Overcoming Differences

Kevin Lewis

December 02, 2021

Correlates of “Coddling”: Cognitive distortions predict safetyism-inspired beliefs, belief that words can harm, and trigger warning endorsement in college students
Jared Celniker et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

In their book, The Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt (2018) contended that the rise of “safetyism” within American society has inspired beliefs and practices that hinder college students' socioemotional development. One of their most controversial claims was that college students' safetyism-inspired beliefs (e.g., emotional pain or discomfort is dangerous) are rooted in and supported by cognitive distortions, or negatively biased patterns of thought (e.g., emotional reasoning). Citing evocative anecdotes, they argued that such distortions emerge in students' perceptions of offensive or ideologically-challenging experiences as disproportionately harmful or traumatic. However, no empirical work has substantiated an association between cognitive distortions and safetyism-inspired beliefs or practices. In a large (N = 786), ethnically and economically diverse sample of college students, we conducted the first examination of the relationship between these variables. Aligning with Lukianoff and Haidt's assertions, we found that students' self-reported prevalence of cognitive distortions positively predicted their endorsement of safetyism-inspired beliefs, the belief that words can harm, and support for the broad use of trigger warnings. Considering our exploratory results, we argue that greater empirical scrutiny of safetyism-inspired beliefs and practices is warranted before such customs become more widely adopted. 

Headstrong Girls and Dependent Boys: Gender Differences in the Labor Market Returns to Child Behavior
Robert Kaestner & Ofer Malamud
NBER Working Paper, November 2021

The authors use data from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (C-NLSY79) to examine gender differences in the associations between child behavioral problems and early adult earnings. They find large and significant earnings penalties for women who exhibited more headstrong behavior and for men who exhibited more dependent behavior as children. In contrast, there are no penalties for men who were headstrong or for women who were dependent. While other child behavioral problems are also associated with labor market earnings, their associations are not significantly different by gender. The gender differences in headstrong and dependent behavior are not explained by education, marriage, depression, self-esteem, health, or adult personality traits. However, one potential explanation is that these gender differences are a consequence of deviations from gender norms and stereotypes in the workplace. 

Constructing the Racial Hierarchy of Labor: The Role of Race in Occupational Prestige Judgments
Lauren Valentino
Sociological Inquiry, forthcoming

Sociologists of culture are interested in processes of valuation, such as the way we value the division of labor. Typically measured through occupational prestige, prior research on this topic has largely neglected the potential role of race in the construction of the status hierarchy. This study asks whether and how race shapes judgments of occupational prestige, drawing on key insights from the sociology of race and ethnicity (Whiteness as a credential, strategic assimilation) to test key predictions about racial composition and a person’s own racial identity in this process. Combining data from the 2012 General Social Survey with federal administrative data, I find that Whiter jobs are, in fact, seen as more prestigious, even after taking into account an occupation’s level of required education/training, pay, industry, and gender composition. Further analyses demonstrate that this pattern is primarily driven by White and Asian raters and by raters with a college degree. Overall, then, this study indicates that the racial segregation of occupations impacts not only wages but also the status they confer to their incumbents. 

Institutional protection of minority employees and entrepreneurship: Evidence from the LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Acts
Raffaele Conti, Olenka Kacperczyk & Giovanni Valentini
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

A diverse workforce has long been associated with multiple firm benefits, but this is sometimes difficult to achieve due to employer discrimination. Although multiple institutional arrangements have been put in place to ban discriminatory behavior, the effects of such regulations remain relatively unexplored, often neglecting start-ups. We propose that institutional changes aiming to outlaw employment discrimination will trigger two main effects: they will (a) depress start-up founding rates through enhancement of wage-work appeal, and (b) increase the average start-up quality due to a higher threshold for leaving wage-work. We test our predictions by exploiting the staggered enactment of Employment Non-Discrimination Acts in the U.S. Consistent with our theory, we find that this institutional protection reduced the quantity of entrepreneurship but increased its quality. 

"When Anything Can Happen”: Anticipated Adversity and Postsecondary Decision-Making
Stefanie DeLuca et al.
NBER Working Paper, November 2021

We examine how disadvantaged students make postsecondary education decisions, focusing on why they often opt for short, flexible programs that tend to have low returns in the labor market. Prior literature emphasizes information deficits and financial constraints. We draw upon qualitative data collected via open-ended interviews conducted with a sample of economically disadvantaged Black youth in Baltimore. We use these data to develop and explore a complementary narrative: students who have faced instability or hardship in the form of disruptive events, or “adverse shocks” (e.g., violence, eviction or incarceration of a family member), anticipate future shocks that could derail their educational plans. In response, they opt for shorter, more flexible educational programs that they expect they can complete despite anticipated shocks. When possible, we corroborate this narrative using publicly available, large-N data sets such as the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). Finally, we formalize this narrative as a simple dynamic structural model calibrated using data on education choices and returns. The model clarifies that it is impossible to identify costs of schooling without data on beliefs about the probability of non-completion, thus providing guidance on future data collection priorities. More broadly, our approach demonstrates a novel application of mixed methods research: using qualitative data to aid in the specification of a structural model. This approach could be applied in other contexts where behavior is poorly understood and extant data do not contain all of the information needed to generate and test plausible hypotheses. 

Masked Evaluations: The Role of Gender Homophily
Heidi Liu
Journal of Legal Studies, June 2021, Pages 303–330

Removing demographic information from job applications has been a proposed solution for reducing gender discrimination and increasing diversity in the hiring process. In this paper, I use a unique data set of job application questions from a hiring platform to explore how gender might still impact masked evaluations. I find that while there is no main gender effect in the scoring of applications, there appear to be scoring patterns consistent with gender homophily. Having applicant-evaluator pairs being of the same gender is positively correlated with higher ratings, particularly for female applicants, and neither the applicant’s language nor other types of similarity appear to fully explain this association. 

Missing Women in Tech: The Labor Market for Highly Skilled Software Engineers
Raviv Murciano-Goroff
Management Science, forthcoming

This paper examines the behavior of job seekers and recruiters in the labor market for software engineers. I obtained data from a recruiting platform where individuals can self-report their computer programming skills and recruiters can message individuals they wish to contact about job opportunities. I augment this data set with measures of each individual’s previous programming experience based on analysis of actual computer source code they wrote and shared within the open-source software community. This novel data set reveals that candidates’ self-reported technical skills are quantitatively important predictors of recruiter interest. Consistent with social psychology and behavioral economics studies, I also find female programmers with previous experience in a programming language are 11.07% less likely than their male counterparts to self-report knowledge of that programming language on their resume. Despite public pronouncements, however, recruiters do not appear more inclined toward recruiting female candidates who self-report knowing programming languages. Indeed, recruiters are predicted to be 6.47% less likely to express interest in a female candidate than a male candidate with comparable observable qualifications even if those qualifications are very strong. Ultimately, a gender gap in the self-reporting of skills on resumes exists; but recruiters do not appear to be adjusting their response to such signals in ways that could increase the representation of women among software engineering recruits. 

Equity-focused PBIS approach reduces racial inequities in school discipline: A randomized controlled trial
Kent McIntosh et al.
School Psychology, November 2021, Pages 433–444

We assessed the effects of a whole-school equity intervention implemented within a school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) framework on racial inequities in school discipline in eight elementary schools with inequitable referrals for Black students. The intervention involved assessing patterns of racial disparities in school discipline decisions and providing professional development on adapting school-wide behavior systems to improve cultural responsiveness through concrete strategies targeting the patterns. After consent and matching on existing levels of racial inequities, half of the schools were randomly assigned to receive the intervention. Analyses showed that schools receiving the intervention had significant decreases in racial disparities in school discipline and rates of office discipline referrals (ODRs) for Black students, while control schools had minimal change. Results are discussed in terms of improving equity in school discipline within multitiered systems of support. 

Gender stereotypes about interests start early and cause gender disparities in computer science and engineering
Allison Master, Andrew Meltzoff & Sapna Cheryan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 30 November 2021

Societal stereotypes depict girls as less interested than boys in computer science and engineering. We demonstrate the existence of these stereotypes among children and adolescents from first to 12th grade and their potential negative consequences for girls’ subsequent participation in these fields. Studies 1 and 2 (n = 2,277; one preregistered) reveal that children as young as age six (first grade) and adolescents across multiple racial/ethnic and gender intersections (Black, Latinx, Asian, and White girls and boys) endorse stereotypes that girls are less interested than boys in computer science and engineering. The more that individual girls endorse gender-interest stereotypes favoring boys in computer science and engineering, the lower their own interest and sense of belonging in these fields. These gender-interest stereotypes are endorsed even more strongly than gender stereotypes about computer science and engineering abilities. Studies 3 and 4 (n = 172; both preregistered) experimentally demonstrate that 8- to 9-y-old girls are significantly less interested in an activity marked with a gender stereotype (“girls are less interested in this activity than boys”) compared to an activity with no such stereotype (“girls and boys are equally interested in this activity”). Taken together, both ecologically valid real-world studies (Studies 1 and 2) and controlled preregistered laboratory experiments (Studies 3 and 4) reveal that stereotypes that girls are less interested than boys in computer science and engineering emerge early and may contribute to gender disparities. 

Rejection Communication and Women’s Job-Search Persistence
Sofia Bapna, Alan Benson & Russell Funk
University of Minnesota Working Paper, October 2021

We examine whether the reasons that employers provide for rejecting job candidates affect their likelihood of applying for future positions, and differential responses by gender. Through a randomized controlled field experiment among job candidates rejected for positions by a staffing company, we find that relative to men, women are less likely to apply for future positions after being rejected. Furthermore, we find that this gap is nearly eliminated by informing applicants that they were rejected for “fit” rather than “quality” or by providing no reason for the job rejection. We present survey evidence that workers view the quality message as demeaning and the no-reason message as ambiguous. Our findings lend support for hypotheses that women have relative tastes for non-competitive and transparent application procedures, and that gender disparity in job search persistence may be reduced by framing rejection in terms of fit. 

The effects of relative body weight on socioemotional and schooling outcomes among female adolescents in the United States
Jinho Kim & Jason Fletcher
Social Science & Medicine, November 2021

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and leveraging a quasi-experimental research design, this study examines the association between relative BMI and socioemotional and schooling outcomes among female adolescents in the United States.

Results show that female students with high relative BMI are more likely to experience a decrease in self-esteem and an increase in depressive symptoms, even after adjusting for absolute BMI and weight perceptions. These effects are partially explained by lower levels of school attachment (∼26% for self-esteem and ∼15% for depressive symptoms). This study also finds that relative BMI is associated with an increased risk of high school dropout, but not college attainment and completed years of schooling. The association between relative BMI and high school dropout is partially explained by a combination of lowered self-esteem (∼7%), increased depressive symptoms (∼12%), as well as a decline in academic achievement (∼33%) and aspirations (∼12%). 

Heightened Sexual Misconduct Victimization Rates among Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Women: Results From a Campus Climate Survey
Matt Gray et al.
Violence Against Women, forthcoming

Sexual assault, harassment, and stalking are commonplace among college students, with identified subgroups being particularly at risk (e.g., Greek-life organizations and intercollegiate athletics). Despite higher rates of sexual misconduct among active-duty military and service academy women, no research has examined the risk for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) women. A total of N = 1,562 college women were sampled from a sexual misconduct campus climate survey. ROTC women reported higher victimization rates for all variants of sexual misconduct and violence relative to the broader student population, as well as previously established high-risk groups. Directions for future research and implications for prevention programming/response are presented and discussed. 

Advising, gender, and performance: Evidence from a university with exogenous adviser–student gender match
Takao Kato & Yang Song,
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

This paper provides the first causal evidence on the effects of gender match in the adviser–student relationship (as opposed to the well-researched instructor–student relationship) on student outcomes along both the intensive and extensive margins. We analyze administrative data from a university with a faculty adviser assignment policy that makes gender pairing between advisers and students exogenous. We find that matching female students with female adviser has a positive and significant effect on retention and grade point average (GPA) upon graduation, particularly for students with academic challenges and non-science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students. For female students with below-median high school GPA, gender match is found to raise the odds of graduate school enrollments. 

It's Good to Be Different: How Diversity Impacts Judgments of Moral Behavior
Uzma Khan & Ajay Kalra
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Recently, conversation on diversity and inclusion has been at the forefront in the media as well as the workplace. Though research has examined how diversity impacts organizational culture and decision-making, little attention has been given to how corporate diversity impacts consumers’ responses to the firm. This article establishes a link between diversity and the perceived morality of market actors. A series of studies demonstrate that greater diversity (racial, gender, or national) in a corporate team leads to perceptions of greater morality of the firm and its representatives and, as a consequence, results in more favorable consumer attitudes and behavior towards the firm. This positive effect arises because consumers perceive diverse teams as possessing higher perspective-taking abilities. Since marketplace morality is concerned with the greater good, we argue that higher perceptions of perspective-taking signal that the team will safeguard the broad interests of the community rather than serve narrow interest groups. The findings have broad implications since consumers are increasingly concerned with moral consumption. Our research suggests that diversity in the workforce is not only important for team performance and social equity but can shape consumers’ sentiments and behaviors towards the firm. 

G.I. Jane Goes to College? Female Educational Attainment, Earnings, and the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944
Conor Lennon
Journal of Economic History, December 2021, Pages 1223-1253

The 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (the “G.I. Bill”) provided returning WWII veterans with educational benefits sufficient to cover tuition, fees, and living expenses at almost any U.S. university or college. While several studies examine subsequent educational attainment and earnings for male veterans, little is known about how the G.I. Bill affected the 330,000 American females who served in WWII. Using data from the 1980 5 percent Census Public-use Microdata Sample, I find that female WWII veteran status is associated with a 19 percentage point increase in the proportion who report any college attendance, a 7.8 percentage point increase in college completion, and earnings that are 19.8 percent greater relative to comparable females who are not veterans. Because service was entirely voluntary for females, I use service eligibility requirements, enlistment records, 1940 Census data, and the G.I. Bill’s retroactive nature to establish a causal relationship among veteran status, educational attainment via the G.I. Bill, and increased earnings. To help separate the effect of the G.I. Bill from the effect of military service itself, and because benefits increased with longer service, I instrument for female veterans’ educational attainment using age at the time of the G.I. Bill’s announcement. My instrumental variables estimates imply that female veterans’ earnings increase by $1,350 (11.6 percent) per year of G.I. Bill-induced education, explaining 73 percent of the overall difference between veteran and non-veteran females’ earnings in 1980.

Public-Sector Unions as Equalizing Institutions: Race, Gender, and Earnings
Jasmine Kerrissey & Nathan Meyers
ILR Review, forthcoming

This research demonstrates that the union wage premium is higher for Black and women workers in the US public sector, what we refer to as “an intersectional union premium.” Union mechanisms reinforce and expand the more equitable practices of the public sector, resulting in this additional boost. Using Current Population Survey data, 1983–2018, this research models intersectional effects on earnings by examining interactions between union membership and race–gender. Relative to White men, union membership boosts average earnings an additional 3% for Black men and Black women, and 2% for White women on top of the direct union premium. Corollary analyses reaffirm these effects in multiple state contexts, including by union density and union coverage. Intersectional union premiums are weaker in states that prohibit collective bargaining. These premiums are present across most types of public work, with the exception of police and fire employees. To conclude, the authors discuss how changing labor policies may impact race and gender equity in the public sector.


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