Race to the Bottom

Kevin Lewis

October 02, 2009

Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children

Roland Fryer & Steven Levitt
American Economic Review, forthcoming

On tests of intelligence, Blacks systematically score worse than Whites. Some have argued that genetic differences across races account for the gap. Using a newly available nationally representative data set that includes a test of mental function for children aged eight to twelve months, we find only minor racial differences in test outcomes (0.06 standard deviation units in the raw data) between Blacks and Whites that disappear with the inclusion of a limited set of controls. Relative to Whites, children of all other races lose ground by age two. We confirm similar patterns in another large, but not nationally representative data set. A calibration exercise demonstrates that the observed patterns are broadly consistent with large racial differences in environmental factors that grow in importance as children age. Our findings are not consistent with the simplest models of large genetic differences across races in intelligence, although we cannot rule out the possibility that intelligence has multiple dimensions and racial differences are present only in those dimensions that emerge later in life.


Compensatory Stereotyping in Interracial Encounters

Monica Biernat, Amanda Sesko & Rachel Amo
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, September 2009, Pages 551-563

The judgment dimensions of competency and warmth capture much of the space into which our perceptions of individuals and groups fall. Though these dimensions are orthogonal to each other, they may also be inversely related, as perceivers may compensate for low ratings on one with high ratings on the other (Judd, James-Hawkins, Yzerbyt, & Kashima, 2005). We predicted that Whites would perceive Black targets as warmer but less competent relative to a White target, and that their behavior would be in accord with these perceptions. In two studies, behavioral indicators of warmth and competence (as well as explicit judgments) were assessed among White participants who anticipated interacting with a Black or White partner. Black targets were judged and received treatment consistent with low competency but high warmth perceptions. In Study 1, these indicators were negatively correlated only when the target was Black, and particularly among those high in prejudice. The data are discussed in terms of the functions of compensatory stereotyping and importance of considering multiple indicators of judgment and behavior in anticipated or actual interracial interactions.


Whites' Concern about Crime: The Effects of Interracial Contact

Daniel Mears, Christina Mancini & Eric Stewart
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, November 2009, Pages 524-552

In recent decades, crime has emerged as a prominent policy focus nationally. Accordingly, a large literature on public views about crime has developed, one strand of which highlights the racialization of crime as a factor central to public opinion and policy discourse. Drawing on this work and studies on the effects of interracial contact, the authors seek to advance theory and research on public opinion about crime. To this end, they draw on data from an ABC News and Washington Post poll to test competing hypotheses about the effects of interracial friendship among Whites on concern about local and national crime. The results suggest that interracial contact increases concern about crime among urban Whites. The authors discuss the implications of these findings for theory, research, and policy.


Was Postwar Suburbanization "White Flight"? Evidence from the Black Migration

Leah Platt Boustan
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Residential segregation by jurisdiction generates disparities in public services and education. The distinctive American pattern — in which blacks live in cities and whites in suburbs — was enhanced by a large black migration from the rural South. I show that whites responded to this black influx by leaving cities and rule out an indirect effect on housing prices as a sole cause. I instrument for changes in black population by using local economic conditions to predict black migration from southern states and assigning predicted flows to northern cities according to established settlement patterns. The best causal estimates imply that each black arrival led to 2.7 white departures.


Infant preference for female faces occurs for samebut not other-race faces

Paul Quinn, Lesley Uttley, Kang Lee, Alan Gibson, Michael Smith, Alan Slater & Olivier Pascalis
Journal of Neuropsychology, March 2008, Pages 15-26

There has been a recent surge of interest in the question of how infants respond to the social attributes of race and gender information in faces. This work has demonstrated that by 3 months of age, infants will respond preferentially to same-race faces and faces depicting the gender of the primary caregiver. In the current study, we investigated emergence of the female face preference for same- versus other-race faces to examine whether the determinants of preference for face gender and race are independent or interactive in young infants. In Expt 1, 3-month-old Caucasian infants displayed a preference for female over male faces when the faces were Caucasian, but not when the faces were Asian. In Expt 2, new-born Caucasian infants did not demonstrate a preference for female over male faces for Caucasian faces. The results are discussed in terms of a face prototype that becomes progressively tuned as it is structured by the interaction of the gender and race of faces that are experienced during early development.


Skin Color and Self-Perceptions of Immigrant and U.S.-Born Latinas: The Moderating Role of Racial Socialization and Ethnic Identity

Eva Telzer & Heidie Vazquez Garcia
Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, August 2009, Pages 357-374

Research has increasingly identified race as a salient characteristic that affects one's life experiences and psychological well-being. However, little is known about how skin color affects the emotional health of Latinos. The present study examined how skin color relates to the self-perceptions of immigrant (N = 26) and U.S.-born (N = 55) Latina college women. Results indicate that immigrant Latina participants with darker skin tend to have poorer self-perceptions than their U.S.-born peers, including lower self-esteem, lower feelings of attractiveness, and a desire to change their skin color to be lighter. Both racial socialization and ethnic identity served to buffer Latinas from the negative self-perceptions associated with darker skin. These findings suggest that skin color may be a particularly central risk factor for immigrant Latinas' well-being, and racial socialization and ethnic identity may serve as important protective factors.


Why Do White Americans Oppose Race-Targeted Policies? Clarifying the Impact of Symbolic Racism

Joshua Rabinowitz, David Sears, Jim Sidanius & Jon Krosnick
Political Psychology, October 2009, Pages 805-828

Measures of symbolic racism (SR) have often been used to tap racial prejudice toward Blacks. However, given the wording of questions used for this purpose, some of the apparent effects on attitudes toward policies to help Blacks may instead be due to political conservatism, attitudes toward government, and/or attitudes toward redistributive government policies in general. Using data from national probability sample surveys and an experiment, we explored whether SR has effects even when controlling for these potential confounds and whether its effects are specific to policies involving Blacks. Holding constant conservatism and attitudes toward limited government, SR predicted Whites' opposition to policies designed to help Blacks and more weakly predicted attitudes toward social programs whose beneficiaries were racially ambiguous. An experimental manipulation of policy beneficiaries revealed that SR predicted policy attitudes when Blacks were the beneficiary but not when women were. These findings are consistent with the claim that SR's association with racial policy preferences is not due to these confounds.


Will Barack Obama Be Black in 2012? The Strategic Persistence of Stereotypes

Arthur Lupia
University of Michigan Working Paper, August 2009

Racial identity is also a social construction. As such, others' perceptions of a person's racial identity are not a constant. They are potentially malleable. Indeed, many aspects of race-oriented social constructions have little relation to phenotypical correlates or the birthplace of one's parents. So even if a person describes himself as half-black and half-white, others need not see him that way. If they want to, they can see him simply as black. Many descriptions of Barack Obama are consistent with such a view. Will Barack Obama be black in 2012? In other words, if President Obama seeks reelection, will voters who saw him as black in 2008 continue to see him as such? At one extreme, the president's race could have no effect on how they see him. At the other extreme, it could be all that they see. So, if people change the racial lenses through which they view Obama, who will change and why? This paper represents an initial attempt at a new research agenda. I want to integrate insights from cognitive psychology, communication, and economics to clarify the conditions under which racial stereotypes persist in political contexts. In this initial version of this paper, I will focus primarily on integrating a few insights from psychology into methods from applied math and economics to try to clarify what role race is likely to play for various Americans if Barack Obama seeks reelection as President of the United States in 2012. My plan is to examine three causal factors: aspects of human psychology that pertain to the processing of race-related information, the continuing evolution of incentives in electronic media, and matters pertaining to the strategic use of speech. In addition to offering brief arguments that are intended to clarify how each of these factors will affect Americans' evaluations of Obama, I will seek to clarify how the effect of each of these factors depends upon the other two. As media incentives change, for example, people will receive different kinds of information about their president. While the relevant cognitive functions used to process such information are quite similar in most adults, the interactions of those functions with different — or even divergent — information flows — will lead people to view Obama in different and divergent ways.


Race and the Likelihood of Managing in Major League Baseball

Brian Volz
University of Connecticut Working Paper, June 2009

The effects of race on the probability of former Major League Baseball players becoming managers are analyzed using probit models with sample selection correction. The models are estimated using data on the performance and personal characteristics of players from 1955 to 2007. It is shown that given the same performance, personal characteristics, and popularity black former players are 70 to 82 percent less likely to become Major League managers than white former players. It is also shown that being Hispanic does not have a significant effect on the probability of becoming a manager. Additionally, it is observed that catchers and shortstops who are popular but not necessarily good players are most likely to become managers.


Race, Bureaucracy, and Symbolic Representation: Interactions between Citizens and Police

Nick Theobald & Donald Haider-Markel
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, April 2009, Pages 409-426

Our understanding of representation by government employees has increased considerably in the past 30 years. Scholars have found that represented groups benefit from representative bureaucracies and conclude that this benefit is a function of active representation. However, due to the aggregate unit of observation used in most of these studies and the outcome measures that are typically used as dependent variables, we argue that there are other forms of representation that can explain these finding. We contribute to the existing research in this area by focusing on symbolic representation and conduct our test using individual-level data from a national police-citizen contact survey. We hypothesize that citizen perceptions of legitimacy regarding police actions are shaped by the interaction of citizen race and officer race. Our results suggest that symbolic representation does occur — blacks are more likely to perceive police actions as being legitimate if there are black officers present. Additionally, whites are more likely to perceive police actions as legitimate if the actions were conducted by white officers.


The Resilience of Affirmative Action in the 1980s: Innovation, Isomorphism, and Institutionalization in University Admissions

Daniel Lipson
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

This article applies neoinstitutional organization theory to uncover the central role of university officials in institutionalizing aggressive, race-based affirmative admissions procedures at three selective public universities from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. During this second stage of affirmative action, admissions and diversity officials at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison began to increasingly emphasize the diversity rationale and the method of individualized review. At a time of increasing judicial and executive scrutiny and skepticism of affirmative action, university officials defended and transformed race-conscious admissions in innovative ways when they could have instead chosen to contribute to its demise.


Where do Muslims stand on ethno-racial hierarchies in Britain and France? Evidence from public opinion surveys, 1988-2008

Erik Bleich
Patterns of Prejudice, July 2009, Pages 379-400

Bleich assesses levels of anti-Muslim prejudice in two important European countries-Britain and France-to begin a process of systematically evaluating the status of Muslims on national ethno-racial hierarchies. He reviews major scholarly and institutional public opinion polls from 1988 through 2008 to discern attitudes towards Muslims over time and in comparison to other religious and ethnic groups. The findings support the following conclusions: negative attitudes towards Muslims have risen over the past twenty years in Britain and France; when compared to other religious groups, Muslims are viewed with tremendous suspicion by British and French respondents; and, in spite of the events of recent years, Muslims have not sunk to the bottom of the ethno-racial hierarchy, most measures suggesting that other groups remain more distant ethno-racial outsiders than Muslims in both Britain and France.


Sequencing Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young Black and White Men with Criminal Records

Devah Pager, Bruce Western & Naomi Sugie
ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, May 2009, Pages 195-213

In this article, the authors report the results of a large-scale field experiment conducted in New York City investigating the effects of race and a prison record on employment. Teams of black and white men were matched and sent to apply for low-wage jobs throughout the city, presenting equivalent resumés and differing only in their race and criminal background. The authors find a significant negative effect of a criminal record on employment outcomes that appears substantially larger for African Americans. The sequence of interactions preceding hiring decisions suggests that black applicants are less often invited to interview, thereby providing fewer opportunities to establish rapport with the employer. Furthermore, employers' general reluctance to discuss the criminal record of an applicant appears especially harmful for black ex-offenders. Overall, these results point to the importance of rapport-building for finding work, something that the stigmatizing characteristics of minority and criminal status make more difficult to achieve.


Examining the consequences of exposure to racism for the executive functioning of Black students

Allison Bair & Jennifer Steele
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Recent research has demonstrated that interracial interactions, reminders of stigmatized identities, and exposure to ambiguous racism can deplete the self-control resources of minority group members. In the current study we examined whether hearing blatant racism expressed in an interracial context would deplete the self-control of Black participants and whether this depletion would be moderated by participants' level of racial centrality. After listening to a Black or a White confederate express either support for racial profiling (racist condition) or increased campus parking fees (neutral condition), Black participants completed a Stroop color-naming task to assess self-control depletion. Participants experienced self-control depletion following interracial encounters, regardless of whether the views expressed were racist. As expected, however, racial centrality moderated the depletion effect when racism was involved, with participants higher in centrality showing greater depletion following an encounter with racism from a White partner.


The Effects of County Population Diversity on Contributions, Membership, and Adherents in the Presbyterian Religion and on Adherence in Mainline Protestant Religions

Douglas Coate & James Vanderhoff
Rutgers Working Paper, July 2009

In this research we use data from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2005-2007 to study the effects of race and ethnic diversity in the county on religious membership and religious giving in Presbyterian congregations. We also use data from the Religious Congregations Membership Study 2000 to study the effects of race and ethnic diversity in the county on religious adherence in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in other mainline Protestant denominations. We have found that the percent of the county population non white is positively and significantly related to contributions per member by Presbyterians and to membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the congregation level and at the county level in multivariate statistical models. We have also found these results to hold at the county level for religious adherence in mainline Protestant denominations. These results are at odds with the view that increases in population diversity at the county level may lead to a decline in religious participation.


Principles of Color: Race, Ideology, and Implicit Cognition

Charles Taber
Stony Brook University Working Paper, July 2009

Since the 1960s, overt measures have failed to turn up much racism in the American public. Racial stereotypes and labels once accepted as reality are now perceived by most Americans as offensive and inappropriate, and political policies of segregation and discrimination find little overt support. This shift in racial relations has led some scholars to suppose that racism is no longer the driving force it once was in American public opinion. Some scholars, however, have argued that racism persists, but transformed from a blatant antipathy into a more subtle resentment or distrust. In this view, opposition to race-based policies like affirmative action is largely the product of implicit racial attitudes. Others take exception to the implication that opponents of race-target policies are racist and argue that individualist principles associated with political conservatism drive such opposition. Each side has marshaled considerable empirical evidence and contested the evidence of the other side. In this project, I use methods developed in cognitive psychology to unobtrusively examine the spontaneous associations that come to mind for both conservative and liberal Americans when they think about affirmative action and welfare. I also put the application of conservative principle to direct test, finding that sophisticated conservatives use principles like merit strategically to argue against preferential policies when targeted on African Americans, but not when the recipients of such policies are White Americans. I conclude that individualist principles are most often rationalizations of positions driven by covert racial antipathy.

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