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skoolboy Goes to the Olympics, III: Socioeconomic Status

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skoolboy doesn’t know who was the first to say that the true measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members, but it’s an appealing proposition. All societies have children and adults who vary in their economic, social and cultural status within the society. In virtually every modern society, the more advantaged, as a group, do better than those with lower status, although individuals can rise or fall in relation to their peers. Today’s visit to the Olympics looks at the relationship between a child’s socioeconomic status and proficiency in math and science across countries.

PISA 2006 created an index of Economic, Social and Cultural Status (ESCS), which is based on a parent’s occupational status (using a standard international scale); the highest level of a parent’s education, in years of schooling completed; an index of family wealth (e.g., number of computers, automobiles, and televisions; whether the child has own room); an index of home educational resources (e.g., a dictionary, a calculator); and an index of possessions in the home representing “classical” culture (e.g., classical literature, works of art). The index was standardized to have a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1 for OECD countries. Keep in mind, though, that PISA sampled youth currently enrolled in school as 15-year-olds in the participating countries, and in some countries (e.g., Mexico, Turkey) fewer than 60% of youth at this age are still in school. (In most OECD countries, more than 90% of this age cohort is still enrolled.) Out-of-school youth are, on average, of substantially lower socioeconomic status than youth still in school at age 15.

The figure below shows the percentage of 15-year-olds in each of the PISA countries and economies whose ESCS is in the bottom 15% of ESCS among students in OECD countries. Countries are arrayed from highest to lowest, and columns in red represent significantly higher percentages than the U.S. percentage of 11%; columns in blue represent significantly lower percentages than the U.S.; and grey columns are statistically indistinguishable from the U.S. Ten countries, headed by Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey and Tunisia, have more than 40% of the PISA participants in this low-ESCS category. Three countries—Norway, Iceland and Canada—have fewer than 5% in the low-ESCS category. Based on the ESCS scale, which is intended to be standardized across countries, there are many countries with higher concentrations of low-SES students than the U.S.

PISA%20SESa.bmp

The next figure shows the correlation between ESCS and mathematics proficiency for each PISA country and economy. The correlation can range from -1.0 to +1.0, with 0 representing no correlation. A positive correlation indicates that students with higher ESCS score higher, on average, in math proficiency than students with lower ESCS. The presence of such a correlation is almost universal—only in Azerbaijan is there a realistic possibility of no correlation. Columns in red represent countries with a significantly higher correlation between ESCS and mathematics proficiency than the U.S. correlation, which is .42. Blue columns represent countries that have significantly lower correlations than the U.S., and grey columns are countries that are statistically indistinguishable from the U.S.

SES%20Corr.JPG

Only Chile and Hungary have significantly higher correlations than the U.S., whereas 28 countries have significantly lower correlations than the U.S. does. Along with Azerbaijan, Macao-China, Hong Kong-China, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Montenegro, and the Russian Federation all have a correlation between ESCS and mathematics proficiency that is less than .30.

The “sweet spot” for schools, districts, and countries is a configuration in which average achievement is high, and the achievement gap between the more and less advantaged is low—a configuration that some would describe as both excellent and equitable. skoolboy’s summary based on the PISA data: the U.S. isn’t very sweet.

A topic for another day: What should the correlation between a student's socioeconomic status and his or her school achievement be? Is it possible that some degree of correlation between socioeconomic status and school achievement is appropriate? Or should we not rest until we've driven the correlation to zero?

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The “sweet spot” for schools, districts, and countries is a configuration in which average achievement is high, and the achievement gap between the more and less advantaged is low

Have you looked a plot of "Within Country Correlation" vs. Average Score (or some other measure of overall achievement) to see which countries come closest to that sweet spot?

The “sweet spot” for schools, districts, and countries is a configuration in which average achievement is high, and the achievement gap between the more and less advantaged is low—a configuration that some would describe as both excellent and equitable. skoolboy’s summary based on the PISA data: the U.S. isn’t very sweet.

So how do you propose going from point A to point B? Raise the SES of the "weakest members?" How would we accomplish that? And even if we were able to do such a thing, would it lead to improved student perfromance? I know of no empirical data that suggests that it would.

From Learning for Tomorrow’s World First Results from PISA 2003 Fig 4.8 (p. 176), there is a graph of the relationship between math performance and SES of OECD countries. The R is about 0.42 which is not a very good fit.

If you turn to Table 4.3b, col. 3, p. 398, Annex B1 you see that the OECD Avg R squared is only 17.9%. So, only 17.9% of the variance in student performance is accounted for in the variance of SES, as defined. This means that 82.1% of the variance in student performance is not accounted for by the variance in SES.

It may be the case that school effects do account for less than poverty effects. Poverty effects account for less than 18%. Why focus on this small factor when 82% of the variance is attributable to other factors, such as say, school quality? It's not like anyone's been successful raising student achievement by increasing a student's SES. Now, it could be that school effects account for even less. Certainly, most schools are clueless when it comes to educating lower-SES students. But that is not to say that the few highly effective schools have a greater effect.

KDR:

Table 4.2 gives a country breakdown of variance that is attributable to SES. US is about 17, while some of the high performing countries have effects that are much lower (Finland about 10, Canada about 9). Now, based on this differential, I suppose you could get more bang for your buck in this country by raising SES of the kids on the bottom (although I expect that would be a terribly difficult political fight). But I think that they key is to seek to improve education in ways that decreases the impact. OECD does have a study with policy recommendations (No More Failures: Ten Steps to Equity in Education): managing choice in such a way as to boost equity, postponing or eliminating tracking systems, targetting resources to those with the greatest need.

Now, based on this differential, I suppose you could get more bang for your buck in this country by raising SES of the kids on the bottom

You are assuming causation form a correlation. You are assuming that low SES causes low student achievement and that raising SES of the kids at the bottom will improve student achievement. The causation may, in fact run the other way. Low student achievement may be causing low SES (think of this across generations). Or some third factor may be causing both low SES and low student achievement. I cajn certainly think of one plausible candidate for this third factor, IQ, which has an even higher correlation with both student achievement and SES. Just saying.

This is why I keep asking for data from a well-designed controlled experiment so we can determine whether the causation which is thought to exist actually does exist.

OECD does have a study with policy recommendations (No More Failures: Ten Steps to Equity in Education): managing choice in such a way as to boost equity, postponing or eliminating tracking systems, targetting resources to those with the greatest need.

This would be a study in the loosest sense of the word. Don't we already do this stuff to some degree already. Wehere is the improvement?

You'd be hard pressed to find an urban school district that is not funded well above the state average (in a country that has some of the highest funding for education in the world) and that lacks any tracking by ability. So why do so many students in these school districts fail to learn basic math and reading skills?

KDR:

"You are assuming causation form a correlation. You are assuming that low SES causes low student achievement and that raising SES of the kids at the bottom will improve student achievement." No, actually, I was speaking tongue-in-cheek. Sorry you missed it.

Well, yes, developing recommendations based on looking at the factors that are common to the countries doing well with regard to equity is looser than structuring a random sampling of equivalent countries and tinkering with their school systems element by element to arrive at a much more scientific set of recommendations. Tell you what--while you seek funding for(and a way to structure) that one, I'll go on believing that we should give a try to some of the things that merely seem to be working in other countries.

And I would say that, no, we are not already doing many of them. We do not allocate resources based on need. The highest per-pupil allocations from Title I go to the schools with the fewest low income students (and vice versa). Many states rely heavily on local income tax revenue for schools. These are not well distributed and certainly not according to need. Now that's just talking about dollars--and as you point out, we have more of them floating around than any other education system in the world (although in my state the district with the highest per-pupil expenditure is about 3X the lowest--bet you can't guess which mommies and daddies have the higher income level). There are other indicators of distribution not according to highest level of need, which would include teacher factors (years of experience, SAT scores, education in or out of the field being taught, etc); there are buildings/facilities (appropriate to the need--right size, right technology, conducive to learning); school climate (that whole set of intangibles that tell a parent when they walk in the door whether they would want their kid to go there or not).

While many countries at the top have abandoned tracking systems, and are working to be more inclusive of students with disabilities, we are all over the map (to say the least) on this one (and most other issues). At the very least we have tracking by zip code. And I would say that our belief systems run towards, rather than away from, both tracking and distribution in the direction of "have" rather than "need."

Along with Azerbaijan, Macao-China, Hong Kong-China, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Montenegro, and the Russian Federation all have a correlation between ESCS and mathematics proficiency that is less than .30.

The category being used, country, for these comparisons introduces certain problems for the analysis.

Consider the comparison of Iceland to the US. Population of Iceland is 316,000, while the population of the US is 300,000,000. You'd do just as well comparing Iceland to Fairfield County, Connecticut which has a population of about 900,000.

Macau has a population of 500,000. Lichenstein has a population of 35,000 (heavily populated by high income bankers.) Norway has a population of 4.7 million.

Next you need to control for degree of ethnic diversity. Norway and Iceland are far more homogeneous than the US, and they're not that far removed from Finland, the population of which is 97.6% Finnish.

Further, to what extent is assortative mating present in each society? If societal stratification begins with marital relationships, then the offspring from these relationships will be born with more than just a place in their parent's socioeconomic perch.

We do not allocate resources based on need. The highest per-pupil allocations from Title I go to the schools with the fewest low income students (and vice versa).

You should take a look at New Jersey's Abbott Districts. The State provides these in-need districts with extravagant budgets, such that they exceed the spending/student at higher performing districts, and little good it does in increasing student performance.

For instance, compare the spending per student at Brick Township High School ($5,916 for classroom instruction; $10,925 total spending) to Newark's Westside High ($9,603 for classroom instruction; $17,237 total spending) and compare student outcomes between the two schools:

Graduation rate: Brick = 91.8%, Westside = 77.6%

SAT-M: Brick = 492; Westside = 350
SAT-V: Brick = 480; Westside = 347

Off-topic: Do this blog have a problem with link spammers?

I've just had a comment held for moderation because I've embedded two links to support an argument.

There was a fascinating program on PBS yesterday on the rigid exam system in China and the pressures on students. When Aaron Brown questionned a defender of the system, she claimed that this was the closest to a level playing field where the child of a peasant has an equal chance with the child of a high government official. Brown was skeptical. "Well," she said, "naturally there are advantages and the peasant may have to be 10 times smarter than the official's child but if he/she is then the playing field is equal."

From my experience teaching in both high income and low income schools in the United States, I believe that the differences found in student performance between high SES and low SES students is caused more by differences in family support, cultural attitudes toward academic achievement, and other correlates of low-income households, than by the differences in the quality of education they receive from their schools.

As Ken has noted in previous posts, low income students often do not succeed in schools in which high income students do quite well. The United States has children from many different cultures. Some cultures and families do not place as much value on academic success as others (see Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom's analysis of cultural factors on academic success).

I belive that America also has a relatively high number of single-parent households compared to other Westernized countries, and has less government support of low income families (e.g., day care, medical care). However, I don't have data on hand to back this up - correct me if I'm wrong.

Overall, these differences in academic achievement are the result a wide range of issues in American society, rather than an intrinsic problem with the U.S. education system.

Attorney DC

So, you would be comfortable sending your kids to a school in a low SES area?

Margo/Mom: No, I probably wouldn't. But not because the teachers, or curriculum, or textbooks would be sub-par compared to a suburban school.

From my experience (teaching in both low-income and higher-income schools), the students in low-SES schools act to create a negative learning atmosphere for themselves and their classmates. In plain language, a significant portion of the students act out and create disruptions, making it difficult for any students to learn.

Also, students often exert negative peer pressure on each other: They mock students who try to achieve academic success, which encourages all students to resist following the rules, complying with teacher instructions, completing homework, etc.

I know this stems from a huge network of forces, including single parent households, media influences (e.g., rap music), uneducated parents who are not able to assist students with their work, parents who do not speak English well, chaotic home environments, street culture, etc.

However, I believe that these factors are not caused by the schools: The teachers, curriculum, resources, funding, administrators, etc. are often similar to those in the higher income schools.

Why don't we segregate by IQ as well.

Clearly no-one would voluntrarily choose a low-SES, low-IQ school and most wouldprefer a high SES, high IQ school. But still that leaves us with some interesting choices:

school One: high-ses, low-IQ

school Two: low-ses, high-IQ

Which would you prefer?

Ken: If you're talking to me, I wouldn't have a preference for IQ. I'm not sure I buy into IQ as a perfect measure of intelligence anyway. I think IQ scores can be influenced by the students' environment. But I'm not an expert.

My issue was more with the level of effort and behavior of the students. I found that students in the low-income schools didn't behave as well - either in class or out of class (e.g., homework completion). They were less likely to come to tutoring sessions, or come by at lunch to make up a test, etc. In short, they just didn't prioritze education as much as the middle class kids did. Not that middle class kids necessarily LIKED school - but they knew they had to try, at least to keep their parents off their backs.

So, to answer your question, IQ wouldn't matter to me. I once taught an extremely hard working, diligent student with an IQ bordering on clinical mentally retardation (around 70). He was a pleasure to teach, and I enjoyed seeing his successes.

Attorney DC, our comments crossed; I was throwing that one out to the crowd.

So you'd pick an average suburban school over a big city magnet school?

Ken: Actually, I'd probably like to work in a big city magnet school, if I went back to teaching. The key word being "magnet." If these are kids who applied to come to the school, they are much more likely to be motivated and well-behaved - and generally a pleasure to teach (compared to the average inner city school).

I liked the challenge of working with kids who have the capacity to learn and absorb a lot of new knowledge, and aren't as blase about school as some suburban kids.

Not planning on heading back to the classroom anytime soon, though ;)

How about you? What setting would be your ideal for teaching?

Since I am lazy, i'd have to say the easiest setting: high IQ and high-SES.

I think there are subcategories of SES in individual schools. The elementary school I taught at in Brooklyn - 65-70% Hispanic and the rest Black - had tracking. In the 70's we went from 5 classes on a grade down to 2 or 3. Teachers - when the contract was followed - rotated.

In a 3 year period starting with 1973, I had 6th grade classes at each of 3 levels and the experience was so different. Same school, housing, even families in some cases. I learned more about the complexities that drive education from these 3 classes than I ever did in grad school.

I won't get into the details, but the top class had more fathers, working parents, support, etc. The bottom was more Spanish with language issues. The most diffcult class had a bunch of kids that ended up dead or in jail. So rather than classify schools there is more value in doing individual classes and that would give a much clearer picture.

When KDerosa says this with tongue in cheek:
"Since I am lazy, i'd have to say the easiest setting: high IQ and high-SES."

This says a lot about the vagaries of teaching kids at different levels. I only had 2 top of the line classes in almost 20 years and that was a very different experience - give kids something to read and they did it.

We were taught by teachers who never seemed to have to work as hard as we did in my school. My teachers used to have us do work at our desks for up to an hour while they worked at their desks. What a life they had.

I think this is partly to do with my teaching skills (strong on clarity, weak on excitement generation), but from a teaching point of view I've found motivation more important in a class than ability. I'd rather teach average kids who knew really wanted to learn the material than smart kids who were waiting for me to convince them it was worth their time.

. I only had 2 top of the line classes in almost 20 years and that was a very different experience - give kids something to read and they did it.
We were taught by teachers who never seemed to have to work as hard as we did in my school. My teachers used to have us do work at our desks for up to an hour while they worked at their desks. What a life they had.

As a parent, I wonder exactly does goes on in our schools. In our high SES district, I suspect that the teachers do have to work harder to try to “motivate” and “engage” the students. It’s no longer simply a matter of asking them to read the assignment; it has to have a “real world” application in order to interest the students. I’ve been told as much by a few teachers.

OTOH, instead of working at their desks for hours the students are working in groups while the teacher is otherwise engaged. Knowing what I do about my kids and their friends, I strongly doubt much academic learning goes on in groups.

Tex: Just wanted to let you know that sometimes "group" instruction is not the teacher's choice, but is mandated (or strongly encouraged) by the school or is district policy.

When I taught in California, we had to arrange students in tables of 4-6 students, to facilitate group work. If a teacher had the temerity to arrange student desks in the ordinary "row" formation, they were admonished by the principal. I assume if a teacher had opposed the principal and refused to place her students in "learning groups" he or she would have been disciplined for insubordination - but I never saw it happen: All students were arranged in little groups.

This is an interesting discussion--but I just want to point out that this is also a part of the culture that drives academic achievement (or not) is schools of varying SES. While DC cites factors such as rap music, single parents, street culture, non-English speaking parents (things that would appear to be outside the sphere of influence of the schools)--do you think that kids are also affected by going to schools where teachers would not be willing to send their own kids?

There is certainly some correlational research on the international level to indicate that early tracking leads to lower overall achievement levels. Could this be the combined perceptions that the lower level kids are limited and the upper level kids are "easy?" Throw into the mix the way ethnicities are distributed among the schools that teachers would send their own kids to and the ones that they would only teach in--and maybe we have, you know, a self-fulfilling prophesy?

Just asking.

Margo/Mom: As I noted above, the major reason I would hesitate to send my own children to a low-SES school is the effect of the other low-SES children on the education of all.

When many students in a classroom are coming to school with bad attitudes, poor behavior, and lack of support from home (combined with other issues correlated with poverty - frequent moves, cramped housing, possible poor nutrition or health care) the entire class and the school as a whole are affected.

Margo/Mom: To answer your specific question, it appears you are suggesting that students perform poorly in low-SES schools in part because their teachers do not like the school quality.

This does not seem to be the correct direction of causality, in my opinion. It's much more likely that the teachers don't think the students are performing or well because they are NOT in fact performing well.

If you were correct, how would you fix this problem? Would you try to somehow convince the teachers in inner city schools that their kids DON'T have academic or attendance problems? To believe they are not from single parent homes, or involved with gangs? That's asking teachers to deny reality.

DC:

Some of my point of view comes from my own reality. I live in an inner-city neighborhood. I am a single, working mother. You, and other teachers, might assume that my children are likely to have an undesireable effect on yours--and that there is a rightness to a school system that segregates children in this way--perhaps even that your children are entitled to separation from children like mine. That's a point of view--how things look from my end.

This is something as a parent I am aware of and must work to counteract, with regard to my children's experience.

More of my reality includes working with children and families in inner-city neighborhoods, and I would challenge the assumption that most, or a critical mass, are poorly disciplined, gang members, or unmotivated. I will give you that they are not often welcomed with open arms at the schools that their children attend. I would say that they are more often viewed as annoyances, or scapegoats. I would say that there are enormous cultural divides between school employees and the people who live in the surrounding neighborhood.

No--I wouldn't try to convince the teachers in those neighborhoods that their students don't have academic problems. I would try to convince them that the academic problems are not insurmountable, and that providing the "same" education as their kids are getting in the suburbs (if that is in fact the case--given the unwelcoming atmosphere and belief in the inevitability of failure) is not effective, and needs to change. I would encourage them to find ways to become a part of their students neighborhoods, and find ways to cooperate and collaborate with other institutions/agencies who are concerned with the health and well-being of children (beginning with families). I would try to tell them about all that they are missing by believing in limitations that are not there.

Margo/Mom: Thank you for your insightful comments about this issue. I always find it enlightening to get the perspective of another individual in the education system.

To give you some background on me, I taught for several years before becoming an attorney. Most (but not all) of my teaching was with lower-income students, many of whom were Hispanic or African-American, including students with learning disabilties and emotional disabilities.

I firmly believe that most of these students can succeed, and I tried very hard to make their educational experience exciting, interesting, and relevant to their lives.

However, it is much harder to achieve success with students who resist learning, skip class, don't complete homework (or even write it down), and refuse to follow classroom instructions and basic behavior rules (e.g. Take out your pencil. Do not spit on the floor. Don't walk out of class in the middle of the period).

Not all the students were like this - and I found I was able to "turn around" many of them over the course of the semester - but even a handful is enough to seriously disrupt a classroom.

I once worked in a surburban district in California where the schools had lots of supplies, and nice facilities, etc. - but the kids put up a fight and resisted learning to the best of their ability. What's a teacher to do? And why are we blamed when the students actively refuse to learn?

I am wary when all low SES groups are lumped together and generalized as one. The low SES groups in the U.S. have very different histories and cultures. How do their stories compare to those in other countries?

In my children’s 71% low income, Bay Area school district, we have a mix of students that is 38% African American, 36% Latino, 16% Asian, and 6% White. All groups except Whites are majority low income. (There are more than 6% White families in our city but they shun the public schools.)

One of our district’s highest performing schools is 84% low income and 92% Asian. Most of the students do not speak English in their homes and have parents with only high school diplomas, yet their test scores rival the affluent, mostly white elementary schools. Many of these children are from families who strategized how to immigrate to the US for many years. They also are members of an ancient culture which is greatly unified and was made strong by the teachings of Confucius. As a result, specific values about life, family structure and education developed which help to support and guide children to success.

Compare their situation to that of African American slave descendants. They were separated from their ancient communities, language and traditions of origin, enslaved for hundreds of years by owners who perpetually broke apart their families, were then suppressed and forced into second-class citizenship by Jim Crow for nearly one hundred more, and then passed through an era of attitudes and policies that permitted the family structure to unravel. Then, with the exodus of their most successful members, the weakest and most disadvantaged members of this group were even more geographically concentrated together. On top of it, the loss of blue-collar jobs led to the growth of an underground economy based on drug use which is defended by automatic weapons. A different set of values about life, family structure and education developed here.

These are two entirely different low SES models with two different academic achievement outcomes. The Latino subgroup has its own story, too. Academic achievement is not just about income. At some point, we'll need to face up to our slave-owning past and to the incredible amount of longterm damage that was done.

They also are members of an ancient culture which is greatly unified and was made strong by the teachings of Confucius. As a result, specific values about life, family structure and education developed which help to support and guide children to success.

Odd then, that when white children raised under the same environmental practices tend to have LOWER scores.

. . .and then passed through an era of attitudes and policies that permitted the family structure to unravel.

You don't really know much about the cultures of Africa, do you? African-American family structures are very similar to those found in many West African cultures.

At some point, we'll need to face up to our slave-owning past and to the incredible amount of longterm damage that was done.

The Romans also owned slaves, so should the Italians have to face up to the long-term damage they did to the Gauls?

A March 2006 New York Times article cites a study which found that in 2004 the share of young black men without jobs was 72 percent. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004. Also, 21 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were incarcerated. Is this the similar to the model you know about in West Africa?

Is this the similar to the model you know about in West Africa?

Sure is. Check it: (No links provided because they only send this comment to moderation.)

New York Times:

There are two reasons 11-year-old Chikumbutso Zuze never sees his three sisters, why he seldom has a full belly, why he sleeps packed sardinelike with six cousins on the dirt floor of his aunt's thatched mud hut.

One is AIDS, which claimed his father in 2000 and his mother in 2001. The other is his father's nephew, a tall, light-complexioned man whom Chikumbutso knows only as Mr. Sululu.

It was Mr. Sululu who came to his village five years ago, after his father died, and commandeered all of the family's belongings -- mattresses, chairs and, most important, the family's green Toyota pickup, an almost unimaginable luxury in this, one of the poorest nations on earth. And it was Mr. Sululu who rejected the pleas of the boy's mother, herself dying of AIDS, to leave the truck so that her children would have an inheritance to sustain them after her death.

Instead, Chikumbutso said, he left behind a battery-powered transistor radio.

"I feel very bitter about it," he said, plopped on a wooden bench in 12-by-12-foot hut rented by his maternal aunt and uncle on the outskirts of this town in the lush hills of southern Malawi. "We don't really know why they did all this. We couldn't understand."

Actually, the answer is simple: custom. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the death of a father automatically entitles his side of the family to claim most, if not all, of the property he leaves behind, even if it leaves his survivors destitute.

There is a simple reason for why a man's estate passes to his sister's family and not his own - he can't be sure he's the father of his own children.

Here is AIDS Researcher and Epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani writing in the London Times about the social practice of having multiple sex partners:

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that two-thirds of people with HIV in the world are Africans. Yet few people ask why.


HIV is largely a sexually transmitted infection, so there must be something different about sex in Africa. Yet you can’t say that without appearing to be racist. So campaigners have come up with other reasons that HIV is worse in Africa: poverty, ignorance, men having more power than women. All politically correct, but not epidemiologically correct.

The truth is that a society in which many people have two or three partners on the go at any one time will produce a bigger epidemic than a society where people may have 10 partners in five years, but only one at a time. And it’s a fact that in parts of Africa, it’s more common for both men and women to have two or three simultaneous relationships than to have serial partners. Do people behave in this way because they are poor and ignorant? Not in Bangladesh, or Bolivia, or dozens of other countries where incomes and literacy are low. Indeed, in Africa, the incidence of HIV infection is highest in the richest households and the richest countries.

Here is an article on the work habits of sub-saharan African men:

Twenty-five years ago in Kenya, I saw the male-female divide on public display. Beside a rural road, a woman struggled uphill, bent under a towering load of firewood. Just behind, her husband marched tall and proud, carrying only his walking stick.


My wife, Popie, and I saw this so often, we stopped commenting on it. Rural African women, we learned, worked incredibly hard, barely pausing from their daily labors to give birth to children. Girls and young women joined in seamlessly, caring for younger children and helping with endless chores. For rural men, the situation varied. Some left the farm for urban areas, looking for work and returning at intervals to their wives and families. Others stayed home and occupied themselves with "men's work," which included caring for animals. In many cases, however, the farms had been cut too small to give the men meaningful employment. At the nearest crossroads, you could find them sitting in a small group, talking, drinking, or just staring.

We couldn't help noticing that the women seemed generally happier than the men, even though they had the short end of the stick. Hefting their burdens or bent over in the fields, they worked in groups, chatting together, sometimes laughing. The idle men seemed bored and depressed, alienated and isolated. Alcohol plagued many. I came up with this summary: "Women are oppressed; men are depressed."

People really need to step outside of their middle-class world views and understand that customs vary across the world and that blacks living in the US quite often follow customs similar to those found in African cultures.

Now, as for the rate of unemployment of African Americans, we can lay a good deal of blame at the feet of people who are sympathetic to illegal alien presence in the US. There is no labor shortage if we include all of the discouraged workers who don't bother looking for work. An out of work Black man likely has an illegal to thank for his plight and the employer who would rather hire the illegal, because of the perception that they will work hard and not cause trouble.

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