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