The Data on Racial and Gender Bias

February 24, 2015

Among some of the more fasincating facts I have found includes research that Ian Ayres from Yale has done on the topic of racial bias in society. He has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times today:

Bus drivers were twice as willing to let white testers ride free as black testers (72 percent versus 36 percent of the time). Bus drivers showed some relative favoritism toward testers who shared their own race, but even black drivers still favored white testers over black testers (allowing free rides 83 percent versus 68 percent of the time).

A great follow-up to Sunday’s Nick Kristof column:

The study found that a résumé with a name like Emily or Greg received 50 percent more callbacks than the same résumé with a name like Lakisha or Jamal. Having a white-sounding name was as beneficial as eight years’ work experience.

These data points might be alarming and depressing. Our reaction might even be to deny that this is the case. But we cannot fix problems without seeing and identifying them. One interesting point raised by Matty Yglesias yesterday:

the statistical controls that reveal that don’t make the problem of the wage gap go away. They help us identify where it exists. Some of it exists inside the companies where women work. Some of it exists inside household dynamics and broad social expectations of how family life should work. And some of it exists at the level of occupations, where women’s job opportunities are structured in an economically unhelpful way.

Once we figure out that a problem exists, and where it exists, it is much easier to tackle it.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.