“Acting white” and its price

Mark Steckbeck directs our attention to a new paper by Roland Fryer and Paul Torelli.  Here is an excerpt:

Among whites, higher grades yield higher popularity. For
Blacks, higher achievement is associated with modestly higher
popularity until a grade point average of 3.5, when the slope turns
negative. A black student with a 4.0 has, on average, 1.5 fewer
same-race friends than a white student with a 4.0. Among Hispanics,
there is little change in popularity from a grade point average of 1
through 2.5. After 2.5, the gradient turns sharply negative. A Hispanic
student with a 4.0 grade point average is the least popular of all
Hispanic students, and has 3 fewer friends than a typical white student
with a 4.0 grade point average. Put differently, evaluated at the
sample mean, a one standard deviation increase in grades is associated
with roughly a .103 standard deviation decrease in social status for
Blacks and a .171 standard deviation decrease for Hispanics. For
students with a 3.5 grade point average or better, the effect triples.

…signals that beget labor market
success are signals that induce peer rejection…these differences will be exacerbated in arenas that foster more
interracial contact or increased mobility…
‘Acting white’ is more salient in public schools and schools in which
the percentage of black students is less than twenty, but non-existent
among blacks in predominantly black schools or those who attend private
schools. Schools with more interracial contact have an ‘acting white’
coefficient twice as large as more segregated schools (seven times as
large for Black males). Other models we consider, such as self-sabotage
among black youth or the presence of an oppositional culture identity,
all contradict the data in important ways.

Here is the paper itself.  There was also a good write-up in Richard Morin’s Unconventional Wisdom column, from today’s Washington Post, but this installment is not yet on-line.  Here are our earlier posts on Fryer.


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