Legacies of race

Kevin Lewis

March 31, 2016

Doing Violence, Making Race: Southern Lynching and White Racial Group Formation

Mattias Smångs

American Journal of Sociology, March 2016, Pages 1329-1374

This article presents a theoretical framework of how intergroup violence may figure into the activation and maintenance of group categories, boundaries, and identities, as well as the mediating role played by organizations in such processes. The framework’s analytical advantages are demonstrated in an application to southern lynchings. Findings from event- and community-level analyses suggest that “public” lynchings, carried out by larger mobs with ceremonial violence, but not “private” ones, perpetrated by smaller bands without public or ceremonial violence, fed off and into the racial group boundaries, categories, and identities promoted by the southern Democratic Party at the turn of the 20th century and on which the emerging Jim Crow system rested. Highlighting that racialized inequalities cannot be properly understood apart from collective processes of racial group boundary and identity making, the article offers clues to the mechanisms by which past racial domination influences contemporary race relations.


Wealth Inequality in Black and White: Cultural and Structural Sources of the Racial Wealth Gap

Cedric Herring & Loren Henderson

Race and Social Problems, March 2016, Pages 4-17

Using data from the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, this research examines competing and complementary cultural and structural explanations of the sources of racial differences in wealth. We use OLS regression and quantile regression to identify the major individual-level sources of wealth differences between African Americans and whites. Whites have more favorable wealth characteristics than do African Americans on all of the variables in the analysis: gender of household head, bankruptcies, spending patterns, stock ownership, business ownership, home ownership, inheritance, educational attainment, income, occupation, age, and number of children. Cultural factors, having a female-headed family, spending patterns, and inheritance account for little of the racial wealth gap. Racial differences in income, stock ownership, and business ownership account for much of the explained racial wealth gap. Moreover, compared with whites, African Americans receive significantly lower wealth returns to education, age, income, stock ownership, and business ownership. We discuss the implications of our findings.


Racial Sorting and the Emergence of Segregation in American Cities

Allison Shertzer & Randall Walsh

NBER Working Paper, March 2016

Residential segregation by race grew sharply in the United States as black migrants from the South arrived in northern cities during the early twentieth century. The existing literature emphasizes discriminatory institutions as the driving force behind this rapid rise in segregation. Using newly assembled neighborhood-level data, we instead focus on the role of “flight” by whites, providing the first systematic evidence of the role that prewar population dynamics played in the emergence of the American ghetto. Leveraging exogenous changes in neighborhood racial composition, we show that white departures in response to black arrivals were quantitatively large and accelerated between 1900 and 1930. Our preferred estimates suggest that white flight was responsible for 34 percent of the increase in segregation over the 1910s and 50 percent over the 1920s. Our analysis suggests that segregation would likely have arisen in American cities even without the presence of discriminatory institutions as a direct consequence of the widespread and decentralized relocation decisions of white urban residents.


Credit Standards and Segregation

Amine Ouazad & Romain Rancière

Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

This paper explores the effects of changes in lending standards on racial segregation within metropolitan areas. Such changes affect neighborhood choices as well as aggregate prices and quantities in the housing market. Using the credit boom of 2000-2006 as a large-scale experiment, we put forward an IV strategy that predicts the relaxation of credit standards as the result of a credit supply shock predominantly affecting liquidity-constrained banks. The relaxed lending standards led to significant outflows of Whites from black and from racially mixed neighborhoods: without such credit supply shock, black households would have had between 2.3 and 5.1 percentage points more white neighbors in 2010.


A Drought-Induced African Slave Trade?

Levi Boxell

Stanford Working Paper, March 2016

Historians have frequently suggested that droughts helped facilitate the African slave trade. By introducing a previously unused dataset on historical rainfall levels in Africa, I provide the first empirical answer to this hypothesis. I demonstrate how negative rainfall shocks and long-run shifts in the mean level of rainfall increased the number of slaves exported from a given region and can have persistent effects on the level of development today. Using a simple economic model of an individual's decision to participate in the slave trade, along with observed empirical heterogeneity and historical anecdotes, I argue that consumption smoothing and labor allocation adjustments are the primary causal mechanisms for the negative relationship between droughts and slave exports. These findings contribute to our understanding of the process of selection into the African slave trade and have policy implications for contemporary human trafficking and slavery.


Young Adults’ Race, Wealth, and Entrepreneurship

Terri Friedline & Stacia West

Race and Social Problems, March 2016, Pages 42-63

This study explored relationships among young adults’ wealth and entrepreneurial activities with emphasis on how these relationships differed among racial and ethnic groups. Using data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, results indicated that young adults’ (N = 8984) higher accumulated amounts of wealth were associated with pursuing self-employment at higher rates; however, differences emerged when the associations were explored with various types of wealth and within racial and ethnic groups. Black young adults’ greater debt and net worth were associated with their increased likelihoods of self-employment. Among Latino/a young adults, greater liquid assets and net worth were associated with increased likelihoods of self-employment. Wealth was unrelated to white young adults’ self-employment. Wealth appeared to play an outsized role in the self-employment of black and Latino/a young adults compared to that of their white counterparts. In other words, racial and ethnic minority young adults may have a heavier burden for generating their own capital to embark on entrepreneurial activities when mainstream credit markets are unresponsive or inaccessible. Policy implications are discussed.


Supportive Family Environments Ameliorate the Link Between Racial Discrimination and Epigenetic Aging: A Replication Across Two Longitudinal Cohorts

Gene Brody et al.

Psychological Science, forthcoming

This study tested the hypothesis that supportive family environments during adolescence buffer exposure to racial discrimination, reducing its impact on biological weathering and its manifestation in cellular aging. Perceived racial discrimination, support in the family environment, and confounder variables were assessed for 3 consecutive years across adolescence in two independent cohorts of African American youth from rural Georgia. DNA was extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells collected during young adulthood. Patterns of methylation were used to index the epigenetic ages of these cells and the extent to which they differed from participants’ chronological ages. Among youth in supportive family environments, exposure to higher levels of racial discrimination did not forecast greater epigenetic aging. Among youth in less supportive family environments, exposure to higher levels of racial discrimination did forecast greater epigenetic aging. The associations emerged independently of confounder variables, and the results were replicated across the two cohorts.


Diverging Fortunes: Racial/Ethnic Inequality in Wealth Trajectories in Middle and Late Life

Tyson Brown

Race and Social Problems, March 2016, Pages 29-41

The primary aim of this study is to examine whether racial/ethnic inequality in wealth dissipates or increases between middle and late life, and by how much. To address this aim, this study draws on critical race and life course perspectives as well as 10 waves of panel data from the Health and Retirement Study and growth curve models to understand racial/ethnic inequality in wealth trajectories among whites, blacks, and Mexican Americans (N = 8337). Findings show that, by midlife, significant inequalities in net worth emerge between whites and their black and Mexican American counterparts. On average, white households have amassed a net worth of $105k by midlife, compared to less than $5k and $39k among black and Mexican American families, respectively. Moreover, whites experience much more rapid rates of wealth accumulation during their 50s and 60s than their minority counterparts, resulting in increasing wealth disparities with age, consistent with a process of cumulative disadvantage. At the peak of their wealth trajectory (at age 66), whites have approximately $245k more than blacks and $219k more than Mexican Americans. A wide range of socioeconomic, behavioral, and health factors account for a portion, but not all, of racial/ethnic inequality in wealth, suggesting that unobserved factors such as parental wealth, segregation, and discrimination may play a role in the production and maintenance of wealth inequality.


Realizing Racial and Ethnic Neighborhood Preferences? Exploring the Mismatches Between What People Want, Where They Search, and Where They Live

Esther Havekes, Michael Bader & Maria Krysan

Population Research and Policy Review, February 2016, Pages 101-126

The housing search process is an overlooked mechanism in the scholarly research that seeks to understand the causes of persistent racial residential segregation in the United States. Past research has explored in detail the preferences people hold in terms of the racial and ethnic composition of their neighborhoods, and more recently some have also examined the correspondence between racial and ethnic neighborhood preferences and current neighborhood racial/ethnic composition. But an intermediate stage — the racial/ethnic composition of where people search — has not been investigated. We analyze a subsample (n = 382) from the 2004–2005 Chicago Area Study to demonstrate the value of systematically studying the matches — or mismatches — between preferences, search locations, and neighborhood outcomes. We find that for whites, not only their current neighborhoods but also the neighborhoods in which they search for housing have larger percentages of whites than they say they prefer. In contrast, blacks — and to a lesser extent Latinos — search in neighborhoods that correspond to their preferences, but reside in neighborhoods with a larger percentage own group. Logistic regression analyses reveal that mismatches are associated with both a lack of information and inadequate finances, but also may be due to socially desirable responding for whites in particular. Our results provide suggestive evidence of the importance of unpacking the search process more generally and draw attention to what are likely to be productive new future data collection efforts as well as an area potentially ripe for policy interventions.


Race, Skin Color, and Economic Outcomes in Early Twentieth-Century America

Roy Mill & Luke Stein

Arizona State University Working Paper, February 2016

We study the effect of race on economic outcomes using unique data from the first half of the twentieth century, a period in which skin color was explicitly coded in U.S. censuses as “White,” “Black,” or “Mulatto.” We construct a panel of siblings by digitizing and matching records across the 1910 and 1940 censuses, identifying all 12,000 African-American families in which enumerators classified some children as light-skinned (“Mulatto”) and others as dark-skinned (“Black”). Siblings coded “Mulatto” when they were children (in 1910) earned similar wages as adults (in 1940) as their Black siblings. This within-family earnings difference is substantially lower than the Black-Mulatto earnings difference in the general population, suggesting that skin color in itself played only a small role in the earnings gap. In the second half of the paper, we focus on individuals who “passed for White,” an important social phenomenon at the time. To do so, we identify individuals coded “Mulatto” as children but “White” as adults. Passing meant that individuals changed their racial affiliation by changing their social presentation while skin color remained unchanged. Comparing passers to their siblings who did not pass, we find that passing was associated with substantially higher earnings, suggesting that social presentations of race could have significant consequences for economic outcomes.


Inequality in the “Cradle of Liberty”: Race/Ethnicity and Wealth in Greater Boston

Tatjana Meschede et al.

Race and Social Problems, March 2016, Pages 18-28

New data collected for the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area provide detailed information on financial assets that allow analysis to extend beyond the traditional black–white divide. Targeting US-born blacks, Caribbean blacks, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and other Hispanics, findings from the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color survey underscore the large racial and ethnic disparities in financial wealth, even after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic status. Further, some notable differences between Boston’s communities of color highlight the importance of detailed analyses for research on the racial wealth gap. In particular, among non-white communities Dominicans report comparatively low asset and high debt amounts, while Caribbean blacks report relatively higher levels of wealth. Altogether, these findings point to the need for wealth building opportunities in communities of color and further investigation of the causes and consequences of financial disparities between groups of color disaggregated by specific ancestral origin.


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