21 October 2008

This simple experiment demolished any idea that racial discrimination is a thing of the past

Sticks and stones can break bones, but the wrong name can make a job hard to find

To test whether employers discriminate against black job applicants, Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago and Sendhil Mullainathan of M.I.T. conducted an unusual experiment. They selected 1,300 help-wanted ads from newspapers in Boston and Chicago and submitted multiple résumés from phantom job seekers. The researchers randomly assigned the first names on the résumés, choosing from one set that is particularly common among blacks and from another that is common among whites.

So Kristen and Tamika, and Brad and Tyrone, applied for jobs from the same pool of want ads and had equivalent résumés. Nine names were selected to represent each category: black women, white women, black men and white men. Last names common to the racial group were also assigned. Four résumés were typically submitted for each job opening, drawn from a reservoir of 160. Nearly 5,000 applications were submitted from mid-2001 to mid-2002. Professors Bertrand and Mullainathan kept track of which candidates were invited for job interviews.

No single employer was sent two identical résumés, and the names on the résumés were randomly assigned, so applicants with black- and white-sounding names applied for the same set of jobs with the same set of résumés.

Apart from their names, applicants had the same experience, education and skills, so employers had no reason to distinguish among them.

The results are disturbing. Applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be called for interviews than were those with black-sounding names. Interviews were requested for 10.1 percent of applicants with white-sounding names and only 6.7 percent of those with black-sounding names.

This article is from 2002, so perhaps some change in attitudes have occurred since.

If Affirmitive Action programs are not the solution, then what is the antidote? Or as some believe, no corrections, which are often tainted with unintended consequences, are necessary, as things will shake out eventually.

This study by Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan was highlighted in a chapter titled "The Dangers of Rational Racism" within "The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World". I am Almost finished, it is an excellent read and I plan to review more on these provocative inspections of "rational" economic actors in further posts. Other standout chapters include "Is Divorce Underrated" and "Why Your Boss is Overpaid". If you've read Freakonomics, it is in a similar vein, but I think this book by Tim Harford to be a notch above that one.

Back to Harford's look at "rational racism" — he details how economists break down racism into two kinds — "taste-based" (aka bigotry) and statistical (or his favored term, rational) racism. Taste-based racism hurts both the bigot and the victim. The racist acts against his economic interest is also harmed, as his meritocracy seeking competition will out perform his outfit. Statistical racism, on the other hand, is profitable for the business proprietor, and worse, condemns the victim to a status whereby her efforts to improve her economic lot matter not, thus dooming the affected minority to self-defeating cycle of poverty. The disparity will not go away on its own accord, and that is the difference between rational racism and taste-based discrimination.

16 October 2008

Arizona 2008 Election Ballot Proposition Roundup

Generally, I vote NO on all ballot propositions unless I am struck that the passage is warranted and outweighs any unintentional consequences that may arise. For the 2008 election campaign, nearly all of these are framed in Orwellian fashion, and a savvy Arizona voter should note who is supporting and who is opposing each of these.

Prop 100: Protect Our Homes — Amend the Arizona Constitution to prohibit new taxes, fees, etc.… on property sales and transactions. Not a big fan of these types of future proof proclamations. NO

Prop 101: Medical Choice for Arizona — Another Orwellian branded proposition, this seems to be more of a preimmunization effort against state provided healthcare. If it was confined to just respecting those that wish to bypass a future universal health care model, I would have no problem, but I believe it to be more open ended to restrict such programs from being born. NO

Prop 102: Marriage — Amends the Arizona Constitution to stipulate that marriage is only between one man and one woman. Agree with the sentiment but lean more to the Ronald Reagan adage that government should stay out of the bedroom. NO

Prop 105: Majority Rules — This really ought to be titled "Kill ALL Future Ballot Propositions" as this would amend the Arizona Constitution to make ballot propositions pass only with a majority of all registered voters, regardless of whether they cast a ballot or not. So if only 50% of eligible voters submit votes on a particular ballot proposition, 100% of them could be in agreement but the initiative would still fail. A ridiculous proposal. NO

Prop 200: Payday Loan Reform Act — Another referendum titled in Orwellian fashion. Current law affecting payday loan industry is set to sunset in 2010 and the payday loan proprietors are acting now to insure their profitable practice of usury continues unabated. Not arguing for the total extinction of the payday loan industry but it really needs to exist a economic framework where the maximum APR is capped at something far less than 391%. NO

Prop 201: Homeowners' Bill of Rights — Provides a "warranty" for new home purchases. That home builders are against is enough for me to be for it. YES

Prop 202: Stop Illegal Hiring — Yet another questionably titled proposition. Opponents claim it's an end run around existing law designed to give employers amnesty in advance for hiring illegal workers. I think we have enough legislation on the books already and government would better serve us by enforcing the laws already in existence. NO

Prop 300: State Legislator Salaries — A proposal to raise state legislator salaries to 30K from 24K. Everyone loathes pay raises for lawmakers, but here 30K is not an unreasonable request. YES

The local PBS TV station has a roundup of the Arizona Ballot Propositions you may wish to review also.

12 October 2008

Bloodbath at Nova M/KPHX

Reported on forum boards
Apparently, Nova M owners Shelly & Anita Drobny have fired CEO John Manzo, program director/afternoon drive host Jeff Farias, sales director Kim Macias and webmaster Billy Foster. Manzo has been hired by Randi Rhodes for her show's independent production team; it looks as if Nova M is claiming that Farias left to pursue another offer made to him and Foster quit in protest, but Farias is himself claiming they were all fired. Leonard Clark, a one-time commentator on Farias' show, has put up a website,, in support of Farias' side in the situation...

...and, strangely, the new CEO at the "liberal" Nova M is Art Mobley, who was quoted by UPI at a few months ago as a John McCain ally (shades of Evan Cohen)...

I wondered how long Jeff Farias would get to enjoy his post after the sudden shakeup in 2007 that estranged popular liberal talk host Mike Necomb from Valley airwaves

I detest most all of the Air America network programming — it's as shrill and hateful as all the bellicose right wing talkers everywhere else on the dial. It adds nothing to the debate except more divisive namecalling and belittling of those who don't agree with the host's viewpoints. The only exceptions are Thom Hartman and Jeff's show, though Jeff mimicked a good bit of the angry conservative talk guy MO. However, Jeff is the sole voice (local talent) on the dial compared to the gushing flood of neocon and right wing voices.