March 16, 2013

"Better Colleges Failing to Lure Poorer Strivers"

The Hoxby-Avery study I wrote about a couple of times in January is now being written up in the New York Times:
Better Colleges Failing to Lure Poorer Strivers 

Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to a new analysis of every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year.

The pattern contributes to widening economic inequality and low levels of mobility in this country, economists say, because college graduates earn so much more on average than nongraduates do. Low-income students who excel in high school often do not graduate from the less selective colleges they attend.

With exceptions such as Caltech, Reed, and many engineering programs, elite colleges tend to coddle their students to make sure they graduate, while less selective colleges have a more sink or swim approach. It's the opposite of what most people assume.
Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. 
Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.
The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so. 
Many top low-income students instead attend community colleges or four-year institutions closer to their homes, the study found. The students often are unaware of the amount of financial aid available or simply do not consider a top college because they have never met someone who attended one, according to the study’s authors, other experts and high school guidance counselors. 
“A lot of low-income and middle-income students have the inclination to stay local, at known colleges, which is understandable when you think about it,” said George Moran, a guidance counselor at Central Magnet High School in Bridgeport, Conn. “They didn’t have any other examples, any models — who’s ever heard of Bowdoin College?”

There's a lot to be said for staying fairly local in that one reason for going to college is to develop a social network that you can stay in touch with after college. Bowdoin in Maine is a long way from where most people will wind up. On the other hand, it tends to be nicer to have a social network of the kind of people who can get into Bowdoin than into the local JC.
Whatever the reasons, the choice frequently has major consequences. The colleges that most low-income students attend have fewer resources and lower graduation rates than selective colleges, and many students who attend a local college do not graduate. Those who do graduate can miss out on the career opportunities that top colleges offer.

The big problem is that Wall Street sucks up such a large fraction of the nation's income, and Wall Street firms don't bother recruiting widely. Before 1982, when Wall Street wasn't so ungodly rich, it didn't matter much that investment banks didn't recruit widely. Now, it does. Yet, while I'm all in favor of shaming Goldman Sachs into spending the money to recruit at, say, the U. of Oklahoma (which has a very large number of National Merit Scholars), the bigger question is how much money Wall Street makes.
The new study is beginning to receive attention among scholars and college officials because it is more comprehensive than other research on college choices. The study suggests that the problems, and the opportunities, for low-income students are larger than previously thought. 
“It’s pretty close to unimpeachable — they’re drawing on a national sample,” said Tom Parker, the dean of admissions at Amherst College, which has aggressively recruited poor and middle-class students in recent years. That so many high-achieving, lower-income students exist “is a very important realization,” Mr. Parker said, and he suggested that colleges should become more creative in persuading them to apply. 
Top low-income students in the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas do often apply to selective colleges, according to the study, which was based on test scores, self-reported data, and census and other data for the high school class of 2008.

I think they are guesstimating parents' income based on certain approximations.
But such students from smaller metropolitan areas — like Bridgeport; Memphis; Sacramento; Toledo, Ohio; and Tulsa, Okla. — and rural areas typically do not. 

I.e., Red State America.
These students, Ms. Hoxby said, “lack exposure to people who say there is a difference among colleges.” 

The older I get, the more I become a contra-contrarian. Yeah, sure, I could gin up an argument about why, when you stop and think about it, it's better to go to Southeastern Louisiana U. than to Tulane; but, truthfully, the general pattern is that nice things tend to be nicer than not so nice things, and that the nice things that rich and powerful people choose for their own families tend to be nicer than the things that not rich and powerful people get stuck with.
Elite colleges may soon face more pressure to recruit poor and middle-class students, if the Supreme Court restricts race-based affirmative action. A ruling in the case, involving the University of Texas, is expected sometime before late June. 
Colleges currently give little or no advantage in the admissions process to low-income students, compared with more affluent students of the same race, other research has found. A broad ruling against the University of Texas affirmative action program could cause colleges to take into account various socioeconomic measures, including income, neighborhood and family composition. Such a step would require an increase in these colleges’ financial aid spending but would help them enroll significant numbers of minority students. 
Among high-achieving, low-income students, 6 percent were black, 8 percent Latino, 15 percent Asian-American and 69 percent white, the study found.

In other words, Asians tend to be self-propelled and NAMs are heavily recruited, which leaves whites.

Back in January, a reader looked at high achievers in the bottom quartile of income and determined how many apply to colleges like the smart kids they are or like the poor kids they are:
For every group, there are more low-income high-performing kids who are acting like poor kids than like smart kids - but as you can see, there's enormous variance by race.
- For every low-income, high-performing Asian kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 1.5 who apply like poor kids.   
- For every low-income, high-performing Hispanic kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 3.2 who apply like poor kids.   
- For every low-income, high-performing black kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 3.7 who apply like poor kids.  
- For every low-income, high-performing white kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 11.7 who apply like poor kids.  

So, the biggest undertapped resource of smart poor kids in this country are whites. The picture I have in my head is: rural, small town, or exurban, male, and family trouble. Some of this is the fault of elite institutions, some of this is the fault of white people, who need to up their game to compete with the tiger cubs and the affirmative action beneficiaries.

Learning from the Housing Bubble

Wells Fargo foreclosure pipeline in Los Angeles, Feb 2013
Darker green = more minority
Since the Housing Bubble burst in the Sand States in 2007, I've been pointing out that the Boom/Bust had been in sizable measure an overly optimistic bet on blacks and, especially, Hispanics. And, this fact ought to be remembered when thinking about, say, immigration policy. 

Yet, nobody seems to be able to remember any of what just happened, or at least not well enough to notice implications. How often have we been assured that Immigration Is Good for the Economy.

About the only folks who have remembered this pattern, however, have been liberal activists. For example, here is a new report (big PDF) from three "community" groups about homes still in Wells Fargo's foreclosure pipeline in California, all these years later, and how Latinos and African-Americans are hit by far the hardest. 

It's fun to imagine that defaulters were rich white people, but, statistically that just isn't true. For example, above is a map of Wells Fargo's foreclosure pipeline in the Los Angeles basin as of last month. The darker the green, the higher the minority percentage in that zip code. 

Basically, foreclosures in L.A. remain concentrated in the black & Latino 'hood: South-Central (or as they now officially have rebranded it after the unfortunate incidents of 1992: South Los Angeles).

The question is not, centrally, Who Was to Blame? But can we learn from the past?

It was forty years ago today ...

Today is the 40th anniversary of my first published piece of prose, a short letter to the editor that appeared in National Review on March 16, 1973 when I was a 9th grader. I made a joke about Ernst van den Haag's book review of sociologist Christopher Jencks' meta-analysis of the Coleman Report, Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America.

Some things never change ...

To summarize and extend what I wrote in in 2008:

A review by Leon Todd on summarizes some of Jencks' 1972 findings:
"… it is probably wiser to define a "good" school in terms of student body characteristics than in terms of its budget or school resources. According to Jencks, once a good school starts taking in "undesirable" students (the definition of desirable sometimes pertains to academic, social, or economic attributes), its academic standing automatically declines. He concluded that while an elementary schools' social composition had only a moderate effect on student's cognitive achievement, secondary or high school social composition had a significant effect on achievement. … The type of friends students are likely to make, the values they are exposed to, and satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the school, are all dependent upon the character of the student body."

Professor Jencks noted that the data showed that liberalism's key assumption—that equal opportunity would lead to equal results—was wrong. Therefore, Jencks argued, we must have socialism. 

The late Ernest Van Den Haag responded in National Review that:
"Unlike his fellow socialists, Jencks no longer believes that inequality of results is the product of unequal social opportunity. He realizes that equal opportunity and advancement according to merit produce unequal incomes. Wherefore he urges that this most American (and constitutional) of ideas be abandoned, for he wants equality of results, even if it can be achieved only by making opportunity unequal. After all, it is luck rather than merit that determines results, and luck has no moral weight. Beyond this assertion (which has already been questioned), Jencks makes no serious attempt to justify morally his brand of equality. He simply assumes that we are all agreed…
"As P. T. Bauer has pointed out, 'income distribution' suggests a fixed stock of income which the government is to distribute and which (discovered by luck?) is independent of the continuous work of those who earn it. Indeed Jencks feels that, since chance distributes income unequally, the government should be '…responsible…for its [more equal] distribution.'

I wrote in:
Having read Ernest van den Haag's article on Christopher Jencks, I am reminded of an old psychiatry joke: A psychotic (egalitarian, in this little morality story) says. "All people are equal, and I'll fight anyone who says I'm wrong." A neurotic (Jencks) says, "People aren't equal, and I just can't stand it." 

And that's pretty much been my shtick ever since.

That raises the question of who is stuck in the past in writing about race: me or everybody else?

In March of 2013, the national media has been obsessed with the Ku Klux Klan. Are they storming Oberlin College? Are they murdering black civil rights leaders in Mississippi?

In contrast, I've long figured that I was going to have to live not in the past, but in the future. A half decade later when I heard the opening line of Patti Smith's crazed rant Babelogue (NSFW), I thought she had her priorities about right.

Back then, my picture of what America was going to be like in the future was a lot like what Los Angeles was like in 1973: the Ku Klux Klan wasn't really relevant. Instead, we were going to have a multiracial society of whites, blacks, Mexicans, and Asians, and the KKK would matter less than things like IQ and work ethic.

How was I to know 40 years ago that in 2013 the KKK would be vastly more interesting than nature and nurture?

March 15, 2013

Mexican-American Eric Garcetti leads L.A. mayor vote

Barely anybody showed up to vote in the first round of the Los Angeles mayor's race last week, but the leader was men's clothier heir Eric Garcetti, the least casually dressed Southern Californian since George S. Patton. (The candidate is the son of the D.A. who botched the O.J. prosecution, Gil Garcetti. Eric's education: UCLA Lab School, Harvard-Westlake, Columbia U., Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and London School of Economics). For complicated dynastic reasons that I can't quite keep straight in my head, the aristocratic Garcetti insists that he is the Mexican candidate in the race. 

Lately, it seems like the best career gimmick is to be a white guy with some sort of claim on being Hispanic. (Okay, the best of all is to be a super-WASPy black like the President, but that seems rarer to pull off.) In 2013, you don't even have to be Spanish-surnamed. An Italian one like Garcetti or Bergoglio will do just fine.

Google Reader on death row

Amazing as it seems now, way back in the 1980s I was almost an expert on software. Now, however, I'm barely in the ballpark terminologically. 

But I have an important announcement. Google Reader (which is some sort of ... thing that many people use, I am told, to read this blog) will be discontinued July 1, according to Google. I don't want you Google Reader readers to miss out. On the other hand, I don't, personally, want to, at this late date, go to the trouble of finally figuring out what Google Reader is so I can advise you on worthy replacements. 

So, here are some Google Reader Alternatives.

Bill McKibben

A reader comments:
Did anyone do a Google Image Search for Bill McKibben? Do yourself a favor and search him. Then imagine that guy trying to talk about environmental stewardship to a big group of la raza swilling Tecate while they load Mt. Baldy snow into the back of their V8 Rams.

The Underpants Gnomes' environmental - immigration strategy

A commenter replies to environmentalist Bill McKibben's call to replace white Americans with Mexicans for the good of the environment:
Cail Corishev said... 
There is method to his madness. He won't say it outright, but knee-jerk Democratic votes, he presumes, will bring liberal Democratic policies including, presumably, environmental ones. 
Exactly. Liberals are much better than conservatives at keeping their eye on the prize, and they know that they can't work toward that prize unless they're in power. With apologies to Futurama [South Park?], their plan looks like this: 
1. Take power
2. ?
3. Live in Utopia 
They know that if they can accomplish #1, #3 is just a matter of time, because #2 is just minor details that they can surely work out because they're just so smart and pretty. 
So it doesn't matter if they have to flood the country with unskilled mouths to feed and criminals, or if they have to subvert the voting process, or if they have to destroy the Constitution and the balance of power between the branches of government, or if all their efforts tank the economy. They can fix all that in step #2, no problem. But only if they get step #1 done first.

Perhaps, although that 3 Step Strategy sounds like a rationalization for a more primal motivation: plain old Step 1 -- taking power for the sake of taking power. I've used this analogy a million times, but LSU doesn't want to defeat Alabama in football to Bring Peace to the SEC or any other high-minded rationalization. LSU wants to defeat Alabama because LSU wants to win and LSU wants Alabama to lose. (The good news about college football is that there isn't much disinformation about the Higher Purpose of LSU beating Alabama. And, LSU and Alabama agree to reciprocal limitations to make things more sporting: no machine guns, players must theoretically be students, players can only be paid in free leases on cars and the like.)

In contrast, much of politics consists of people who really want to defeat the other team for perfectly natural human nature reasons, but spend vast amounts of effort convincing themselves the other team deserves to lose. Therefore, even obvious cheating, like giving millions of foreign ringers the vote, is morally justified in The Big Picture because the fate of the world depends upon you winning the next election.

I'm reminded of a famous quote from 1984:
There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Orwell turned out to be wrong about secret policemen: over the course of the 20th Century, even they tended to get tired of killing and beating massive numbers of people. 

But Orwell's real subject, the one he knew best from introspection and socializing, was intellectual journalist mind (e.g., Eric Blair). And, for his kind, he hasn't been proven wrong yet about the metaphorical "intoxication of power, ... the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless."

Granted, vastly swelling the population of America with disposable diaper-dropping Mexicans in the name of protecting the environment sounds pretty prima facie stupid. But that's not the point. The point is to grab any available tool to hammer The Enemy: i.e., other white people whom you find disagreeable. 

And that never gets old.

"We have nothing to hate but hate itself"

A commenter writes
Back in June my brother wrote me: 
I hate Obama. 
And I wrote back: 
Watch out, before you know it, hate itself will be a crime! We have nothing to hate but hate itself. And haters, themselves, as long as we only hate them for hating. Otherwise, that would make us haters, and we hate haters. For hating. Uh ... yeah. Go Obama!

March 14, 2013

Bill McKibben: The government must elect a new people now -- for the climate

Bill McKibben, prominent ecological activist and professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, writes in the L.A. Times:
Immigration reform -- for the climate 
Immigrants come to the U.S. determined to make a new life. So often they're more open to the kind of changes we'll need to deal with climate change. 
By Bill McKibben   
For environmentalists, population has long been a problem. Many of the things we do wouldn't cause so much trouble if there weren't so many of us. It's why I wrote a book some years ago called "Maybe One: An Argument for Smaller Families." Heck, it's why I had only one child. 
And many of us, I think, long viewed immigration through the lens of population; it was another part of the math problem. I've always thought we could afford historical levels of immigration, but I understood why some other environmentalists wanted tougher restrictions. More Americans would mean more people making use of the same piece of land, a piece that was already pretty hard-used. 
In recent years, though, the math problem has come to look very different to me. It's one reason I feel it's urgent that we get real immigration reform, allowing millions to step out of the shadows and on to a broad path toward citizenship. It will help, not hurt, our environmental efforts, and potentially in deep and powerful ways. 
One thing that's changed is the nature of the ecological problem. Now that global warming is arguably the greatest danger we face, it matters a lot less where people live. Carbon dioxide mixes easily in the atmosphere. It makes no difference whether it comes from Puerto Vallarta or Portland. 
It's true that the typical person from a developing nation would produce more carbon once she adopted an American lifestyle,

The average Mexican in Mexico emits 22% as much carbon per capita as the average resident of America, and Mexico is, by Third World standards, a fairly affluent, car-crazy country that subsidizes gasoline prices. People in Central American countries emit substantially less carbon per capita than Mexicans.

Either illegal aliens and their descendants, are going to fail to assimilate economically to America, which means they and their's will be a net tax burden, or they will assimilate economically and emit vastly more carbon than if they had stayed in their own country. Which is it?
but she also probably would have fewer children.

That's 180 degrees backwards. The total fertility rate for Mexicans-born women in America has been higher than for Mexican women in Mexico for several decades now. The birthrate is extremely high for new immigrant women in the years right after they arrive in America. Thus, during the big Housing Bubble influx of immigrants, the TFR of foreign-born Hispanic women in California was 3.7 in 2005. The TFR in Mexico is 2.32. One reason Mexicans move to the United States, besides their hopes of buying V8 vehicles and big houses with airconditioning, is to have the extra babies they can't afford to have in their own country.
A December report from the Pew Research Center report showed that birthrates in the U.S. were dropping faster among Mexican American women and women who immigrated from Mexico than among any other group.

That's because immigration has been way down because of the lack of jobs in America for the last half decade (although I see a lot of construction projects underway, again). The 1986 amnesty caused a huge Hispanic baby boom from 1988-1994.
This is a trend reflected among all Latinas in the U.S. As an immigrant mother of two from the Dominican Republic told the New York Times: "Before, I probably would have been pressured to have more, [but] living in the United States, I don't have family members close by to help me, and it takes a village to raise a child. So the feeling is, keep what you have right now." Her two grandmothers had had a total of 27 children. The carbon math, in other words, may well be a wash.

The total fertility rate in the Dominican Republic is down to 2.58, which is no higher than the immigrant Hispanic TFR in the U.S., even during this lull. And Dominicans in the DR only emit 11% as much carbon per capita as the average inhabitant of this country.
... And that's precisely where white America has fallen short. Election after election, native-born and long-standing citizens pull the lever for climate deniers, for people who want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, for the politicians who take huge quantities of cash from the Koch brothers and other oil barons.

For white liberals, immigration is all about electing a new people to defeat white conservatives. They don't actually believe the immigrants are real human being with real behaviors that will make a difference for the environment. They're just notional tokens to be used to defeat the Real Enemy.
By contrast, a 2012 report by the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza found that Latinos were eager for environmental progress. Seventy-seven percent of Latino voters think climate change is already happening, compared with just 52% of the general population; 92% of Latinos think we have "a moral responsibility to take care of God's creation here on Earth."

Oh, boy ...

Even though McKibben lives in Vermont, he has no excuse to be this disingenuous about the environmental behavior of Latinos, especially illegal aliens. See this Los Angeles Times article about how they treat a mountain stream in Southern California.

Further, former Mexican foreign secretary Jorge Castaneda's most recent book pointed out that his countrymen in Mexico have zero interest in environmentalist lifestyles. They hate taking public transportation, they hate living in apartment buildings, their strongest desires are to get a single family house out in the sprawl with a bunch of big cars.
... But immigrants, by definition, are full of hope. They've come to a new place determined to make a new life, risking much for opportunity. They're confident that new kinds of prosperity are possible. The future beckons them, and so changes of the kind we'll need to deal with climate change are easier to conceive.

Embarrassing ...
Republicans think immigrants are a natural fit for their party, and I hope they're at least partly right — some force needs to help ease the Republicans out of their love affair with ideology and back into a relationship with reality. As commentator Bill O'Reilly put it as he watched Mitt Romney lose despite gaining a huge majority of white votes, "it's not a traditional America anymore." 
He's right. And for the environment, that's good news. We need immigrants to this nation engaged in public life, as soon and as fully as possible. It's not just the moral thing to do, it's a key to our future. 
Bill McKibben is the founder of and a professor at Middlebury College.

From the Wikipedia article on Middlebury, Vermont:
The racial makeup of the town was 94.27% White, 1.09% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 1.87% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.81% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.13% of the population. 

McKibben lives as far from Mexican immigrants as he can get in the continental U.S. Perhaps there is a political lesson for us all in his behavior.

Moreover, there's the Central Paradox of American Politics: Mexicans do better under a Texas-style pro-development state than under a California-style anti-development state.

Environmentalism is expensive. Generally, expensive things are nicer than cheap things, so what's super-nice is being able to afford nice things. Having a highly skilled population of limited size helps afford nice things like environmentalism. Having a giant population of lower average skills makes it harder to afford environmentalism. This is all really obvious if you think about it from a non-Who? Whom? perspective.

Sailer: "The KKKrazy Glue that holds the Obama Coalition together"

From my column in Taki's Magazine:
We are constantly told that the GOP is doomed because it’s the party of straight white men. That may well be true, but few have asked: How can the diverse Democrats hold together? How can special interests as different as blacks and gays be kept in sync? 
The answer appears to be: The Obama coalition can stay together only by stoking resentment—and, indeed, hatred—of straight white men. This naked animus is rationalized by projecting the hate felt by the victorious Democrats onto the losers: 
We hate straight white Republican men because…they are so full of…uh…hate. Yeah, that’s the ticket: We hate them because they are hateful. No, wait, I mean, we hate them because they are hate-filled. They’re practically Ku Klux Klanners. 
To service this Hunger for Hate, the prestige press assiduously generates the Democratic Party’s KKKrazy Glue by whipping up fear and loathing over hate crimes, even when they didn’t, technically, happen. 

Read the whole thing there.

(Note: I borrowed the neologism "KKKrazy Glue" from an anonymous commenter.)

New Pope is dual citizen of Italy and Argentina

Hispanic Pope
(plus actor Jeffrey Tambor, who is neither Hispanic nor Pope)
One of five children, Bergoglio was born on Dec. 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, the son of Italian immigrants from Turin. He holds citizenship in both Argentina and Italy -- a fact that qualified [probably something like "helped" would be a better translation] him as a papal candidate. While his home is Latin America, Bergoglio is also at home in Europe. A man of the world church, his humility and modesty are said to be admired by other cardinals. 
Bergoglio studied chemical engineering before he went to seminary and joined the Jesuit order. He taught philosophy, psychology and literature courses, and became a priest in 1969, going on to lead Argentina's Jesuit province. In 1985, his doctoral studies brought him to a seminary in Frankfurt, which is why he now speaks German. In 1998, Pope John Paul II named him archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2005 he became the head of Argentina's bishops' conference. He enjoys cooking, opera, Greek classics, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and swimming.

Italians care a lot about having the Pope be Italian.

White Hispanic

March 13, 2013

Pope Francis: A Lionel Messi halo effect?

I read in Grantland yesterday:
There was even a rumor making the rounds Tuesday afternoon that the cardinals in Rome trying to elect a pope conveniently called it a day a half-hour before the Barcelona-Milan game so they could catch the broadcast. 

Barcelona's great Italian-Argentine leader Lionel Messi broke out of a minor slump to score two goals to lead Barcelona to a 4-0 win over Silvio Berlusconi's AC Milan.

Today, it was announced that the conclave had elected an Italian-Argentine cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to be the new Pope.


Viewed in the crass terms of ethnic politics, this pick looks like a two-fer: satisfying the rising Hispanic tidal wave etc., while also letting the Italians get back the Papacy, which they held for about a half-millennium up until the Polish Pope.

Study: Less masculine men are more PC-whipped

From Vice:
Ironically, a Man's Face Can Tell You If He's Likely to Act Racist 
By Austin Considine 
What can we tell about a person from his or her face? Quite a bit, it seems. Psychological experiments since the turn of the millennium have indicated we do a good job judging people's sexual orientation, reproductive fitness, criminal proclivities, and even whether they're Mormon or not, all based on their faces.

A new study suggests there’s another trait we can add to the list: a man’s willingness to express racist beliefs. 
There’s an obvious irony to a study that says we can tell if a man will act bigoted based on the shape of his face. But the logic underpinning the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Delaware and soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science, is a circuitous and unexpected one, and makes a persuasive case. 
Turns out it’s all about the testosterone. 
Recent research indicates that men with high levels of testosterone have certain facial characteristics that set them apart from men with less testosterone. In particular, they have what researchers call a higher facial Width-to-Height Ratio (fWHR) which compares the distance between cheekbones to the distance between the upper lip and midbrow. Men with a higher ratio have faces that appear a bit wider horizontally and bit compressed vertically (see below). 
Studies suggest they also tend to behave more often in ways we commonly associate with testosterone—including (sorry, guys) a greater willingness to cheat, exploit other people, commit fouls on a hockey rink, and behave aggressively in general. 
The difference in fWHR commonly found between men and women seems to emerge during puberty, when most adolescent boys’ testosterone suddenly shoots through the roof. Their narrow, egg-shaped craniums get proportionally wider, a bit more block-shaped. ... 
Not all men’s faces change equally because not all men have the same levels of testosterone. And here’s the other thing past research suggests about men with high testosterone: They want to dominate. What’s more, we don’t want to stand in their way because, for starters, we probably find men with high fWHRs more physically imposing. 
As it’s written the study: 
… it may be more accurate to say that testosterone promotes the search for and maintenance of social dominance. Therefore, to the extent that a greater fWHR is associated with increased testosterone, fWHR may be a physical manifestation of dominance motives in males and may be best described as an inclination toward interpersonal social dominance and related behaviors. 
Among the ways men exercise dominant behavior is by breaking society’s rules. (“Neurological findings," the study notes, “have shown that high testosterone levels are associated with reduced activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, an area used in impulse control and inhibition.) And we, in turn, assume they’ll break them. Whether we know it or not, we know which men will break the rules because we know by the shapes of their faces which ones have more testosterone. 
In the world outside your local Tea Party Rally, of course, society says it’s bad to openly express racist opinions. So the Delaware researchers, led by psychology and brain science professor, Eric Hehman (now at Dartmouth), wondered if men with a higher fWHR might feel more comfortable expressing explicitly racist opinions because their high testosterone made them feel less socially inhibited. After gathering and testing 70 white males, researchers found that, relative to the others, they did. 
The researchers also wondered if observers looking at photographs of those same 70 men would more often assume the men with wider, shorter faces were more racist. They did. What’s more, their assessments fell right in line with what the 70 men had revealed about themselves: Those men whom the observers believed to be racist were also much more likely to have explicitly expressed racist views. ... 
In the course of several email exchanges, Hehman pointed out that he and his colleagues also tested the 70 men in the study on expressions of “implicit” racial prejudice, which he described as “an automatic association of other races with ‘bad things’”—a kind of unconscious response “that people are less able to control.” When it came to these implicit expressions of prejudice, they had no correlation with a person’s face shape. In that sense, we are bad judges. ... 

In other words, Dr. Hehman is measuring PC-whippedness. Within the security of one's own skull, there's no correlation between masculinity and noticing racial patterns, but the less masculine men tend to lack the courage to express their crimethink.
As Hehman emphasized, this is really a study about willingness to express racist views, not the views themselves. Still, there’s a deterministic quality to the research that, like earlier research linking face structure to criminality or Mormonism, suggests a certain inevitability—an idea many an anti-racist would fundamentally resist.

I suspect the reporter's views of how "many an anti-racist" would think are fundamentally out of date. They've moved well beyond attempts at principled consistency to a simpler paradigm of Good Guys v. Bad Guys.
Hehman doesn’t shy away from its implications: “Ultimately I think the [practical application of the study] is to help people learn when to trust their instincts regarding others’ personalities, and when and in which situations to doubt their instincts, as they are more likely to be incorrect in other situations,” he said.

Of course, in the interests of Science, we must observe the data point that is Dr. Hehman's own personal face:

Beckham v. Rooney: Facial width and class

English soccer stars David Beckham and Wayne Rooney
Here's a nice comparison photo of the two most famous English soccer players of the century, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. Both are from working class backgrounds, but I think most people would agree that Beckham's facial features look more aristocratic than Rooney's. My impression is the sheer difference in facial width between Beckham and Rooney triggers class markers in our heads.

By the way, Beckham seems to agree that even if he wasn't to the manor born, he was to the manor destined, marrying the former Posh Spice and putting a lot of effort into dressing in a classy manner more befitting an old-fashioned sportsman than a modern footballer.

So, why do we associated elongated features with higher class? (Beckham isn't extremely tall -- he's around 5'11", but whether through slenderness or good posture or a good tailor, he seems taller.)

I don't think ethnicity is the answer here. Obviously, Rooney looks like an 1885 Punch cartoon involving bogs and potatoes, but plenty of guys with Irish last names have been leading men in Hollywood. (My vague impression is that the Irish have been disproportionately represented as leading men, although not necessarily as leading ladies. To pick just one example, former James Bond Pierce Brosnan is Irish Catholic working class. I wouldn't bet against the proposition that Irish American men are above average in looks.)

But why would narrow faces be associated with higher class? Is it just a visual cliche, or nurture (better diet?), or did the upper classes somehow breed for elongation? And, if so, why?

California, There They Go

Via Invasive Exotic Species, here's a Census Bureau graph of top ten net flows between California and other American states in 1955-1960 (red) and 1995-2000 (blue). In the later 1950s, all the net flows were toward California. In the later 1990s, all the net flows were out of the Golden State, except for a thin influx from New York, probably to work in then-booming Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

And yet, the total population of California grew by over 2 million from 1995 to 2000.

March 12, 2013

Rent-a-Minority Inc.

From the NYT:
Minority Groups and Bottlers Team Up in Battles Over Soda


The decision by a New York State judge striking down the Bloomberg administration’s ban on large, sugary drinks this week was not just a high-profile victory for the soda companies in their pitched battle against anti-obesity policies that are aimed at their products. It was also a victory for the industry’s steadfast, if surprising, allies: advocacy groups representing the very communities hit hardest by the obesity epidemic.

There shouldn't be anything too "surprising" about the Rent-a-Minority business, no more than Henry Cisneros being the Hispanic face of Countrywide Financial. Similarly, the tobacco companies poured a lot of money into minority groups before their legal defeat in the 1990s. It's just that The Narrative gets in the way of people noticing it, just as The Narrative encourages it.

Also, much of what we remember about the past is due to which subjects are deemed worthy of rehashing because they Fit the Narrative. For example, here's a 1987 NYT article mentioning all the Big Tobacco money accepted by civil rights and feminist organizations. But, that's not the kind of topic that gets dredged up on its anniversary.
Dozens of Hispanic and African-American civil rights groups, health advocacy organizations and business associations have joined the beverage industry in opposing soda regulation around the country in recent years, arguing that such measures — perhaps the greatest regulatory threat the soft-drink industry has ever faced — are discriminatory, paternalistic or ineffective.
Many of these groups have something else in common: They are among the recipients of tens of millions of dollars from the beverage industry that has flowed to nonprofit and educational organizations serving blacks and Hispanics over the last decade, according to a review by The New York Times of charity records and other documents. 

The beverage business, in particular, has a long history of this. I can recall after the Al Campanis brouhaha in the 1980s, sportswriters called on baseball teams to hire Joe Morgan as a manager. But Morgan, as a black Republican (an old friend of George H.W. Bush going back to their days in Houston in the mid-1960s), instead got to buy a Coors bottling company as part of that Republican-owned company's innoculation of itself against charges of racism for being Republican. As Morgan sensibly explained, you don't get to leave a big league manager's job to your son in your will.

A soda suggestion for fast food places: offer a caffeine-free diet soft drink

Every since Mayor Bloomberg decided to ban big soft drinks, there has been much discussion of the health effects of various kinds of soft drinks. 

I'd like to make a suggestion. Typically, fast food restaurants have drink dispensers that offer six to eight types of soft drinks. Generally, only one is artificially sweetened: either Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi. 

But, for a lot of people, caffeine interferes with sleep, so they don't like to consume it after a certain point in the day. So, if you want a sugar-free and caffeine-free drink, the only alternative offered by most fast food restaurants is water, typically either sold bottled at an absurd mark-up or dispensed at a very slow rate from the soft drink fountain. So, I've often seen people order sugary soft drinks at dinner because a Diet Coke would keep them awake.

Therefore, here's a reasonable step that fast food restaurants could voluntarily take: replace their worst-selling sugared soft drink with a diet non-caffeinated soft drink. Nothing radical, just add Diet Sprite or something like that to the lineup.

My impression, however, is that soft drink companies don't actually want you to realize that it's the caffeine in their products that gives you a lift. They want you to think it's the patented Pepsiosity or whatever.

After the Golden Age

Sunset lights Horsetail Falls in
Yosemite each mid-February;
discovered by Galen Rowell, 1973
Last year, I was reading up on all the artisanal food companies in Brooklyn these days, and I commented in passing:
In a couple of decades, a few of the people who were in on the Brooklyn artisanal food scene in, say, 2007, will be billionaires, and will, no doubt, be greatly resented as sell outs by all the people who were there with them and didn't make it big. But, such is the way of the world.

I find this an interesting phenomenon of who among the people who got there early manages to cash in on a golden age. 

For example, the two dominant personalities among Yosemite Big Wall climbers in the late 1950s-1960s golden age were Warren Harding (not the President, but a Northern California surveyor who took up climbing at age 30) and Royal Robbins (a wunderkind from Tahquitz Rock in Southern California). Robbins climbed the 2000' face of Half Dome in the summer of 1957, so Harding climbed the 3000' El Capitan that fall. They traded off firsts for years, teaming up with dozens of other climbers, although, as far as I know, never with each other.
Half Dome

Harding finally became a celebrity in 1970 when he and a partner took 27 days to climb the Wall of the Early Morning Light on El Capitan. After about three weeks, the National Park Service attempted to rescue them, but they finally managed to convince the rangers they were in no need of rescue. (I followed the story in the newspaper every day for the last tend days or so of the climb.) Harding went off to do the talk shows in New York, where his wit made him a hit, and got an agent who set up a lecture tour. But he managed to spend more money on it than he took in, so he went back to being a surveyor.

(One of Harding's many climbing partners, an auto mechanic named Galen Rowell, went on to become the top mountain photographer of his era, the closest thing to a color photography successor to Ansel Adams.)

Robbins, the more talented climber and the more intellectual writer, was more influential within the climbing community: he put down Harding for drilling bolts into the rock, helping develop the dominant aesthetic of only wedging metal to anchor the safety rope into naturally occurring cracks. Robbins eventually founded a clothing brand that is still around.

But the big winner out of Golden Age climbers was one in the second tier right below Harding and Robbins: Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, the big clothing and gear company. Chouinard was more part of Team Robbins than Team Harding. Chouinard was a San Fernando Valley boy who started rock-climbing at Stoney Point (where I spent much of the summer of 1977 until I realized I was scared of heights).

I think you'll find fairly similar patterns in most golden ages. They always make a good story. (Now that I think of it, that's the basic idea behind the musical Dreamgirls: In the Supremes, why did Diana Ross become a legend and Florence Ballard, the better singer, die on welfare?)


Mount Robson, British Columbia, first ascent 1913
I just finished reading a 1982 book entitled Climbing in North America by English mountaineer Chris Jones that I loved. It's an excellent history of mountain climbing and rock climbing in America. 

The Nose route at El Capitan,
Warren Harding, 1957
The distinction between mountain and rock climbing traditionally was that mountain climbing was originally about taking the easiest way to get up the hardest mountains (e.g., Hillary and Tenzing going up the southeast ridge of Mt. Everest), while rock climbers look for the hardest possible ways to climb elevations that may well have very easy ways to get to the top (e.g., Yosemite's El Capitan, the biggest rock in America is a drive and a stroll to the top).

Mountaineering started earlier in North America, with the Duke of the Abruzzi climbing 18,000 foot Mt. St. Elias in Alaska in 1897. 

Rock climbing in North America started to emerge as a separate specialty in 1930s, with some Berkeley kids methodically figuring out the safest ways to belay (before, ropes seemed to add danger almost as much as they lessened it -- e.g., cutting the rope on the Matterhorn in 1865 saved the last three of the seven climbers). From the late 1930s to the early 1950s, modern American rock climbing was largely worked out on the 1000' face of Tahquitz Rock in Southern California. Focus then shifted to the big walls of Yosemite Valley, with a Golden Age of roughly 1957-1970.

Anyway, I'm not going to recommend you all rush out and read a 30 year out of date history of climbing. It's just something that appeals to me, personally.

And that's why I named this post "Women." 

I read this old book because it was one of seven picked out for me by my old neighbor lady across the street. A surgeon at her church had died, and the heirs said they didn't want his large library of books. So she decided to give them away to her acquaintances, based on her intuitions about which books each recipient would most like. 

Out of the seven she chose for me, I'd already read (and quite enjoyed) two: the memoirs of Frank Capra and Robert Novak. I'd always felt kind of guilty about not reading another: "A Bright Shining Lie," although it turned out to be overrated when I started to read it (too long). And I was absolutely blown away by this old mountain climbing book, and liked the other three books. 

In other words, my neighbor did a ridiculously good job of picking out seven books that would appeal to me personally. My impression is that, in general, women are a lot better than men are at this kind of task of noticing, remembering, and applying idiosyncratic traits about individuals.

"Gendered Races: Implications for Interracial Marriage, Leadership Selection, and Athletic Participation"

From Psychological Science:
Gendered Races: Implications for Interracial Marriage, Leadership Selection, and Athletic Participation 
Adam D. Galinsky 1,
Erika V. Hall 2 and
Amy J. C. Cuddy 3 
+ Author Affiliations
1Management Division, Columbia Business School, Columbia University
2Management & Organizations Department, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
3Negotiations, Organizations, & Markets Unit, Harvard Business School, Harvard University 
Six studies explored the overlap between racial and gender stereotypes, and the consequences of this overlap for interracial dating, leadership selection, and athletic participation. Two initial studies captured the explicit and implicit gender content of racial stereotypes: Compared with the White stereotype, the Asian stereotype was more feminine, whereas the Black stereotype was more masculine. Study 3 found that heterosexual White men had a romantic preference for Asians over Blacks and that heterosexual White women had a romantic preference for Blacks over Asians; preferences for masculinity versus femininity mediated participants’ attraction to Blacks relative to Asians. The pattern of romantic preferences observed in Study 3 was replicated in Study 4, an analysis of the data on interracial marriages from the 2000 U.S. Census. Study 5 showed that Blacks were more likely and Asians less likely than Whites to be selected for a masculine leadership position. In Study 6, an analysis of college athletics showed that Blacks were more heavily represented in more masculine sports, relative to Asians. These studies demonstrate that the gender content of racial stereotypes has important real-world consequences.

Some of these disparities diminish if you look at just American-born Asians, but, overall, it's pretty much in line with my 1997 article Is Love Colorblind? I just didn't assume it was all sheer hallucinatory stereotyping.

March 11, 2013

Facebook's race gap in "likes" bigger than its gender gap

A new study out of Cambridge University uses a database of Facebook "likes" to predict demographic and personality information about individuals. Race (black v. white, ignoring other races) turns out to be the easiest to predict based on what stuff people like. The Cambridge model gets race right 95% of the time, compared to only 93% of the time for sex.

Update: What this 95% figure means is that when they randomly select one white and one black from the sample and ask the model which is which it get the races right 95% of the time, compared to the 50% it would get from just guessing.
“Fig. 2 shows the prediction accuracy of dichotomous variables expressed in terms of the area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC), which is equivalent to the probability of correctly classifying two randomly selected users one from each class (e.g., male and female).“

The left column above is stuff black people like a lot more than white people do, and the right column is stuff white people like a lot more than black people do (small towns, Davie Bowie, Harley Davidsons, being nice to animals, sterility, etc.).

As a study of Twitter showed in 2010, black people really like being black.

Some of the best discriminator likes for whether a Facebook user drinks alcohol sound like a Norm McDonald Weekend Update from 1996:
I Like Watching Raindrops Silently Race Across My Window and Cheering for Them 
Meeting Someone Who Is Also Drunk and Immediately Becoming Best Friends.

And then there's gay v. straight males:
Obviously, stereotypes tend to be true, statistically speaking.

Yet, another thing that could be researched from this database is how common are exceptions to stereotypes. For example, I had a gay friend who was a huge college football and major league baseball fan. Obviously, that's unusual, but I can't really estimate quantitatively how unusual. I'd say "an order of magnitude," but that's pretty much what I say for every quantitative estimate for which I don't say "oh, about fifty-fifty."

In this study, the model of Facebook likes could get gay man vs. straight right 88% of the time, but lesbian vs. straight right only 75% of the time. (Here's my article "Why Lesbians Aren't Gay" from 19 years ago, which lists about three dozen likes and dislikes that tend to distinguish gays from lesbians.)

Obama Administration on interracial and intraracial homicides

With gun violence much in the news (e.g., 13 people were wounded early this morning in D.C. near where Matthew Yglesias got stomped in a racial hate crime a couple of years ago), here's a graph from the 2011 report Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008 by the Obama Administration’s Bureau of Justice Statistics
Note: crime is of course the one area where the feds lump Hispanics in with whites, so the white numbers are increasingly made up of Hispanics as the graph moves from 1980 to 2008.

"How Social Darwinism Made Modern China"

Ron Unz has a new article in The American Conservative:
How Social Darwinism Made Modern China
A thousand years of meritocracy shaped the Middle Kingdom.