whites. These effects of segregation on health differed between urban and rural locations. We conclude by noting how comprehensive measures of segregation can extend the analysis of structural factors in racial health disparities to rural residents and to the historical evolution of health disparities.

Does Black Socioeconomic Mobility Explain Recent Progress Toward Black-White Residential Integration?
Robert Wagmiller, Elizabeth Gage-Bouchard & Amelia Karraker
Demography, August 2017, Pages 1251-1275

Studies of racial residential segregation have found that black-white segregation in U.S. metropolitan areas has declined slowly but steadily since the early 1970s. As of this writing, black-white residential segregation in the United States is approximately 25 % lower than it was in 1970. To identify the sources of this decline, we used individual-level, geocoded data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to compare the residential attainment of different cohorts of blacks. We analyzed these data using Blinder-Oaxaca regression decomposition techniques that partition the decline in residential segregation among cohorts into the decline resulting from (1) changes in the social and economic characteristics of blacks and (2) changes in the association between blacks' social and economic characteristics and the level of residential segregation they experience. Our findings show that black cohorts entering adulthood prior to the civil rights movement of the 1960s experienced consistently high levels of residential segregation at middle age, but that cohorts transitioning to adulthood during and after this period of racial progress experienced significantly lower levels of residential segregation. We find that the decline in black-white residential segregation for these later cohorts reflects both their greater social and economic attainment and a strengthening of the association between socioeconomic characteristics and residential segregation. Educational gains for the post-civil rights era cohorts and improved access to integrated neighborhoods for high school graduates and college attendees in these later cohorts were the principal source of improved residential integration over this period.


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