Did Racism Cost Obama Votes in 2008?

A new paper (PDF here) by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a Harvard Ph.D. economics student, attempts to measure whether "racial animus" cost Barack Obama votes in 2008. Using location-specific Google searches for racial epithets collected on Google Insights, and comparing Obama's 2008 performance to John Kerry's in 2004, the study concludes that racism cost Obama 3 to 5 percentage points in the popular vote.

Why Does a Caucasian Dollhouse Cost Nearly 70% More Than an African-American Dollhouse?

If you were shopping on Amazon.com last night for a Fisher-Price "My First Dollhouse" with a Caucasian family, you would have been asked to pay $63.99. If, however, you wanted to buy what looks to be a nearly identical "My First Dollhouse" with an African-American family, the price was only $37.99.

Amazon reviewers have taken note, and aren't pleased. When my son Solomon (11 years old) wandered past my computer last night as I was looking this over, he didn't need any prompting: "That's so racist!" he said.

Is it? What is it that we're seeing here on Amazon -- racial discrimination? Price discrimination? Neither?

Dick Gregory and the Old Reverse-Incentive Trick

We've blogged a few times about the clever use of what you might call reverse incentives -- that is, turning someone else's unwelcome behavior into a positive outcome for yourself. Planned Parenthood turned abortion protestors into a fund-raising scheme; a comedian used this same "pledge-a-picket" tactic against the Westboro Baptist Church.

I recently ran across an older example, from the groundbreaking comedian and activist Dick Gregory, probably still best known for his autobiography, called Nigger.

The book was co-written by Robert Lipsyte, a longtime Times sports-and-culture columnist whom I interviewed recently for an upcoming podcast about booing. In Lipsyte's rousing, fascinating new memoir, An Accidental Sportswriter, he writes about his collaboration with Gregory (whom he calls Greg), and the latter's shrewd understanding of human nature, incentives, and hatred. Excerpts:

Strike Three: Do MLB Umpires Express Racial Bias in Calling Balls and Strikes?

Our paper on discrimination in baseball has finally been published (June AER). While it received a lot of media and scholarly comment in draft, the final version contained a whole new section. The general idea is that those discriminated against will alter their behavior to mitigate the impacts of discrimination on themselves. But while reducing the impacts, these changes are not costless. For example, if you’re an Hispanic pitcher and think that the white umpire is against you, you’ll change your pitches. Where will you throw? How will you throw?

Did the Rooney Rule Really Work?

Last week, Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim wrote a guest post about black coaches in the NFL and the introduction of the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority applicant when filling head-coaching spots. Moskowitz and Wertheim concluded that the policy change was successful: "The league achieved its aim. By 2005, there were six African-American coaches in the NFL..."

Scorecasting: A Guest Post

When my wife saw the cover of the new book Scorecasting by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, which was sitting on my bedside table, all she could do was shake her head.

NBA Ref Racial Bias Redux

A few years ago, Wharton economist and Freakonomics contributor Justin Wolfers, along with co-author Joseph Price, published a paper alleging implicit bias among NBA referees. The paper kicked up a strong controversy, prompting fierce denials from the NBA. With this month's publication of the paper in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Henry Abbott revisits both the paper's conclusions and the NBA's response.

The Recession and the Klan

The total number of hate groups operating in the U.S. has increased by more than half since 2000, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (S.P.L.C.). Photo: upload The report, and subsequent news coverage of it, blames this distressing trend on the deteriorating economy and the election of Barack Obama. But […]

Eric Oliver on the “Bigot Belt”

Eric Oliver is a colleague of mine at the University of Chicago. He is the author of the absolutely fantastic book Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic. He has some new and interesting insights on the “Bigot Belt,” which he has generously written up for the Freakonomics blog. The Bigot Belt By […]

When Is It O.K. to Vote Your Race?

Photo taken from Choctopus. The Times recently published a series of interesting articles about the role that race is playing in the current presidential election. Read this one and this one, but especially read this one by Adam Nagourney, which includes this passage: Saul Anuzis, the Republican chairman in Michigan, said he had become accustomed […]