Steven D. Levitt
03/02/2007 | 11:51 am
Tim Harford, author of “The Undercover Economist” has written a thoughtful article on my friend and co-author Roland Fryer’s research into the gap between Blacks and Whites .
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This is a very interesting article and I think Fryer’s research is quite important. Although he is using new terms for old concepts (“statistical racism” used to be called “Institutional racism” I believe), I think some of the underlying trend patterns is what is most fascinating.
However, I am not sure I buy the friend model related to achievement. The assumption that White groups value education more than group activities is unlikely (sports team affiliation is a common “white group activity” and is usually valued more than academic activities). The article did not discuss whether he broke out social class (regardless of race), parental employment type, and other factors/variables that could influence the kids. That is, I would assume that unless you could look at white kids in poor areas against white kids in wealthy or middle class areas, you could not say it was a racial issue per se. In some sense, it relates to the Purple/Green study. In areas where the parents also have sort of given up, they will instill in their kids the valuing of group activities over societal ones. I could be way off, but the article did not show this and I cannot find any breakout of the database mining research.
Great article. Need more research along these lines. This kind of economic reasoning applied to real world problems is why Freakonomics was such a great book.
Why is it that only (?) African-Americans are caught up in this vicious cycle of statistical bias? And not other minority groups?
And if African-American parents valued education over and above all else, as Asian-American parents seem to do, then would this eventually break the cycle?
Never ceases to amaze me how race in America only becoms more complex with time. Or perhaps that’s just my perception as I age.
BTW, SL (&SD), happen to notice the review by “Bookmarks Magazine” beneath Harford’s Amazon listing? An excerpt: “Compared with Steven Levitt’s and Stephen J. Dubner’s popular Freakonomics … the book uses simple, playful examples (written in plain English) to elucidate complex economic theories.”
I guess “Freakonomics” was just too much of a doorstop for Bookmarks, whoever the hell they are. All that fancy English you guys employed — makes you wonder how you guys got on the bestseller list for a Dark Side of The Moon-like period of weeks.
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