Kevin Lewis

October 14, 2021

Affirmative Action, Mismatch, and Economic Mobility after California's Proposition 209
Zachary Bleemer
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Proposition 209 banned race-based affirmative action at California public universities in 1998. Using a difference-in-differences research design and a newly constructed longitudinal database linking all 1994-2002 University of California applicants to their educational experiences and wages, I show that ending affirmative action caused underrepresented minority (URM) freshman applicants to cascade into lower-quality colleges. The "mismatch hypothesis" implies that this cascade would provide net educational benefits to URM applicants, but their degree attainment declined overall and in STEM fields, especially among less academically qualified applicants. URM applicants' average wages in their twenties and thirties subsequently declined, driven by declines among Hispanic applicants. These declines are not explained by URM students' performance or persistence in STEM course sequences, which were unchanged after Prop 209. Ending affirmative action also deterred thousands of qualified URM students from applying to any UC campus. Complementary regression discontinuity and institutional value-added analyses suggest that affirmative action's net educational and wage benefits for URM applicants exceed its net costs for on-the-margin white and Asian applicants. 

Racial Disparities in Access to Small Business Credit: Evidence from the Paycheck Protection Program
Sabrina Howell et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2021

We explore the sources of racial disparities in small business lending by studying the $806 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was designed to support small business jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP loans were administered by private lenders but federally guaranteed, largely eliminating unobservable credit risk as a factor in explaining differential lending by race. We document that even after controlling for a firm's zip code, industry, loan size, PPP approval date, and other characteristics, Black-owned businesses were 12.1 percentage points (70% of the mean) more likely to obtain their PPP loan from a fintech lender than a traditional bank. Among conventional lenders, smaller banks were much less likely to lend to Black-owned firms, while the Top-4 banks exhibited little to no disparity after including controls. We use novel data to show that the disparity is not primarily explained by differences in pre-existing bank or credit relationships, firm financial positions, fintech affinity, or borrower application behavior. In contrast, we document that Black-owned businesses' higher rate of borrowing from fintechs compared to smaller banks is particularly large in places with high racial animus, pointing to a potential role for discrimination in explaining some of the racial disparities in small business lending. We find evidence that when small banks automate their lending processes, and thus reduce human involvement in the loan origination process, their rate of PPP lending to Black-owned businesses increases, with larger effects in places with more racial animus.

Public Concern about Immigration and Customer Complaints against Minority Financial Advisors
Kelvin Law & Luo Zuo
Management Science, forthcoming

We examine the relation between public concern about immigration and customer complaints against minority financial advisors in the United States. We find that minority advisors are more likely to receive complaints in periods of high public concern about immigration than in other periods, relative to their white colleagues from the same firm, at the same office location, and at the same point in time. This result holds for both complaints with merit and dismissed complaints and is more pronounced in counties where residents likely hold stronger anti-immigration views. We also find that minority advisors are more likely to face regulatory actions or leave their firms after customer allegations in periods of high public concern about immigration than in other periods. Overall, our study provides descriptive evidence of a positive relation between public concern about immigration and customer dissatisfaction with minority advisors. 

Majority members misperceive even "win-win" diversity policies as unbeneficial to them
Derek Brown & Drew Jacoby-Senghor
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Six studies show that majority members misperceive diversity policies as unbeneficial to their ingroup, even when policies benefit them. Majority members perceived nonzero-sum university admission policies -- policies that increase acceptance of both URM (i.e., underrepresented minority) and non-URM applicants -- as harmful to their ingroup when merely framed as "diversity" policies. Even for policies lacking a diversity framing (i.e., "leadership" policies), majority members misperceived that their ingroup would not benefit when policies provided relatively greater benefit to URMs, but not when they provided relatively greater benefit to non-URMs. No consistent evidence emerged that these effects were driven by ideological factors: Majority members' misperceptions occurred even when accounting for self-reported beliefs around diversity, hierarchy, race, and politics. Instead, we find that majority group membership itself predicts misperceptions, such that both Black and White participants accurately perceive nonzero-sum diversity policies as also benefiting the majority when participants are represented as members of the minority group. 

Making Diversity Work for Everybody? The Double-Edged Sword of All-Inclusive Diversity
Payton Small, Brenda Major & Cheryl Kaiser
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Three experiments investigated how framing diversity as all-inclusive affects recognition of racial injustice. Among Whites, viewing a company mission statement that specifically included Whites/European Americans when defining diversity or made no mention of diversity led to increased recognition of unfair treatment of racial minorities relative to viewing a standard multicultural diversity statement (Experiment 1). Decreased concern about losing out on resources to racial minorities mediated these effects. Among racial minorities, viewing a company statement that included Whites/European Americans or made no mention of diversity similarly increased recognition of unfair treatment of racial minorities, an effect mediated by minorities' reduced feelings of inclusion (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 replicated these effects using a more subtle manipulation of the all-inclusive diversity statement. These studies suggest defining diversity as inclusive of Whites/European Americans increases Whites' sensitivity to racial injustice against minorities but simultaneously increases racial minority Americans' concerns about exclusion and unfair treatment. 

Desegregated but still separated? The impact of school integration on student suspensions and special education classification
Mark Chin
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming

In this paper I study the impact of court-mandated school desegregation by race on student suspensions and special education classification. Simple descriptive statistics using student enrollment and outcome data collected from the largest school districts across the country in the 1970s and 1980s show that Black-White school integration was increasing for districts under court order, but not for a set of comparison districts. Similarly, Black student suspension rates were increasing at faster rates in integrating districts relative to comparison districts, and their classification rates as having an intellectual disability were decreasing at slower rates. Differences-in-differences and event study models confirm these patterns I observe in the raw data: after integration, school districts experienced statistically and practically significant reductions in racial isolation across schools and growth in racial disparities in discipline and special education classification. The impacts of integration are immediate, sustained, and robust for student suspensions in particular. My results thus provide causal evidence confirming prior descriptive and theoretical work suggesting that the racial composition of schools may influence measures of categorical inequality by race. 

A Replicable Identity-Based Intervention Reduces the Black-White Suspension Gap at Scale
Geoffrey Borman et al.
American Educational Research Journal, forthcoming

Nationally, educators suspend Black students at greater rates than any other group. This disproportionality is fueled by stereotypes casting Black students as "troublemakers" - a label students too often internalize as part of their identities. Across two independent double-blind randomized field trials involving over 2,000 seventh graders in 11 middle schools, we tested the efficacy of a brief intervention to buffer students from stereotypes and mitigate the racial suspension gap. The self-affirmation intervention helps students access positive aspects of their identities less associated with troublemaking in school. Confirmed in both trials, treatment effects cut Black-White suspension and office disciplinary referral gaps during seventh and eighth grade by approximately two thirds, with even greater impacts for Black students with prior infractions. 

Ethnic studies increases longer-run academic engagement and attainment
Sade Bonilla, Thomas Dee & Emily Penner
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 September 2021

Increased interest in anti-racist education has motivated the rapidly growing but politically contentious adoption of ethnic studies (ES) courses in US public schools. A long-standing rationale for ES courses is that their emphasis on culturally relevant and critically engaged content (e.g., social justice, anti-racism, stereotypes, contemporary social movements) has potent effects on student engagement and outcomes. However, the quantitative evidence supporting this claim is limited. In this preregistered regression-discontinuity study, we examine the longer-run impact of a grade 9 ES course offered in the San Francisco Unified School District. Our key confirmatory finding is that assignment to this course significantly increased the probability of high school graduation among students near the grade 8 2.0 grade point average (GPA) threshold used for assigning students to the course. Our exploratory analyses also indicate that assignment increased measures of engagement throughout high school (e.g., attendance) as well as the probability of postsecondary matriculation. 

Why benefiting from discrimination is less recognized as discrimination
Taylor Phillips & Sora Jun
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming 

Discrimination continues to plague society, creating stark inequities between groups. While existing work has considered the role of prejudice in perpetuating discrimination, we draw on emerging research on privilege and inequity frames to offer an overlooked, complementary explanation: Objectively discriminatory decisions that are described as favoring, compared with disfavoring, are less likely to be recognized as discrimination. We further theorize this is because favoring decisions are perceived to be motivated by positive intentions. We find support for our hypotheses across eight studies. First, using both qualitative (Studies 1a-b) and experimental approaches (Studies 2-7), across a range of discrimination contexts including race, sex, nationality, and age, we find that inequity frames affect perceptions of discrimination. Further, we find that even human resource employees are less likely to recognize discrimination when described as favoring (Study 3), in turn affecting their reporting behaviors: They are less likely to report potentially discriminatory decisions for review. Next, sampling language from U.S. Supreme Court cases, we find that people support litigation less when discrimination uses a favoring frame, versus disfavoring frame (Study 4). Then, we find that this pattern is driven by inequity frames shaping perceived intentions, rather than perceived harm (Studies 5-6). Finally, we find some evidence that inequity frames regarding a discriminatory decision committed by an organization may affect candidates' job pursuit behaviors (Study 7). This work contributes to a nascent perspective that advantaging mechanisms are critical for creating group inequity: given individuals are less likely to recognize favoritism as discriminatory, favoritism may especially contribute to the persistence of inequity. 

Siting Schools, Choosing Students? Protecting White Habitus Through Charter School Recruitment
Virginia Riel
Sociological Forum, forthcoming

While many scholars agree that charter school enrollment contributes to segregation between schools, the role of siting decisions in recruitment to non-urban charters has been overlooked. Drawing on 14 months of fieldwork to examine student recruitment in three charter schools, this article demonstrates how personnel used intentional site selection, geographic lottery priorities, tailored programs, and other recruitment strategies that catered to local communities and created predominantly white spaces. This study builds on existing knowledge about white flight between schools but from an organizational perspective, illustrating how school personnel can work to create and sustain white habitus to recruit families. These findings also contradict ideals about school choice; while charter schools are ostensibly available to families regardless of where they live, I find that charter school personnel targeted, sited in, and tailored recruitment to the pool of prospective families they wished to attract-predominantly white areas. The article contributes to the literature by demonstrating the importance of charter school organizational practices to school segregation. 

Heterogenous parental responses to education quality
Eric Chan
Education Economics, forthcoming

Are parental inputs complements or substitutes to education quality? Using variation induced by identification into a gifted and talented (GT) program, I find no aggregate effects on parental behavior as a result of their child's access to a higher quality education. However, there are heterogeneous effects. Non-minority parents decrease engagement but increase tutoring. Minority and low-income parents increase engagement and increase both tutoring and in-home homework help. Results suggest that parental investments are not necessarily a strict complement or substitute but is nuanced dependent on demographic factors. I provide suggestive evidence that the primary mechanism is parental beliefs.


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.