« Suspending My Campaign Links | Main | Where Will Malia Ann and Sasha Obama Go to School? »

Obama Wins! Have We Overcome the Scourge of Race?

| 19 Comments
ward_headshot_lowres.jpg

Why, we sure have, according to Ward Connerly, former University of California Regent and longtime opponent of affirmative action. Connerly quotes one of his college professors as saying that we’ll know that we’ve overcome the scourge of race when (a) white men no longer object to their daughters marrying a black man; (b) a white person can honestly say that s/he would be willing to walk in the shoes of any black person; and (c) Americans are willing to elect a black person to the presidency.

We’ve now learned that the third condition has been met, which is a wondrous and historic event. But what about the second condition? Connerly’s evidence is the following:

It is not hard to imagine a considerable number of whites who would not mind trading places with Obama, Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Tiger Woods and an endless list of other individuals identified as or perceived to be "black" - or partially so. In the case of Oprah Winfrey, $1.5 billion is enough to cause one to be willing to endure a whole lot of prejudice. Little boys wearing their "I want to be like Mike" tee shirts as a tribute to Michael Jordan is another vivid example of the waning influence of race in our nation.

Too polite to point out how these highly successful African-Americans aren’t just “any black person,” skoolboy turns to a social-scientific criterion for the willingness of a white person to walk in the shoes of any black person: equal odds of educational attainment. Drawing on the U.S. Bureau of the Census’ March, 2007 Current Population Survey, I calculate the relative odds that black and white 20- to 24-year-olds have graduated from high school and the relative odds that black and white 25- to 29-year-old high school graduates have obtained a bachelor's degree or higher.

% of white 20- to 24-year-olds reporting completion of high school: 94.9%
% of black 20- to 24-year-olds reporting completion of high school: 90.1%
Relative odds of completing high school for whites vs. blacks: 2.03

% of white 25- to 29-year-old high school graduates reporting a bachelor’s degree or higher: 38.0%
% of black 25- to 29-year-old high school graduates reporting a bachelor’s degree or higher: 22.2%
Relative odds of a bachelor’s degree, conditional on completing high school, for whites vs. blacks: 2.14

So the odds of completing high school are twice as high for whites as for blacks, and the odds of obtaining a bachelor’s degree conditional on graduating from high school are also twice as high for whites as for blacks. Given what we know about the importance of high school and college degrees for adult socioeconomic success in the U.S., my guess is that most whites would not honestly say that they’d be willing to walk in the shoes of a black person, if that black person has such a lower likelihood of obtaining high school and college diplomas.

The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency is a signal event, and the consequences of his breaking the color barrier will reverberate for many years to come. Although our President-Elect is a singular, charismatic individual who is the right man at the right time, the social, economic and political forces that shape the educational opportunities of African-Americans in U.S. society are deeply entrenched. Sadly, the scourge of race will not be easy to overcome.

19 Comments

Might this perhaps explain the still high levels of de facto segregation in neighbhorhoods and schools?

I think it’s safe to assume that the educational attainment rates of both Whites and Blacks have increased over the last few decades. I’m also going to assume that the attainment differences between Whites and Blacks have decreased rather than increased. If these assumptions are correct than one could conclude a change in the right direction. Yet these numbers also don’t directly reveal differences in quality of education. They also don’t account for how an increase in educational attainment leads to the need for greater levels of educational attainment. These days its not enough to have a high school diploma but you also have to have a college degree to get a decent job and in some fields a masters degree. I’m sure there is even a much larger gap between the percent of Whites and Blacks holding a post-graduate degree. There are also salary differences between Whites and Blacks—Black women are paid the least for the same work.

Obama’s election is significant and hopefully it will help heal the racial divide that exists in this country. I find the media’s conclusion that if one black man can become President than anyone can become President really troubling. I don’t want to suggest that Obama’s victory is not a sign of hope, but it is ridiculous to assume that it ends racism, which many believe is the root cause of unjust educational opportunities. I also fear that people may point to Obama and conclude that poverty, for example, is not a social issue but an individual problem and that if people worked hard enough then they could overcome their hardships. If you look at Obama’s educational experiences, he attended elite schools which helped him attend elite universities. Yes I’m sure Obama worked hard but he had opportunities that are not provided to all children in this country. Maybe I just don’t get it?

One of my favorite things about Obama is that he seems to have a strong appreciation for the complexity of problems. I hope that, through his example, we'll be able to dig a little deeper into the contributing factors of lingering equality issues like pay discrepancy, so that we can address the breakdown in common sense. Where do people develop the idea that different pay for same work is appropriate, or if they're unaware, how do we teach them to check their actions for such inequality?

"Where do people develop the idea that different pay for same work is appropriate"

Dave, I ponder a slightly different question: where do people develop the idea that work is the same, when it's only the task that's the same and the quality of work done on that task differs dramatically among workers?

I point to Erin Gruwell as an (extreme) example. She accomplished what other teachers not only failed to accomplish, but had given up trying altogether. She raised achievement levels of low SES, urban minority students who were expected to drop out. She most certainly deserved "different" pay then than all the other teachers who failed at the same task. She got the different pay, but only by leaving the classroom. What a shame. We need more teachers like her, not less.

Reference the Freedom Writers Diary for details.

Could you please explain how your stats on graduation rates add up, I am having a hard time with the stats:

% of white 20- to 24-year-olds reporting completion of high school: 94.9%
% of black 20- to 24-year-olds reporting completion of high school: 90.1%
Relative odds of completing high school for whites vs. blacks: 2.03

% of white 25- to 29-year-old high school graduates reporting a bachelor’s degree or higher: 38.0%
% of black 25- to 29-year-old high school graduates reporting a bachelor’s degree or higher: 22.2%
Relative odds of a bachelor’s degree, conditional on completing high school, for whites vs. blacks: 2.14

I would think that for odds being about 2 on high school graduation rate, wouldn't that mean that out of 10 white students and 10 black students, if ~ 9.5 whites graduated then only 4.75 blacks would have graduated, or more so around 95% (whites) v. 47.5% blacks?

Also, how many students are in high school at the ages of 20 - 24 anyways? That would seem to be an unrepresentative sample, not to mention a bizarre one.

Bob:

The data are not about current enrollment status; they are a cross-sectional snapshot of the status of an age-cohort, in this case, individuals who were 20 to 24 or 25 to 29 in March, 2007. In that month, the respondents were asked "What is the highest level of school ... has completed or the highest degree ... has received?"

I should note that the Current Population Survey is a survey of the civilian non-institutionalized population of the U.S., and therefore anyone who is incarcerated is not in the target population. Earlier this year, the Pew Center on the States estimated that one in nine Black men between the ages of 20 and 34 were in prison, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated in 2003 that only 45% of those incarcerated had a high school diploma or a GED.

The odds of an event is related to the probability of the event in a straightforward way. If p is the probability of an event, then p/(1-p) is the odds that the event will occur. Suppose that there's a 2/3 chance that it will rain tomorrow. Then the odds that it will rain are .67/(1-.67)=2; put differently, there's a 2-to-1 chance that it will rain tomorrow, or the odds that it will rain tomorrow are 2 to 1.

An odds ratio is not a ratio of the probability of an event in two groups (sometimes referred to as the "relative risk".) It's a way of comparing whether the odds of an event are the same for two different groups, and is calculated as the ratio of the odds of an event occurring for one group to the odds for that event occurring for the other group. When the odds ratio is 1, then the event is equally likely to occur in both groups. When it is greater than 1, it's more likely to occur in the first group than the second group, and when it is less than 1, it's more likely to occur in the second group than the first group.

In the example above, the odds of a 25- to 29-year-old white high school graduate having completed a bachelor's degree are .380/(1-.380)=.613. For blacks, the odds are .222/(1-.222)=.285. The odds ratio is .613/.285=2.15.

A clear explanation of the odds ratio can be found here.


the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated in 2003 that only 45% of those incarcerated had a high school diploma or a GED

I'd bet that the "or GED part" is the devil in the details because I don't think that dropping out of high school and then obtaining a GED is the equivalent of "completing" high school. Of course, removing those that have obtained a GED will skew the results even more. But in any event, the real question that needs to be answered is what is causing the discrepancy in the first place.

The conclusion suggesting that the cause of the odds ratio is that black students must have been discriminated against is unwarranted. There is at least one other possibility: both populations were not equally capable going in.

Do you think that there's also massive systematic discrimination against midgets (sorry -- "little people") seeking lucrative careers as professional basketball players because their odds ratio is similarly skewed or do you think perhaps that other factors might be in play that might not warrant such a hasty conclusion?

Ken:

I set a criterion for judging whether a white person would be willing to walk in the shoes of any black person: equal odds of educational attaiment. I then demonstrated that the odds of high school and college graduation were substantially higher among civilian non-institutionalized whites than blacks, and that this disparity would likely be greater if the institutionalized population were taken into account. What is the hasty conclusion to which you refer?

Hi, SB. (Nice posts on NYC BTW)

The conclusion that the educational attainment is not necessarily valid in the absence of a switch in genetic makeup which, I do not think is implied in the "walk in shoes" hypothetical. I'm interpreting this to accept the social construct of the race change but not the genetic change.

Maybe I'm wrong about that assumption, but I think that without the assumption the conclusion is based on a faulty premise (that the social construction of race is the full cause/determinant of educational attainment).

Also, by the same criterion a fair percentage of blacks on the right half of the curve would not want to walk in the shoes of the average white since it means less educational attainment for them. That seems to me to be a contradiction.

skoolboy: I'm not sure that high school completion rates are a good proxy for residual racism in society (assuming that's what you're trying to measure). It seems to me that the major factors influencing high school completion (and educational achievement in general) in America are the levels of parental education and family income. In America, black students are more likely to be living in low-income families with less-educated parents. Another indicator is single parenting; again, black Americans are more likely to live in single parent households than white or Asian Americans.

Given the above data, I don't think that comparing educational achievement levels between the races in America really gives us much information on racism, per se. If your question is: On average, given current societal conditions, would you rather be born as a randomly selected black person or a randomly selected white person, the average person on the street might select "white." But the average person might also choose to be born to older parents instead of young parents, or in a city instead of a small town. It doesn't mean that the resulting average educational differences are caused by differential treatment or prejudice. You need to isolate many, many other factors to attempt to show a cause and effect relationship.

It seems to me that your numbers demonstrate inequalities between the races on average in America today. But they don't demonstrate that these inequalities are the product of racism, or better schools, or anything else. It's just the results - we still need to understand the causes.

Bob, skoolboy: Here's a better reason for comparing odds than any given in the reference:

You could compare the relative probabilities of failure instead of the relative probabilities of success. But, they'll be different even though based on the same facts. The odds ratio can be justified --no insisted on -- as a kind of average of those two points of view. (No need to get into hazards analysis, logits, probits, or the log-linear model.) Sufficient that it reduces by 1 the number of ways in which people can choose the most favorable of a pair of expressions when the other less favorable one is equivalent.

Ken, Attorney DC: I don't think I used the term "racism" in my post, although Connerly's phrase "the scourge of race" might imply it. Equal outcomes is a very stringent standard for judging whether a member of one group (i.e., whites) would be willing to walk in the shoes of any person in another group (i.e., blacks). But arguing that the standard is inappropriate either because (a) blacks have inherently less ability than whites or (b) blacks are more likely to grow up in low-income families with less-educated parents is unlikely, in my view, to persuade a typical white person to be willing to walk in the shoes of any black person.

There is a distinction between current racial discrimination and the legacy of past racial discrimination. One need not require evidence of massive current discrimination to recognize the ongoing influence of the past. As President-Elect Obama said in his "A More Perfect Union" speech in March:

"But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us."

It is in this sense, too, that the "scourge of race" is yet to be overcome.

One need not require evidence of massive current discrimination to recognize the ongoing influence of the past.

You're correct. What one does need to recognize the "ongoing influence of the past" is a measure of the influence and its effect. Until that is provided, and accepted, simply pointing to the past and positing that it has a present-day negative effect is mumbo jumbo.

Quoting President-elect Obama adds nothing of value to the discussion. An appeal to authority, especially an authority who trades in tired old bromides, is essentially a worthless gesture.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

How then do you explain the achievement gap seen in the wealthiest schools which provide the nation's best educational environment? How do you explain the achievement gap seen in the ranks of Black children born to high achieving upper class Black parents?

A lack of economic opportunity among black men,

Not so now for a number of decades. We know that wage discrimination, when we control for IQ, disappeared back in the 1970s.

The Chicago Fed did a study on returns for additional years of education and broke down the results by race and gender. When IQ is controlled, White men earned a return of 4.35% compared to the 7.6% earned by Black men, and White women earned a 5.35% return compared to 7.37% for Black women.

Employers are paying premiums to hire Blacks who are equally intelligent and equally educated as their White peers.

One of my favorite things about Obama is that he seems to have a strong appreciation for the complexity of problems.

I haven't seen any evidence of this quality when Obama addresses racial issues. He seems to stick to many common myths so he continually misunderstands the complexity that he is addressing.

I hope that, through his example, we'll be able to dig a little deeper into the contributing factors of lingering equality issues like pay discrepancy, so that we can address the breakdown in common sense.

Exactly, but I hold out little hope that Obama is going to tear down the whole "equal opportunity" bureaucracy. Frankly, there is little justification for having wage premiums for additional years of education differ by race and gender.

Where do people develop the idea that different pay for same work is appropriate, or if they're unaware, how do we teach them to check their actions for such inequality?

These ideas usually arise in the minds and hearts of do-gooding liberals and then are instituted into federal legislation and then enforced by a powerful bureaucracy. Frankly, I have no idea how we can go about disabusing misguided people from holding onto pernicious ideas.

"Sadly, the scourge of race will not be easy to overcome."

If we keep thinking it is all about the "scourge of race" nothing will change.

I believe what is needed is a change in attutude. a change in both political parties, a change from the educational boards, a change from the administrators, a change from the teachers, a change from the parents, and a change from the students. we did not get to where we are in the last 8 years. This system was setup over a 100 years. The first time someone tried to make a big change in they system (No Child Left Behind)they were the ones who were run out of town. Why? Is it because the system was better before? You and I both know that is not true. we need to take a long look at what we really want. What do you want?

I believe that Barack Obama has the advantage of a unique perspective that allows him an understanding of the complexities of the American situation with regard to race. As someone who is not only biracial genetically, but also having been raised with multiple cultural exposures, I believe that he has first hand knowledge of how little of what we think of as race is genetic, and how much more is cultural.

As the white parent of one black and one biracial child, I can share that while I am competent to transmit my own social capital, when my two children entered school, they were both viewed differently than my experience, and differently from each other. Now, my "n of one" may not be statistically significant, but I believe that it points up some factors that bear consideration. On the one hand, I truly believe that if I were not a fairly well-educated parent with an expectation of being listened to, my son would have gotten far worse treatment than he did. That doesn't bring it up to what it might have been. On the other hand, even the response to me, as a parent, was different in the cases of my two children. Within a context of institutional racism, where it is assumed that certain races will do less well (whether due to lack of social situation or genetices), certain, dismissive, responses make sense. A parent who thinks that their child should be receiving more attention is unwilling to parent properly and wants the state to raise their child. A parent who does not attend a conference doesn't want to be bothered. A parent who persists in seeking support for a child who struggles is living in denial.

These are not responses doled out by bad people, but by people who are immersed in a system that still provides more to those who have the most--and suffers from years of legalized discrimination that dictated that those who are black would receive nothing at all.

SB, "equal outcomes" may be a stringent standard but it may not be the appropriate standard if the inputs are not equal. It might be that those unequal inputs are the cause of the diparity.

The shoe walkee might posit that with equal inputs there would be equal outcomes and that the potential scourge might have little or no effect on the outcomes. Plus, there would be availability of affirmitive action benefits to the walkee that would at least partial offset any lingering scourge.

Also, your points on past discrimination seem to beg the question. Aren't we trying to prove the effects of this lingering discrimination as well as any current discriminationby looking at outcomes. You are trying to prove that current discrimination must exist because past discrimination existed. I thought that the question we were interested in answering was whether, in fact, we have gotten past that yet.

Basically, all you can conclude from this is that the public sector has failed to promote equality and that the private sector has done, at worst, an adequate job.

If the goal of the nation was to promote racial equality then, you would need to support privatization of schools, since public schools tend to underperform for minorities.

At least you study quantitative methods so I know you’re mind is open to the possibility that the public sector simply cannot provide the social and racial equality (Even as you might define it) – the evidence just has to keep mounting to prove it.


Basically, all you can conclude from this is that the public sector has failed to promote equality and that the private sector has done, at worst, an adequate job.

If the goal of the nation was to promote racial equality then, you would need to support privatization of schools, since public schools tend to underperform for minorities.

At least you study quantitative methods so I know you’re mind is open to the possibility that the public sector simply cannot provide the social and racial equality (Even as you might define it) – the evidence just has to keep mounting to prove it.


Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • Patrick: Basically, all you can conclude from this is that the read more
  • Patrick: Basically, all you can conclude from this is that the read more
  • KDeRosa: SB, "equal outcomes" may be a stringent standard but it read more
  • Margo/Mom: I believe that Barack Obama has the advantage of a read more
  • Wesley: "Sadly, the scourge of race will not be easy to read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

8th grade retention
Fordham Foundation
The New Teacher Project
Tim Daly
absent teacher reserve
absent teacher reserve

accountability
accountability in Texas
accountability systems in education
achievement gap
achievement gap in New York City
acting white
admissions
AERA
AERA annual meetings
AERA conference
AERJ
Alexander Russo
Algebra II
American Association of University Women
American Education Research Associatio
American Education Research Association
American Educational Research Journal
American Federation of Teachers
Andrew Ho
Art Siebens
ATR
Baltimore City Public Schools
Barack Obama
Bill Ayers
black-white achievement gap
books
books on educational research
boy crisis
brain-based education
Brian Jacob
bubble kids
Building on the Basics
Cambridge Education
carnival of education
Caroline Hoxby
Caroline Hoxby charter schools
cell phone plan
charter schools
Checker Finn
Chicago
Chicago shooting
Chicago violence
Chris Cerf
class size
Coby Loup
college access
cool people you should know
credit recovery
curriculum narrowing
D3M
Dan Willingham
data driven
data-driven decision making
data-driven decision-making
David Cantor
DC
Dean Millot
demographics of schoolchildren
Department of Assessment and Accountability
Department of Education budget
desegregation
Diplomas Count
disadvantages of elite education
do schools matter
Doug Ready
Doug Staiger
dropout factories
dropout rate
dropouts
education books
education policy
education policy thinktanks
educational equity
educational research
educational triage
effects of neighborhoods on education
effects of No Child Left Behind
effects of schools
effects of Teach for America
elite education
ETS
Everyday Antiracism
excessed teachers
exit exams
experienced teachers
Fordham and Ogbu
Fordham Foundation
Frederick Douglass High School
Gates Foundation
gender
gender and education
gender and math
gender and science and mathematics
gifted and talented
gifted and talented admissions
gifted and talented program
gifted and talented programs in New York City
girls and math
good schools
graduate student union
graduation rate
graduation rates
guns in Chicago
health benefits for teachers
High Achievers
high school
high school dropouts
high school exit exams
high school graduates
high school graduation rate
high-stakes testing
high-stakes tests and science
higher ed
higher education
highly effective teachers
Houston Independent School District
how to choose a school
IES
incentives in education
Institute for Education Sciences
is teaching a profession?
is the No Child Left Behind Act working
Jay Greene
Jim Liebman
Joel Klein
John Merrow
Jonah Rockoff
Kevin Carey
KIPP
KIPP and boys
KIPP and gender
Lake Woebegon
Lars Lefgren
leaving teaching
Leonard Sax
Liam Julian

Marcus Winters
math achievement for girls
McGraw-Hill
meaning of high school diploma
Mica Pollock
Michael Bloomberg
Michelle Rhee
Michelle Rhee teacher contract
Mike Bloomberg
Mike Klonsky
Mike Petrilli
narrowing the curriculum
National Center for Education Statistics Condition of Education
NCLB
neuroscience
new teachers
New York City
New York City bonuses for principals
New York City budget
New York City budget cuts
New York City Budget cuts
New York City Department of Education
New York City Department of Education Truth Squad
New York City ELA and Math Results 2008
New York City gifted and talented
New York City Progress Report
New York City Quality Review
New York City school budget cuts
New York City school closing
New York City schools
New York City small schools
New York City social promotion
New York City teacher experiment
New York City teacher salaries
New York City teacher tenure
New York City Test scores 2008
New York City value-added
New York State ELA and Math 2008
New York State ELA and Math Results 2008
New York State ELA and Math Scores 2008
New York State ELA Exam
New York state ELA test
New York State Test scores
No Child Left Behind
No Child Left Behind Act
passing rates
Pearson
picking a school
press office
principal bonuses
proficiency scores
push outs
pushouts
qualitative educational research
qualitative research in education
quitting teaching
race and education
racial segregation in schools
Randall Reback
Randi Weingarten
Randy Reback
recovering credits in high school
Rick Hess
Robert Balfanz
Robert Pondiscio
Roland Fryer
Russ Whitehurst
Sarah Reckhow
school budget cuts in New York City
school choice
school effects
school integration
single sex education
skoolboy
small schools
small schools in New York City
social justice teaching
Sol Stern
SREE
Stefanie DeLuca
stereotype threat
talented and gifted
talking about race
talking about race in schools
Teach for America
teacher effectiveness
teacher effects
teacher quailty
teacher quality
teacher tenure
teachers
teachers and obesity
Teachers College
teachers versus doctors
teaching as career
teaching for social justice
teaching profession
test score inflation
test scores
test scores in New York City
testing
testing and accountability
Texas accountability
TFA
The No Child Left Behind Act
The Persistence of Teacher-Induced Learning Gains
thinktanks in educational research
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Tom Kane
Tweed
University of Iowa
Urban Institute study of Teach for America
Urban Institute Teach for America
value-addded
value-added
value-added assessment
Washington
Wendy Kopp
women and graduate school science and engineering
women and science
women in math and science
Woodrow Wilson High School