Category Archives: Inequality

The Strength of Whites’ Ties: How Employers Reward the Referrals of Black and White Jobseekers

Source: Fabiana Silva, Social Forces, Volume 97, Issue 2, December 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Sociologists commonly point to jobseekers’ racially segregated networks and employers’ discriminatory behavior to explain racial inequality in employment. Network scholars argue that, given segregated networks and black and white employees’ unequal position in the labor market, employers’ reliance on employee referrals reproduces black disadvantage. Scholars of discrimination focus instead on employers’ unequal treatment of equally qualified black and white jobseekers. Drawing on an original experiment with a sample of white individuals with hiring responsibilities, I seek to bridge these literatures by examining whether respondents’ racial prejudice affects how they reward employee referrals of black and white applicants from black and white employees. I use a measure of implicit prejudice that is resistant to social desirability and that can capture biases among people who genuinely believe they are unbiased. Whether evaluated by low-prejudiced or high-prejudiced respondents, white applicants benefit greatly from same-race referrals. In contrast, black applicants do not benefit from same-race referrals, even when they are evaluated by low-prejudiced respondents. In fact, black applicants only benefit from having a referral when two conditions are met: the referring employee is white and they are evaluated by a relatively low-prejudiced respondent. These findings suggest that in addition to their disadvantage in access to employee referrals, black jobseekers suffer from a disadvantage in returns to these referrals.

How to use stats to fight racial inequality, not support it

Source: Alex Shashkevich, Futurity, June 8, 2018

Using statistics to inform the public about racial disparities can backfire. Worse yet, it can cause some people to be more supportive of the policies that create those inequalities, according to new research. ….

If raw numbers don’t always work, what might?

In a new research paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Hetey and psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt propose strategies anyone could use to talk about racial disparities that exist across society, from education to health care and criminal justice systems.

Facts should come along with context that challenges stereotypes, the researchers say, noting that discussions should emphasize the importance of policies in shaping racial inequalities. ….

The Numbers Don’t Speak for Themselves: Racial Disparities and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Justice System
Source: Rebecca C. Hetey, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 27 no. 3, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Many scholars and activists assume the public would be motivated to fight inequality if only they knew the full extent of existing disparities. Ironically, exposure to extreme disparities can cause people to become more, not less, supportive of the very policies that create those disparities (Hetey & Eberhardt, 2014). Here, we focus on the criminal justice system—policing and incarceration in particular. We argue that bringing to mind racial disparities in this domain can trigger fear and stereotypic associations linking Blacks with crime. Therefore, rather than extending an invitation to reexamine the criminal justice system, the statistics about disparities may instead provide an opportunity to justify and rationalize the disparities found within that system. With the goals of spurring future research and mitigating this paradoxical and unintended effect, we propose three potential strategies for more effectively presenting information about racial disparities: (a) offer context, (b) challenge associations, and (c) highlight institutions.

50 years after the Kerner Commission: African Americans are better off in many ways but are still disadvantaged by racial inequality

Source: Janelle Jones, John Schmitt, and Valerie Wilson, Economic Policy Institute, February 26, 2018

From the summary:
The year 1968 was a watershed in American history and black America’s ongoing fight for equality. In April of that year, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis and riots broke out in cities around the country. Rising against this tragedy, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 outlawing housing discrimination was signed into law. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a black power salute as they received their medals at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Arthur Ashe became the first African American to win the U.S. Open singles title, and Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives.

The same year, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission, delivered a report to President Johnson examining the causes of civil unrest in African American communities. The report named “white racism”—leading to “pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing”—as the culprit, and the report’s authors called for a commitment to “the realization of common opportunities for all within a single [racially undivided] society.”1 The Kerner Commission report pulled together a comprehensive array of data to assess the specific economic and social inequities confronting African Americans in 1968.

Where do we stand as a society today? In this brief report, we compare the state of black workers and their families in 1968 with the circumstances of their descendants today, 50 years after the Kerner report was released. We find both good news and bad news. While African Americans are in many ways better off in absolute terms than they were in 1968, they are still disadvantaged in important ways relative to whites. In several important respects, African Americans have actually lost ground relative to whites, and, in a few cases, even relative to African Americans in 1968….

Press release

Race, Law, and Inequality, 50 Years After the Civil Rights Era

Source: Frank W. Munger and Carroll Seron, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 13, October 2017
(subscription required)

Over the last several decades, law and social science scholars have documented persistent racial inequality in the United States. This review focuses on mechanisms to explain this persistent pattern. We begin with policy making, a mechanism fundamental to all the others. We then examine one particularly important policy, the carceral state, which can be described as the most important policy response to the civil rights era. A significant body of scholarship on employment discrimination presents a site for explaining the transformation of law on the books into the law in action. Finally, we review scholarship on the persistence of segregation and concentrated neighborhood disadvantage and their attendant impact on racial inequality. We conclude with two themes that deserve special emphasis: the need for theory drawing these fields together and our need, above all at this moment in our history, for public scholarship changing the discourse, politics, and law perpetuating racial inequality.

Student Debt May Be Contributing to Racial Inequality

Source: Shahien Nasiripour, Bloomberg, October 24, 2016

Black college grads owe more on their student loans while being paid less than their white counterparts.
Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation
Source: Judith Scott-Clayton and Jing Li, Brookings Institution, Evidence Speaks Reports, Vol 2 #3, October 20, 2016

The moment they earn their bachelor’s degrees, black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000, including non-borrowers in the averages). But over the next few years, the black-white debt gap more than triples to a whopping $25,000. Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation—almost twice as much as their white counterparts. While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, in this report we provide new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than even recent reports have recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with troubling trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector. We conclude with a discussion of policy implications. Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation.

Ban the Box and Perverse Consequences, Part III

Source: Noah Zatz, OnLabor blog, August 4, 2016

This is the final post in a three-part series.

This is the last in a series of three posts on the prominent perverse consequences argument against “Banning the Box.” The argument is that efforts to curtail employer exclusion of people with criminal records inadvertently exacerbate the racial inequality they purport to redress. The first post argued that Ban the Box should not be blamed for an effect rooted in employers’ racial stereotyping; the second criticized the perverse consequences argument for using the wrong conception of racial equality. This one criticizes it for ignoring cumulative effects when identifying and comparing racial harm.

Ban the Box: A Fair Chance at Employment or an Exacerbation of Racial Inequality?

Source: Aabid Allibhai, OnLabor blog, February 22, 2016

Employers tend to dismiss job applications where the “box”—indicating that an applicant has a criminal history—is checked, making it incredibly difficult for ex-offenders to obtain employment. Ban the Box legislation aims to give ex-offenders a fair chance at employment by allowing them to be evaluated on their merits; employers are more likely to hire ex-offenders after personal contact with them. However, recent milestones in Ban the Box legislation have raised questions about its efficacy. Do Ban the Box policies improve employment outcomes of ex-offenders? Do they exacerbate racial employment disparities?

2016 State Report Cards

Source: Young Invincibles, Student Impact Project, January 2016

From the press release:
Young Invincibles has released its 3rd annual State Report Cards, grading each state on its support for public higher education. Young Invincibles looked at how each state makes higher education an accessible opportunity for its students, factoring and indexing dozens of metrics including rises in tuition, financial burden on families, and funding of need-based financial aid.

New this year, Young Invincibles also analyzed minority attainment gaps in each state. Education is a driver of socio-economic mobility and may be the best avenue to foster social and racial justice; yet disturbingly, the national higher education attainment gap has grown for both Latinos and African Americans.

Key findings include:
– Slashed budgets: Forty-eight states spend less per student on higher education than they did prior to the recession (all but Alaska and North Dakota).
– Skyrocketing tuition: Tuition is up $1,868, or 28 percent, since 2008 – that’s over twice the rate of inflation.
– Racial inequality: 18 states failed our new measure of racial attainment equity. Nationally between 2007 and 2015, the higher education attainment gap between white non-Hispanic adults and Latinos grew by 2.2 percentage points, and the gap for African Americans widened by 0.4 points.
– Failures: 19 states received an overall grade of F. This number of failing states is up from 11 last year.

Racial Discrimination in Local Public Services: A Field Experiment in the US

Source: Corrado Giulietti, Michael Vlassopoulos, Mirco Tonin, IZA Discussion Paper No. 9290, August 2015

From the abstract:
Discrimination in access to public services can act as a major obstacle towards addressing racial inequality. We examine whether racial discrimination exists in access to a wide spectrum of public services in the US. We carry out an email correspondence study in which we pose simple queries to more than 19,000 local public service providers. We find that emails are less likely to receive a response if signed by a black-sounding name compared to a white-sounding name. Given a response rate of 72% for white senders, emails from putatively black senders are almost 4 percentage points less likely to receive an answer. We also find that responses to queries coming from black names are less likely to have a cordial tone. Further tests demonstrate that the differential in the likelihood of answering is due to animus towards blacks rather than inferring socioeconomic status from race.
African Americans discriminated against in access to U.S. local public services
Source: IZA Press, August 20, 2015

Names on Emails Flag Racial Bias in Public Service
Source: University of Southampton, Futurity, August 31, 2015

One Law of Race?

Source: Stephen M. Rich, University of Southern California – Gould School of Law, USC Legal Studies Research Papers Series No. 15-19, July 7, 2015

From the abstract:
Is race discrimination a single social phenomenon, and, if it is, why not govern it by a single legal rule? The temptation to conform constitutional and statutory standards in race equality law is powerful and appears to have captured the imagination of the Supreme Court in several of its most recent decisions. Historically, the Court’s decisions in this area have sometimes promoted convergence between constitutional and statutory standards, often by using constitutional precedents to resolve issues of statutory interpretation. At other times, they have promoted divergence, by honoring the authority of political institutions to establish equality norms that exceed constitutional guarantees. These oscillating interpretive strategies have received little attention in the scholarship on race equality law, and the Court itself has offered no framework for anticipating when it will choose either strategy. This Article identifies the primary rationales by which the Court justifies its choice of strategy. In contrast to scholarship arguing that convergence is a consequence of the migration of public values across legal domains, this Article discusses the Court’s tendency to explain its choice of strategy by weighing two types of considerations: some regarding empirical assumptions about the nature of race discrimination and others regarding jurisprudential rules that define the role of courts in our democracy. Convergence has intuitive appeal because it promises judicial economy and satisfies our expectation that like cases should be treated alike. This Article, however, argues against judicially-imposed convergence of the kind demonstrated by the Court’s recent decisions as an artificial restriction on lawmaking and legal interpretation that both narrows the breadth of options open to political institutions to address racial inequality and interferes with the judiciary’s charge to faithfully interpret and enforce the law. This Article argues that the Court should observe differences in constitutional and statutory bodies of race equality law when those differences are expressed by the text of legal provisions or revealed by the purposes for which provisions were proposed or enacted. This approach best preserves for political institutions the flexibility to develop legal rules to address shifting obstacles to racial equality and to respond to the public’s evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.