Fitting in

Kevin Lewis

September 13, 2018

We Want Black Students, Just Not You: How White Admissions Counselors Screen Black Prospective Students
Ted Thornhill
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, forthcoming


Most historically and predominantly white institutions (HPWIs) now desire some number of black students on their campuses. However, recent theoretical scholarship suggests that HPWIs’ desire for and willingness to embrace black students is predicated on their racial palatability. The theory of intraracial discrimination stipulates that white gatekeepers are increasingly inclined to screen blacks to “weed out” those they perceive as too concerned with race and racism. In this study, the author assessed whether there was evidence of intraracial discrimination within the HPWI admissions regime. The data were derived through an audit of 517 white admissions counselors, employed at the same number of institutions, who received inquiry e-mails from fictitious black high school students who presented as more or less racially salient. The findings reveal that white admissions counselors are more responsive to black students who present as deracialized and racially apolitical than they are to those who evince a commitment to antiracism and racial justice. These findings provide convincing support for the theory of intraracial discrimination within the HPWI admissions regime. The author concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of these findings.

The Effects of Sexism on American Women: The Role of Norms vs. Discrimination
Kerwin Kofi Charles, Jonathan Guryan & Jessica Pan
NBER Working Paper, August 2018


We study how reported sexism in the population affects American women. Fixed-effects and TSLS estimates show that higher prevailing sexism where she was born (background sexism) and where she currently lives (residential sexism) both lower a woman's wages, labor force participation and ages of marriage and childbearing. We argue that background sexism affects outcomes through the influence of previously-encountered norms, and that estimated associations regarding specific percentiles and male versus female sexism suggest that residential sexism affects labor market outcomes through prejudice-based discrimination by men, and non-labor market outcomes through the influence of current norms of other women.

Dynamics of the Gender Gap in High Math Achievement
Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson
NBER Working Paper, August 2018 


This paper examines the dynamics of the gender gap in high math achievement over the high school years using data from the American Mathematics Competition. A clear gender gap is already present by 9th grade and the gender gap widens over the high school years. High-achieving students must substantially improve their performance from year to year to maintain their within-cohort rank, but there is nonetheless a great deal of persistence in the rankings. Several gender-related differences in the dynamics contribute to the widening of the gender gap, including differences in dropout rates and in the mean and variance of year-to-year improvements among continuing students. A decomposition indicates that the most important difference is that fewer girls make large enough gains to move up substantially in the rankings. An analysis of students on the margin of qualifying for a prestigious second stage exam provides evidence of a discouragement effect: some react to falling just short by dropping out of participating in future years, and this reaction is more common among girls.

The Impact of Chief Diversity Officers on Diverse Faculty Hiring
Steven Bradley et al.
NBER Working Paper, August 2018


As the American college student population has become more diverse, the goal of hiring a more diverse faculty has received increased attention in higher education. A signal of institutional commitment to faculty diversity often includes the hiring of an executive level chief diversity officer (CDO). To examine the effects of a CDO in a broad panel data context, we combine unique data on the initial hiring of a CDO with publicly available faculty and administrator hiring data by race and ethnicity from 2001 to 2016 for four-year or higher U.S. universities categorized as Carnegie R1, R2, or M1 institutions with student populations of 4,000 or more. We are unable to find significant statistical evidence that preexisting growth in diversity for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups is affected by the hiring of an executive level diversity officer for new tenure and non-tenure track hires, faculty hired with tenure, or for university administrator hires.

Feeling Powerful but Incompetent: Fear of Negative Evaluation Predicts Men’s Sexual Harassment of Subordinates
Leah Halper & Kimberly Rios
Sex Roles, forthcoming


Although research has examined the role of power in men’s likelihood of perpetrating sexual harassment against women, less is known about specific personality traits that might predict sexual harassment. Building upon theorizing that men are especially prone to engage in sexual harassment to the extent that their social status is threatened (Berdahl 2007a), we conducted three studies with samples of adults (Studies 1 and 3) and college students (Study 2). In Studies 1 and 3, we asked participants to indicate their likelihood of engaging in sexual harassment of subordinates across a variety of scenarios. In Study 2, we experimentally primed power and had participants choose to send either neutral or sexuality-related articles to an ostensibly real female participant. Results demonstrated that concerns about being perceived as incompetent (i.e., Fear of Negative Evaluation scores) positively predicted men’s sexual harassment of female subordinates. Among women, Fear of Negative Evaluation scores were unrelated to sexual harassment of male subordinates. Further, this relationship held controlling for Narcissism, Self-Esteem, and Generalized Self-Efficacy scores, suggesting that the fear that others would see oneself as incompetent was a better predictor of sexual harassment than one’s self-perceived incompetence. Implications for the relationship between power, personality, and sexual harassment, and for interventions designed to curb sexual harassment, are discussed.

Who’s on Top?: Gender Differences in Risk-Taking Produce Unequal Outcomes for High-Ability Women and Men
Susan Fisk
Social Psychology Quarterly, September 2018, Pages 185-206


Research shows that men are more likely to take risks than women, but there is scant evidence that this produces gender inequality. To address this gap, I analyzed engineering exam scores that used an unusual grading procedure. I found small average gender differences in risk-taking that did not produce gendered outcomes for students of average or poor ability. But the gender gap in risk-taking among the most competent students reduced the odds that high-ability women received top exam scores. These results demonstrate that gender differences in risk-taking can produce gender inequality in outcomes among top performers. This suggests that the upward mobility of high-ability women may be depressed relative to equally competent men in male-typed institutional settings in which outcomes are influenced by both ability and risk-taking. In this manner, these results provide new insights into the microlevel social-psychological processes that produce and reproduce gender inequality.

The Gender Composition of Firms and Risk-Taking Behavior: Evidence from Mutual Funds
Cristian Dezso, Evan Rawley & David Gaddis Ross
University of Maryland Working Paper, August 2018


We use two decades of data on more than 20,000 mutual fund manager spells and find that, in contrast to existing evidence, the presence of female fund managers is associated with more risk-taking, by other managers in the same family of funds. Male and, especially, female fund managers take on significantly more idiosyncratic risk — a measure of a fund manager’s unique investment style — and their funds exhibit a higher market beta — a measure of the non-diversifiable risk to which a fund’s investors are subject — when they have a higher proportion of female fund manager colleagues. Our results are consistent with a “safe haven” effect, whereby the presence of female managers encourages their colleagues to express their investing individuality by taking on more risk. We also find that risk-adjusted performance does not change, suggesting that the safe haven effect operates along an efficient frontier.

Coloring Weight Stigma: On Race, Colorism, Weight Stigma, and the Failure of Additive Intersectionality
Robert Reece
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, forthcoming


America’s obsession with obesity has spawned increasing amounts of research examining how body size shapes social outcomes. Generally, body size negatively correlates with these outcomes, with larger people suffering lower self-esteem, marriage rates, and wages. However, these outcomes are unevenly distributed among racial groups, as black people counterintuitively seem robust to many of the ravages of weight discrimination. Understanding why black people do not suffer a “double burden” where weight is concerned has baffled social scientists using basic models of intersectionality to explain outcomes. The author attempts to deepen understanding of intersectionality and the structure of race in the United States by examining the combined effect of body size and skin tone or color on individual income for black Americans. The author finds that light-skinned black Americans suffer an obesity income penalty similar to white Americans, whereas medium- and dark-skinned black Americans seem to suffer no obesity income penalty.

Undermining diversity: Favoritism threat and its effect on advocacy for similar others
Denise Loyd & Lisa Amoroso
Group Dynamics, September 2018, Pages 143-155


Women and minorities are often viewed as advocates for the recruitment and retention of similar others. This assumes that women and minorities do not face any barriers to taking on the role of “diversity advocate.” We believe this assumption is flawed. In 2 experiments and a qualitative study, we focus on favoritism threat as 1 such barrier. Favoritism threat takes place when evaluators fear their support for a similar other will be seen as an unfair positive bias. Study 1 demonstrates that distinctive individuals, regardless of gender, perceive more favoritism threat than do nondistinctive individuals. Study 2 shows that only low-status distinctive individuals (women in the numeric minority) show outgroup favoritism by evaluating an outgroup applicant higher than an equally qualified ingroup applicant on a subjective indicator. Study 3 finds that a majority of racially distinctive individuals spontaneously identify favoritism threat as a concern when contemplating advocating for a demographically similar other, even when told that the other is qualified.

Push-Ups Versus Clean-Up: Preschool Teachers’ Gendered Beliefs, Expectations for Behavior, and Disciplinary Practices
Heidi Gansen
Sex Roles, forthcoming 


Using data from observations in three U.S. preschools (nine classrooms total) and interviews with nine preschool teachers observed, the present qualitative study examines moments of gender socialization through disciplinary interactions in preschool classrooms. I ask: How do teachers’ expectations for children’s behaviors and use of disciplinary practices contribute to gender inequality in preschool? And, how do preschool teachers transmit and “do gender” through disciplinary practices and interactions? Using a grounded theory approach to data analysis, I find that in preschool, teachers discipline boys and girls differently and create gendered stories about why these differences exist. Teachers tell these gendered stories to account for, and justify, their gendered beliefs, expectations, and differential treatment of children during disciplinary interactions. Preschool teachers’ gendered beliefs are also associated with gendered disciplinary responses to children’s misbehavior in preschool classrooms. My data suggest that teachers’ gendered beliefs and expectations for behavior are related to how boys and girls are disciplined differently for engaging in the same behaviors. I argue that teachers’ gendered beliefs and gendered disciplinary interactions with children in preschool classrooms contribute to the embodiment and enforcement of gender and gender inequality in early childhood. My findings suggest that in preschool, gender differences continue to be constructed and reified as natural in young children.

Is diversity good or bad? Evidence from eSports teams analysis
Petr Parshakov, Dennis Coates & Marina Zavertiaeva
Applied Economics, Fall 2018, Pages 5062-5073


We use eSports data to construct an empirical model to measure the effect of diversity on team performance. Different kinds of diversities are considered, diversity of culture, diversity of language and diversity of skill. Our main results are that cultural diversity is beneficial for team performance: the absence of diversity reduces performance by 30%. However, language and experience diversity negatively affect results. Taking the difference in the results into account, we conclude that firms should not thoughtlessly maximize team diversity: different kinds of diversity have different integration and communication costs.

Stereotype Threat May Not Impact Women's Inhibitory Control or Mathematical Performance: Providing Support for the Null Hypothesis
Charlotte Pennington et al.
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming


Underpinned by the findings of Jamieson and Harkins (2007; Experiment 3, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology), the current study pits the mere effort motivational account of stereotype threat against a working memory interference account. In Experiment 1, females were primed with a negative self‐ or group stereotype pertaining to their visuospatial ability and completed an anti‐saccade eye‐tracking task. In Experiment 2 they were primed with a negative or positive group stereotype and completed an anti‐saccade and mental arithmetic task. Findings indicate that stereotype threat did not significantly impair women's inhibitory control (Experiments 1 & 2) or mathematical performance (Experiment 2), with Bayesian analyses providing support for the null hypothesis. These findings are discussed in relation to potential moderating factors of stereotype threat, such as task difficulty and stereotype endorsement, as well as the possibility that effect sizes reported in the stereotype threat literature are inflated due to publication bias.

How Low Can You(r Power) Go? It Depends on Whether You are Male or Female
Aleah Fontaine & Jacquie Vorauer
Sex Roles, forthcoming


Three online experiments were conducted to determine whether gender differences in feelings of power are most evident in objectively lower or higher power situations (total n = 1360; Studies 1 and 2: 238 and 771 U.S. MTurk respondents respectively; Study 3: 351 Canadian university students). We focused on evaluating whether men’s and women’s responses were in line with a cushioning account, whereby the higher power generally accorded to men as a group essentially serves as a back-up power source for men in lower power positions. We also evaluated support for a ceiling account, whereby women’s feelings of power are limited in higher power positions. Results were consistent with the cushioning account: Men reported feeling more powerful than women did when imagining or recalling occupying a lower power position and in a control baseline, but no gender difference was evident under higher power conditions. Results further revealed that women’s feelings of power were more variable across lower versus higher power positions than were men’s and indicated that women’s feelings of power are quite responsive to situationally afforded high power when it is available. Overall our findings suggest that occupying a higher power role eradicates gender differences in feelings of power that are otherwise evident and thus has an equalizing effect.

Take Two! SAT Retaking and College Enrollment Gaps
Joshua Goodman, Oded Gurantz & Jonathan Smith
NBER Working Paper, August 2018


Data on millions of SAT-takers show only half retake the exam, with even lower retake rates among low income and underrepresented minority students. Scoring below multiples of 100 increases retaking, implying some students have round number target scores. Regression discontinuity evidence finds retaking once improves admissions-relevant SAT scores by 0.3 standard deviations on average. Likely by strengthening college applications, retaking substantially increases four-year college enrollment, particularly for low income and underrepresented minority students. Eliminating disparities in retake rates could close up to 20 percent of the income gap and 10 percent of the racial gap in four-year college enrollment.

Sex differences in navigation strategy and efficiency
Alexander Boone, Xinyi Gong & Mary Hegarty
Memory & Cognition, August 2018, Pages 909–922


Research on human navigation has indicated that males and females differ in self-reported navigation strategy as well as objective measures of navigation efficiency. In two experiments, we investigated sex differences in navigation strategy and efficiency using an objective measure of strategy, the dual-solution paradigm (DSP; Marchette, Bakker, & Shelton, 2011). Although navigation by shortcuts and learned routes were the primary strategies used in both experiments, as in previous research on the DSP, individuals also utilized route reversals and sometimes found the goal location as a result of wandering. Importantly, sex differences were found in measures of both route selection and navigation efficiency. In particular, males were more likely to take shortcuts and reached their goal location faster than females, while females were more likely to follow learned routes and wander. Self-report measures of strategy were only weakly correlated with objective measures of strategy, casting doubt on their usefulness. This research indicates that the sex difference in navigation efficiency is large, and only partially related to an individual’s navigation strategy as measured by the dual-solution paradigm.

Sex Differences in Visual Motion Processing
Scott Murray et al.
Current Biology, 10 September 2018, Pages 2794-2799


The importance of sex as a biological variable has recently been emphasized by major funding organizations and within the neuroscience community. Critical sex-based neural differences are indicated by, for example, conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that have a strong sex bias with a higher prevalence among males. Motivated by this broader context, we report a marked sex difference in a visual motion perception task among neurotypical adults. Motion duration thresholds — the minimum duration needed to accurately perceive motion direction — were considerably shorter for males than females. We replicated this result across three laboratories and 263 total participants. This type of enhanced performance has previously been observed only in special populations including ASD, depression, and senescence. The observed sex difference cannot be explained by general differences in speed of visual processing, overall visual discrimination abilities, or potential motor-related differences. We also show that while individual differences in motion duration thresholds are associated with differences in fMRI responsiveness of human MT+, surprisingly, MT+ response magnitudes did not differ between males and females. Thus, we reason that sex differences in motion perception are not captured by an MT+ fMRI measure that predicts within-sex individual differences in perception. Overall, these results show how sex differences can manifest unexpectedly, highlighting the importance of sex as a factor in the design and analysis of perceptual and cognitive studies.

Heart rate variability moderates challenge and threat reactivity to sexism among women in STEM
Bettina Casad & Zachary Petzel
Social Psychology, July/August 2018, Pages 191-204


Using a biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat, we tested resting heart rate variability (HRV) as a moderator of physiological reactivity after experiencing sexism. Women science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors participated in a mock interview in which the male interviewer made a sexist or neutral comment. Resting HRV moderated physiological stress reactivity among women in the sexism condition, but not control, indicating lower resting HRV predicted greater physiological threat than challenge and higher resting HRV predicted greater physiological challenge than threat during the interview. These findings support the emotion regulation properties of HRV as applied to a biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat. Higher resting HRV may be adaptive for women experiencing sexism in male-dominated contexts like STEM.


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.