Saturday, August 19, 2017

Don't blame the millennials

I have seen a number of articles challenging the "myth" that millennials are less racist than previous generations, and the rally in Charlottesville has inspired more of them.  For example, in the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell writes:

   "If there was one silver lining to President Trump’s election, it was supposed to be this: Those who voted for Trump because of, rather than despite, his demonization of Muslims and Hispanics; who fear a 'majority minority' America; and who wax nostalgic for the Jim Crow era were mostly old white people.
    Which meant they and their abhorrent prejudices would soon pass on — and be replaced by generations of younger, more racially enlightened Americans.
     The white nationalist rally this past weekend in Charlottesville clearly proves this to be a myth."

She points out that many of the participants in the rally, including the man who killed one counter-protester and injured about 20 more by driving his car into a crowd, were young.  But young people, especially young men, are more likely to engage in all kinds of violence, and high-risk behavior more generally. Also, the numbers who participated in the white nationalist rally were small:  according to Wikipedia about 100 on Friday night and 500 on Saturday.  So the only myth that the rally disproves is a myth that no one believes:  that absolutely no young people hold racist views.

But Rampell also offers some more serious evidence:  a story called "white millennials are just about as racist as their parents," which is based on analysis of General Social Survey data from 2010-14.  It considers five issues:  ratings of how intelligent and hardworking blacks and whites are (each based on one question about whites and one about blacks), how you would feel if a relative intended to marry a black person, how you would feel about living in a neighborhood that was 50% black, and that a reason for racial differences in jobs, income, and housing is that "most blacks just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty."  It reports that "White millennials (using a definition of being born after 1980) express the least prejudice on 4 out of 5 measures in the survey, but only by a matter of 1 to 3 percentage points, not a meaningful difference."
(By "white" they meant non-Hispanic white).

I redid the analysis, making the following changes:
1.  Including three more variables, whether there should be a law against marriages between blacks and whites, whether racial differences were because blacks had less inborn ability, and whether blacks shouldn't push where they aren't wanted.
2.  Adding data from 2016, and 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.  The 2016 data wasn't available when the article was written.  As far as 2000-2008, some millennials were old enough to be included in the survey in all of the years, and generational differences tend to be enduring.
3.  Using averages for variables that were measured with more than two categories (like ratings of intelligent and hard working."  I'd say that a person who rates blacks at 3 and whites at 4 is different from a person who rates blacks at 1 and whites at 7.
4.  The story just included the "silent generation" (born 1928-45), "baby boomers" (1946-64), "generation X" (1965-1980) and millennials.  I also included people born through 1927.

The percent giving the "racist" response for the three yes/no items:

                          Marriage law   Inborn    Willpower          
Oldest                     27%            25%        69%
Silent                      17%            15%        59%
Boomers                   8%              7%        45%
X                               6%              6%        44%
Millennials                3%              5%        38%

The means for the other items (higher numbers mean more "racist"):

                            Don't push     marry    intelligent  lazy       half    
Oldest                    2.85             3.77         1.01          1.30      3.32
Silent                     2.50             3.45           .60          1.01      3.12
Boomers                2.11             3.03           .35            .65      2.97
X                            1.97             2.77          .32            .53       2.90
Millennials             1.85             2.63          .23            .36       2.87

Millennials are least prejudiced on all eight of the questions:  in fact, each generation is less prejudiced than all previous generations on all eight of the questions.  As far as whether the difference is meaningful,  there's no absolute standard, but one way to judge it is to do a principal components analysis, which gives a score for each generation:



According to this, the difference between millennials and boomers is about half as large as the difference between boomers and the "silent generation."  Although the rate of change has slowed down, racial prejudice is still declining from one generation to the next.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The way it is

In the New York Times last week, Nate Cohn writes "The polls don’t tell a clear story [about public opinion on affirmative action]. Some polls show that affirmative action is very popular. Others show that it’s not popular at all." I think that they tell a pretty clear story--a large majority of people don't think that race should be considered in college admission. The difference among polls occurs because "affirmative action" covers a lot of things, and some of them are popular--for example, special efforts at outreach to minorities. There's a related issue that hasn't received much attention--how do people think that things actually work? In 2003, 2005, and twice in 2007 the Gallup Poll asked "If two equally qualified students, one white and one black, applied to a major U.S. (United States) college or university, who do you think would have the better chance of being accepted to the college--the white student, the black student--or would they have the same chance?" The distribution of answers was similar on all occasions, so I'll just give the average:

 White     Black     Same      DK
  30%         23%      42%       5%

 Unfortunately the individual-level data aren't available for any of the polls, but even if you make the extreme assumption that every black respondent said that the white student would have the better chance, less than 30% of whites said that the black student would have a better chance.

 [Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Friday, August 4, 2017

Households or people

In last Sunday's New York Times, Paul Campos (a professor at the University of Colorado law school) says that "the gap between black and white Americans at every income level, remains every bit as extreme as it was five decades ago."  He shows figures of the income ratio of households at the 20th, 40th, 60th, 80th, and 95th percentiles of the black and white income distribution, and they are indeed all virtually unchanged.

Here is a figure he didn't show:  the ratio of per-capita income for blacks relative to per-capita income for whites.

There is a clear and pretty steady increase in the ratio of average black to white income--that is, the gap has declined.  Why the difference?  Campos was comparing households, which may (and usually do) include more than one person.  Average household size has been declining in the United States over the last fifty years--the biggest reasons are later marriage and longer lifespans.  The most plausible way to reconcile the two trends is that average household size has declined more for blacks than for whites.

What is the best way to measure the "gap between black and white Americans?"  You could argue that per-capita income is not the ideal measure--maybe it should be adjusted for age--but it certainly would involve people rather than households.

Campos's general point is that the slow growth of incomes for working-class and middle-class whites in the last couple of decades isn't because blacks have been doing well.  This is true--the only group that has had rapid income growth recently is people with high incomes.  But the gap in black and white incomes has declined, although the decline has been slow.


PS:  The Census data black and white income is at
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-income-households.html
and
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-income-people.html

Friday, July 28, 2017

Livin' in the USA

This came to mind when I was composing a post in which I said that "American society has become a lot more egalitarian over the last 60 years or so."  It didn't quite fit there, but I thought it still deserved a spot.

When Chuck Berry died in March 2017, the New York Times gave him and his contributions to American popular music a lot of attention.  That led me to wonder how much coverage they gave him when he was making hit records.  In the 1950s, he got only one mention, in a brief (four-sentence) wire service story on August 29, 1959 entitled "Negro Singer Jailed| Accused of trying to date Mississippi white girl."  After playing a dance, Berry allegedly asked a young woman (aged 20) for a date.  He  said it was a misunderstanding, but was held without bond "while authorities conducted an investigation."  The story explained that Berry "was popular among the high school set for recordings such as 'Maybellene' and 'Memphis, Tennessee.'"

The next mention came in September 1963, when he was included in a list of rhythm and blues musicians.  There were a few more incidental mentions in 1965.  Overall, it's clear that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the New York Times didn't think that Chuck Berry was someone that its readers would or should know about.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The neoliberal period, part 2

As discussed in my last post, spending directed at helping the poor has increased, not declined, in the "neoliberal period" (since 1980).  What about regulation of business?  I found a study that gives estimates of federal spending on regulation since 1960.  It distinguishes between "social regulation," which "includes regulatory agencies that address issues related to "health, safety, and the environment" and "economic regulation," which "is more likely to be industry-specific."  Here are the figures for spending on economic and social regulation (excluding homeland security) in constant (2009) dollars.

Both types grew rapidly in the 1960s.  Spending on economic regulation has grown less rapidly since 1970, and spending on social regulation since 1980, but both have grown.  Of course, the economy has grown too--social regulation has stayed about the same relative to the economy as a whole, while economic regulation has grown somewhat.  This just measures the amount of spending, not the effect of regulation (and it doesn't count state and local spending), so the figures are just a rough estimate.  However, they aren't consistent with the claim that there's been a general move to the right.

So can we discard the whole idea of "neoliberalism"?  I wish the answer were yes, because I dislike the term (partly because there are too many "neo" and "post" terms already, and partly because it is bound to be confusing to most Americans, since the "liberalism" involved is pretty much the opposite of what we now mean by liberalism).  However, there is a germ of truth in it.  The report distinguished between "financial," "general business," and "industry-specific" regulation.  Spending on the first two increased pretty steadily, but spending on "industry-specific" regulation fell between 1970 and 1980, and didn't reach its 1970 level until 2000.  As a share of the economy, it's now less than it was in 1960.  At one time, there was a lot of regulation of prices and operations in industries like airlines, interstate trucking, and communications.  This was cut back in the late 1970s, and much of it hasn't been restored.  As I recall, the deregulation movement was supported by both conservatives and a significant number of liberals (who argued that regulatory agencies tended to be "captured" by the industries they were supposed to regulate).  You could say that the newer form of liberalism is more inclined to accept that markets are an effective way of producing goods and services, but not more inclined to accept the market distribution of income.  This is an important change, but it's not a simple move to the right.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The neoliberal period, part 1

In an interview published in the New York Times last week, Noam Chomsky spoke of "the shift of both parties to the right during the neoliberal period."  There's nothing remarkable about that--I've read many similar statements--but for some reason I started wondering what you would find if you looked for evidence of a move to the right.

A reasonable basic definition of left and right (on economic issues) is that the left is in favor of direct government assistance to the poor.  One major program of assistance to the poor is food stamps (SNAP).  The figure shows real per-capita spending on food stamps (2010 dollars) between 1969 and 2016.  It was about 70% higher in 2016 than in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became president.


As everyone knows, Bill Clinton promised to "end welfare as we know it," and in 1996 signed a bill placing restrictions on welfare.  This figure shows federal spending on AFDC/TANF from 1975 to 2011.  There has been a slight upward trend since 1981, but the population has grown too, so basically there has been little change.  It is interesting that the 1996 reform didn't have any obvious impact on spending.


Two other programs that aid poor people are the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Spending on both has increased greatly during the "neoliberal period" (the CTC didn't exist until 1997).  Also notice the numbers on the vertical axis--total spending on the EITC and CTC is now about four times as large as TANF.

    For disability, see this report.  Both the percent of working-age people getting disability and the average payments per recipient have increased pretty steadily since 1970.
 
   Spending to help the poor has increased substantially the "neoliberal period."  You could argue about whether this change should be called a move to the left in policy--declining work opportunities for less skilled people means more government assistance is needed to produce the same standard of living for the poor.  But it's not a move to the right.

  What about regulation of business?  I'll look at that in my next post.

Sources:  SNAP 
   EITC, CTC, and AFDC/TANF.



Monday, July 3, 2017

It is what it is

In his speech announcing that he was pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump said something to the effect that other countries were taking advantage of the United States.  That led me to wonder if there were any survey questions on that issue.  I found one, in a 1999 Pew survey.  People were offered two statements, "Other countries generally treat the United States about as fairly as we treat them"
OR...
"Other countries often take unfair advantage of the United States" and asked which they agreed with more.
After they made a choice, they were asked if they felt strongly.

Among people who had graduated from high school but not gone to college, about 20% agreed with the first statement and 75% with the second; among people with graduate education, 44% agreed with the first, and 50% with the second.  The item was part of a series of about 12 with the same format, covering a variety of issues.  The correlation between education and opinions on fair treatment vs. take advantage was the strongest of all items, with one exception:  whether immigrants strengthen the country or are a burden on the country.

Most analyses of Trump's appeal to less educated voters hold that it was about race, or gender, or a long period of slow wage growth.  The alternative, that it was about what he talked about--taking a hard line on immigration and following an "America first" policy--hasn't gotten much attention.  But as these questions show, there's a lot of support for those general sentiments, especially among less educated people.  Opinions on immigration have become more favorable, as I have noted, but are still mostly negative. Unfortunately the fair treatment/take advantage question has not been repeated, but  I was surprised to see how lopsided the distribution of opinions was--even among people with graduate degrees, people who thought that other countries took unfair advantage were more numerous and more likely to feel strongly about it.  Trump seems to have found a strong current of opinion that no one else had tried to appeal to.  Although comparable questions are not available for a long period of time, there is some evidence that it has been around for quite a while.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]