Opportunity Costs

Kevin Lewis

August 04, 2022

White (but Not Black) Americans Continue to See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game; White Conservatives (but Not Moderates or Liberals) See Themselves as Losing
Raea Rasmussen et al.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, forthcoming

In a 2011 article in this journal entitled "Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing" (Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 215-218), Norton and Sommers assessed Black and White Americans' perceptions of anti-Black and anti-White bias across the previous 6 decades -- from the 1950s to the 2000s. They presented two key findings: White (but not Black) respondents perceived decreases in anti-Black bias to be associated with increases in anti-White bias, signaling the perception that racism is a zero-sum game; White respondents rated anti-White bias as more pronounced than anti-Black bias in the 2000s, signaling the perception that they were losing the zero-sum game. We collected new data to examine whether the key findings would be evident nearly a decade later and whether political ideology would moderate perceptions. Liberal, moderate, and conservative White (but not Black) Americans alike believed that racism is a zero-sum game. Liberal White Americans saw racism as a zero-sum game they were winning by a lot, moderate White Americans saw it as a game they were winning by only a little, and conservative White Americans saw it as a game they were losing. This work has clear implications for public policy and behavioral science and lays the groundwork for future research that examines to what extent racial differences in perceptions of racism by political ideology are changing over time.

Is white always the standard? Using replication to revisit and extend what we know about the leadership prototype
William Obenauer & Michael Kalsher
Leadership Quarterly, forthcoming

This research is a pre-registered replication of Rosette, Leonardelli, and Phillips' (2008) seminal work in leadership categorization theory. Their work established race as a component to the business leader prototype and found evidence that when a leader was given credit for successful organizational performance, White leaders were evaluated more favorably than non-White leaders. As leadership exemplars are evolving, however, a need to reexamine these relationships has emerged. Results from our replications of their first and third studies showed minimal support for the argument that being White is a component of the business leader prototype. Additionally, across six separate studies, we found no conditions in which White leaders received more favorable evaluations than their non-White counterparts. Contrary to our expectations, we found that non-White leaders received marginally more favorable ratings than White leaders in four of our studies. 

Is There a Bamboo Ceiling? The Asian-White Gap in Managerial Attainment for College-Educated Workers
Di Shao
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, forthcoming 

While public perceptions allege the existence of a "bamboo ceiling," that is, a disadvantage in managerial attainment experienced by Asian workers, academic research on this question is relatively scarce and provides inconsistent findings. This study proposes that the opportunity of achieving managerial positions varies not only between white and Asian workers, but also across Asian subgroups defined by their place of birth and education. Using the data from the 2017 National Survey of College Graduates, this study finds significant inequalities in the probabilities of managerial attainment among Asians. Foreign-born Asians who have received no American education or only higher education in the United States are significantly disadvantaged relative to U.S.-born whites and other Asians. This study also shows that this pattern of inequality associated with the place of one's education is more salient among East Asian immigrants than among their counterparts from South Asia. These findings extend and enrich the theoretical understanding of the shaping of the "bamboo ceiling" and suggest directions of future studies.

Patient-Physician Race Concordance, Physician Decisions, and Patient Outcomes
Han Ye & Junjian Yi
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

Using administrative data from a large and diverse emergency department (ED), we examine the impact of race concordance between patients and physicians on physician decisionmaking and patient health outcomes. We find that patient-physician race concordance increases consultation time and decreases the probability of inpatient admission and diagnostic testing. Subsequently, race-concordant patients have lower revisit rates after ED discharge. The effect of race concordance is largely driven by patients who had less serious illnesses and whose diseases had nonspecific symptoms or less clear causes. The results are best explained by the informational and communication mechanism. 

Help Really Wanted? The Impact of Age Stereotypes in Job Ads on Applications from Older Workers
Ian Burn et al.
NBER Working Paper, July 2022

Correspondence studies have found evidence of age discrimination in callback rates for older workers, but less is known about whether job advertisements can themselves shape the age composition of the applicant pool. We construct job ads for administrative assistant, retail, and security guard jobs, using language from real job ads collected in a prior large-scale correspondence study (Neumark et al., 2019a). We modify the job-ad language to randomly vary whether or not the job ad includes ageist language regarding age-related stereotypes. Our main analysis relies on machine learning methods to design job ads based on the semantic similarity between phrases in job ads and age-related stereotypes. In contrast to a correspondence study in which job searchers are artificial and researchers study the responses of real employers, in our research the job ads are artificial and we study the responses of real job searchers. We find that job-ad language related to ageist stereotypes, even when the language is not blatantly or specifically age-related, deters older workers from applying for jobs. The change in the age distribution of applicants is large, with significant declines in the average and median age, the 75th percentile of the age distribution, and the share of applicants over 40. Based on these estimates and those from the correspondence study, and the fact that we use real-world ageist job-ad language, we conclude that job-ad language that deters older workers from applying for jobs can have roughly as large an impact on hiring of older workers as direct age discrimination in hiring.

 A Bias Toward Kindness Goals in Performance Feedback to Women (vs. Men)
Lily Jampol, Aneeta Rattan & Elizabeth Baily Wolf
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

While research has documented positivity biases in workplace feedback to women versus men, this phenomenon is not fully understood. We take a motivational perspective, theorizing that the gender stereotype of warmth shapes feedback givers' goals, amplifying the importance placed on kindness when giving critical feedback to a woman versus a man. We found support for this hypothesis in a survey of professionals giving real developmental feedback (Study 1, N = 4,842 raters evaluating N = 423 individuals) and five experiments with MBA students, lab participants, and managers (Studies 2-5, N = 1,589). Across studies, people prioritized the goal of kindness more when they gave, or anticipated giving, critical feedback to a woman versus a man. Studies 1, 3, and 5 suggest that this kindness bias relates to gendered positivity biases, and Studies 4a and 4b tested potential mechanisms and supported an indirect effect through warmth. We discuss implications for the study of motivation and workplace gender bias. 

Teachers and the Gender Gap in Reading Achievement
Esteban Aucejo et al.
Journal of Human Capital, forthcoming

Boys persistently lag behind girls in English/language arts. We find that heterogeneity in teachers' relative boy-specific value added could explain a large proportion of this gap. We exploit multifaceted measures of effective teaching, including popular teacher observation protocols, principal ratings, and student perceptions of teaching practices, to explain this heterogeneity. We find no evidence of heterogeneous effects of these teacher measures by gender. Instead, we show that gender gaps in student evaluations of teaching practices capture meaningful differences in the perceived inputs boys and girls receive from the same teacher, explaining from a third to all of the value-added gender gap.

Tracing the origins of the STEM gender gap: The contribution of childhood spatial skills
Jing Tian et al.
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Despite some gains, women continue to be underrepresented in many science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Using a national longitudinal dataset of 690 participants born in 1991, we tested whether spatial skills, measured in middle childhood, would help explain this gender gap. We modeled the relation between 4th-grade spatial skills and STEM majors while simultaneously accounting for competing cognitive and motivational mechanisms. Strong spatial skills in 4th grade directly increased the likelihood of choosing STEM college majors, above and beyond math achievement and motivation, verbal achievement and motivation, and family background. Additionally, 4th-grade spatial skills indirectly predicted STEM major choice via math achievement and motivation in the intervening years. Further, our findings suggest that gender differences in 4th-grade spatial skills contribute to women's underrepresentation in STEM majors.

The Effect of Gender on Investors' Judgments and Decision-Making
Yi Luo & Steven Salterio
Journal of Business Ethics, August 2022, Pages 237-258

We examine whether an unsophisticated investor's own gender interacts with gender of a sell-side equity analyst to affect the investor's judgment. Prior research shows two potential sources of gender-based discrimination that affect female investors. First, female investors' advisors offer less risky hence lower return portfolios to female investors than to male investors with similar risk preferences as female investors are perceived as more risk adverse. Second, female equity analysts are subject to greater barriers to enter and advance in investment firms that act as if they believe clients prefer male investment advisors in a male stereotypical occupation. Using two experiments, we use the judge-advisor framework to predict and find that investor's gender and analyst's gender jointly influence investor's judgment. Specifically, female-female analyst-investor pair generates the strongest reaction to analyst's advice compared to any other analyst-investor pair, everything else equal. Further, we find that efforts to highlight equal gender performance activates gender stereotypes that reduce female investors' receptivity to female analysts' advice. By linking the two previously different sources of discrimination we show that they reinforce each other and find that attempts to "level the playing field" by emphasizing gender performance parity may have unexpected results.

The Distribution of Nonwage Benefits: Maternity Benefits and Gender Diversity
Tim Liu et al.
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Why do firms offer nonwage compensation instead of the equivalent amount in financial compensation? We argue that firms use nonwage benefits, specifically female-friendly benefits, such as maternity leave, to increase gender diversity by efficiently attracting women. Using Glassdoor data, we show that firms offer higher-quality maternity leave benefits in labor markets in which female talent is relatively scarce. This result also holds more generally when examining all female-friendly nonwage benefits and is not present when looking at gender-neutral benefits. Moreover, using staggered adoption of state laws, we show that voluntary provision of these benefits can increase firm value.

Board Gender Diversity and Managerial Obfuscation: Evidence from the Readability of Narrative Disclosure in 10-K Reports
Muhammad Nadeem
Journal of Business Ethics, August 2022, Pages 153-177

The readability of 10-K reports, in terms of linguistic complexity, determines the usefulness of information disclosure for stakeholders, particularly individual investors. Since investors largely depend on the financial communication in 10-K reports, firms have an ethical and legal responsibility to present disclosures in a language investors can understand. However, motivated by self-interest, managers obfuscate such disclosures to mask their own actions and hide unfavourable information. Building on the managerial obfuscation hypothesis grounded in stakeholder-agency and ethical-sensitivity theories, I hypothesize and empirically test the relationship between board gender diversity (BGD) and the readability of narrative disclosure in 10-K reports. Based on a relatively large sample of Russell 3000 firms for the years 2002-2018 (6,268 observations), I find a significant positive impact of BGD on 10-K reports' readability, which in turn improves firm performance. Channel analysis reveals that the findings are driven by (a) female independent directors, and (b) their representation on audit and compensation committees; however, board activity (board meetings and directors' attendance) does not appear to drive this relationship. Finally, I find that although gender discrimination in the appointment of directors spurs complex readability, the BGD-readability relationship is consistent in gender-biased and non-discriminant firms. I also check the robustness of our main empirical results in several ways. My study has important regulatory and managerial implications in that corporate governance is an important determinant of the readability of disclosure documents.

Intersecting Inequalities: Racial/Ethnic and Socioeconomic Differences in Math Achievement and School Contexts in California 
Ann Owens & Thalia Tom
Social Problems, forthcoming

Past research extensively documents inequalities in educational opportunity and achievement by students' race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status (SES). Less scholarship focuses on how race/ethnicity and SES interact and jointly contribute to educational inequalities. We advance this burgeoning line of scholarship by charting math achievement trajectories and school socioeconomic composition by both student race/ethnicity and SES in California from 2014-15 through 2017-18. Linked administrative data allow us to operationalize student SES more richly than point-in-time free meal eligibility, a measure commonly used in education research. We find evidence of considerable racial/ethnic disparities in math achievement and school socioeconomic composition among same-SES students. White and Asian students score substantially higher on math achievement tests and attend higher-SES schools than same-SES Hispanic and Black students. Achievement and contextual inequalities are related: differential exposure to school SES by student race/ethnicity is associated with racial/ethnic achievement disparities within SES groups. Our findings show that SES does not translate into the same contextual or achievement advantages for students of all racial/ethnic groups, demonstrating the importance of jointly considering student race/ethnicity and SES in future research and policy development.


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.