Facing history

Kevin Lewis

February 07, 2019

New Evidence of Skin Color Bias and Health Outcomes Using Sibling Difference Models: A Research Note
Thomas Laidley et al.
Demography, forthcoming


In this research note, we use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to determine whether darker skin tone predicts hypertension among siblings using a family fixed-effects analytic strategy. We find that even after we account for common family background and home environment, body mass index, age, sex, and outdoor activity, darker skin color significantly predicts hypertension incidence among siblings. In a supplementary analysis using newly released genetic data from Add Health, we find no evidence that our results are biased by genetic pleiotropy, whereby differences in alleles among siblings relate to coloration and directly to cardiovascular health simultaneously. These results add to the extant evidence on color biases that are distinct from those based on race alone and that will likely only heighten in importance in an increasingly multiracial environment as categorization becomes more complex.

Jim Crow, Ethnic Enclaves, and Status Attainment: Occupational Mobility among U.S. Blacks, 1880–1940
Martin Ruef & Angelina Grigoryeva
American Journal of Sociology, November 2018, Pages 814-859


Demographic and ecological theories yield mixed evidence as to whether ethnic enclaves are a benefit or a hindrance to the status attainment of residents and entrepreneurs. This article provides one possible theoretical resolution by separating the positive effects that may emanate among co-ethnic neighbors from the negative effects that may result with the concentration of racial or ethnic groups. The theory is tested by analyzing occupational wage attainment and entrepreneurship among African-Americans between 1880 and 1940, a historical context in which Jim Crow laws imposed segregation exogenously. Drawing on cross-sectional and panel census data for representative samples of blacks in the United States, the results suggest consistent upward occupational mobility among residents with same-race neighbors, accompanied with downward mobility among residents who are concentrated in larger racialized enclaves. Both patterns are also observed in the distribution of entrepreneurial activity among blacks during the Jim Crow era.

Displacement, Diversity, and Mobility: Career Impacts of Japanese American Internment
Jaime Arellano-Bover
Stanford Working Paper, November 2018


One of the largest population displacement episodes in the U.S. took place in 1942, when over 110,000 persons of Japanese origin living on the West Coast were forcibly sent away to ten internment camps for one to three years. Having lost jobs and assets, after internment they had to reassess labor market and location choices. This paper studies the long-run career consequences of this episode for those affected. Combining information from Census data, camp records, and survey data I develop a predictor of a person’s future or past internment status based on Census observables. Using a difference-in-differences framework I find that internment had a positive average effect on earnings in the long run. This effect is robust to different control groups of non-interned Japanese and Chinese Americans. The evidence is consistent with information and skills exchange, possibly enabled by the camps’ economic diversity, followed by increased occupational and geographic mobility as likely mechanisms. I find no evidence of other potential drivers such as increased labor supply, or changes in cultural preferences. These findings provide evidence of labor market frictions preventing people from accessing their most productive occupations and locations, and shed light on the resilience of internees who overcame a very adverse initial shock.

Can you move to opportunity? Evidence from the Great Migration
Ellora Derenoncourt
Harvard Working Paper, January 2019


The northern United States long served as a land of opportunity for black Americans, but today the region’s racial gap in intergenerational mobility rivals that of the South. I show that racial composition changes during the peak of the Great Migration (1940-1970) reduced upward mobility in northern cities in the long run, with the largest effects on black men. I identify urban black population increases during the Migration at the commuting zone level using a shift-share instrument, interacting pre-1940 black southern migrant location choices with predicted out-migration from southern counties. The Migration’s negative effects on children’s adult outcomes appear driven by neighborhood factors, not changes in the characteristics of the average child. As early as the 1960s, the Migration led to greater white enrollment in private schools, increased spending on policing, and higher crime and incarceration rates. I estimate that the overall change in childhood environment induced by the Great Migration explains 43% of the upward mobility gap between black and white men in the region today.

Racial Rent Differences in U.S. Housing Markets: Evidence from the Housing Voucher Program
Dirk Early, Paul Carrillo & Edgar Olsen
Journal of Regional Science, forthcoming


This paper exploits an unusually rich data set to estimate racial differences in the rents paid for identical housing in the same neighborhood in U.S. housing markets and to show how they vary with neighborhood racial composition. Results suggest that black households pay more for identical housing in identical neighborhoods than their white counterparts and that this rent gap increases with the fraction of the neighborhood white. In neighborhoods with the smallest fraction white, the premium is about 0.6 percent. In neighborhoods with the largest fraction white, it is about 2.4 percent. This pattern holds across different types of areas.

Income Inequality, Ethnic Diversity, and State Minimum Wages
John Foster, Luis Gonzalez & Carlos Lopes
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Method: We estimate the effects of income inequality, ethnic diversity, and their interaction on real state minimum wages using a state‐level panel of Census demographic data from 1981 to 2010. We also control for state‐level demographics and additional state‐level information, such as measures of voter and government liberalism, along with time and state fixed effects.

Results: We find that the impact of income inequality is mediated by ethnic diversity. When states are highly ethnically homogeneous, increases in income inequality are associated with higher state minimum wages. When states are highly ethnically heterogeneous, increases in income inequality are associated with lower state minimum wages. The impact of income inequality lacks statistical significance when levels of ethnic diversity are either average or somewhat below average.

Discrimination in the Auto Loan Market
Alexander Butler, Erik Mayer & James Weston
Rice University Working Paper, December 2018


We test whether auto lenders discriminate against minority borrowers. Using a novel dataset that combines credit bureau records with borrower characteristics, we find that Black and Hispanic applicants’ loan approval rates are 1.5 percentage points lower than White applicants’, even after controlling for creditworthiness. Our results are larger in states where racial biases are more prevalent. Minority borrowers that receive an auto loan pay interest rates 56 basis points higher than comparable White borrowers. Controlling for a broad set of loan and borrower characteristics, minority borrowers have lower ex post default rates, consistent with racial discrimination.

Polygenic scores mediate the Jewish phenotypic advantage in educational attainment and cognitive ability compared with Catholics and Lutherans
Curtis Dunkel et al.
Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, forthcoming


A newly released multivariate polygenic score for educational attainment, cognitive ability, and self-rated mathematical ability in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study was examined as a mediator of the group difference between Jews (n = 53) and 2 Christian denominations, Catholics (n = 2,603) and Lutherans (n = 2,027), with respect to educational attainment, IQ, and performance on a similarities measure. It was found that the Jewish performance advantage over both Catholics and Lutherans with respect to all 3 measures was partially and significantly mediated by group differences in the polygenic score. This result is consistent with the prediction that the high average cognitive ability of Jews may have been shaped, in part, by polygenic selection acting on this population over the course of several millennia.

Social Networks and the Political Salience of Ethnicity
Nicholas Eubank
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, January 2019, 1-39


Ethnic politics scholars are increasingly convinced that (a) the political salience of ethnicity and (b) the correlation between ethno-linguistic fractionalization (ELF) and poor development are driven by the dense social networks shared by co-ethnics. By this argument, social networks allow ethnic parties to leverage inbuilt networks to share information and support collective action, while ethnically fragmented communities struggle to hold politicians accountable. This paper provides the first comprehensive empirical test of the assumption underlying this argument. Using seven months of telecommunications data from 9 million mobile subscribers in Zambia — which includes records of almost 2 billion calls and SMS messages — to measure social networks across an entire country, this paper finds that electoral constituencies with high ELF also have more fragmented social networks, especially in rural areas. It also finds other potential cleavages that have not achieved political salience (namely, religious identity and employment sector) are not correlated with network fragmentation, consistent with the idea that ethnicity achieves salience because it offers an organizational advantage not offered by other cleavages. Finally, it also finds that both voter knowledge and public goods are negatively correlated with network fragmentation, consistent with the network-proxy hypothesis.

A classical-Marxian model of antebellum slavery
John Clegg & Duncan Foley
Cambridge Journal of Economics, January 2019, Pages 107–138


This paper outlines a classical–Marxian model of the antebellum US economy. The model assumes that the mobility of capital tended to equalize the rate of profit between North and South, whilst land rents were minimized by an expanding frontier. Under these conditions slave prices are the capitalized present value of the excess surplus value produced by slaves. This excess surplus value arose because slaves could be forced to work harder at a lower standard of subsistence than wage laborers, who were free to move between individual employers and also between sectors by farming frontier lands. If the growth of the slave population saturated the land available for slave production, land rents would rise to capture the excess surplus value produced by slaves, and slave prices would collapse. We find the model predicts historical movements of slave prices, and is compatible with contemporaneous views of the impact of territorial restriction on the viability of slavery.

Beating the Odds: Black Jockeys in the Kentucky Derby, 1870-1911
Michael Leeds & Hugh Rockoff
NBER Working Paper, January 2019


The Kentucky Derby is the premier American horse race. The first race was held in 1875 and 13 of the 15 jockeys were African Americans. African American jockeys continued to play an important role until the turn of the 19th century when they were forced from the Kentucky Derby and the other big American races, victims of the rising tide of Jim Crow. This paper uses a new data set based on the odds on all the entries in the Kentucky Derby between 1875 and 1915 to examine the willingness of owners and trainers to hire African American jockeys and the willingness of fans to bet on them.

A Behavioral Interpretation of the Origins of African American Family Structure
Gerald Jaynes
Yale Working Paper, November 2018


1960 to 1980 doubling (21% to 41%) of black children in one-parent families emerged from 1940-to-1970 urbanization converging population toward urbanized blacks’ historically stable high rate, not post-1960 welfare liberalization or deindustrialization. Urban and rural child socializations structured different Jim Crow Era black family formations. Agrarian economic enclaves socialized conformity to Jim Crow and two-parent families; urban enclaves rebellion, male joblessness, and destabilized families. Proxying urban/rural residence at age 16 for socialization location, logistic regressions on sixties census data confirm the hypothesis. Racialized urban socialization negatively affected two-parent family formation and poverty status of blacks but not whites.


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