Posts Tagged ‘Race’

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Stable Integration: how our assumptions shape reality

May 26, 2011

I just finished reading The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson’s incredible book about the Great Migration.  It deserves its own post (or three), but I’ll highlight one overlap here.  (Also, please don’t go back through the archives to see how long it has taken me to finish it.  And if you do, you should blame my semester and not the book).

In tracing the journey of one of her three main characters, Wilkerson writes about white flight from neighborhoods in the cities of the North.  She writes that while the arrival of black families was associated with decreases in housing prices, the decline worked almost exclusively through a mechanism of fear.  A whisper of black integration put neighborhoods into “real estate purgatory” that set off a downward cycle of anticipation in which no one would buy, rent prices fell in an attempt to attract poorer whites, homeowners sold for less than their home was worth to avoid getting “stuck,” and those who remained had no incentive to invest in or improve their properties.

Thus many white neighborhoods began declining before colored residents even arrived.  There emerged a perfect storm of nervous owners, falling prices, vacancies unfillable with white tenants or buyers, and a market of colored buyers who may not have been able to afford the neighborhood at first but now could with prices within their reach.  The arrival of colored home buyers was often the final verdict on a neighborhood’s falling property value rather than the cause of it” (376-7).

I recently read an article by Philip Nyden, Michael Maly, and John Lukehart from 1997 asking whether or not stable racially integrated neighborhoods exist in the United States.  In short, they do, and the article is worth reading if you have access to it.  But what really struck me was the slightly-updated-but-still-the-same-as-the-1950’s summary of the ways in which our assumptions shape reality:

…the persistent…misconception [is] that economically, racially, and ethnically mixed neighborhoods are inherently unstable and not viable.  For middle-income white homeowners and renters, racial or economic diversity is interpreted as a signal of neighborhood decline and imminent declines in housing values.  For lower-income groups, such diversity often flags the possibility of gentrification, increasing housing costs, and the concomitant displacement of low-income renters.

In both cases, those expectations shape what happens next.  On one hand, expecting decline, those who can get out.  On the other, expecting gentrification, potential buyers looking to make an investment start considering a neighborhood they wouldn’t have before—their very consideration inching prices up.

For me, there’s no doubt that personal prejudice still plays a significant role in perpetuating housing segregation.  But if we could get the market hysteria out of the equation, it’d certainly help.

Jonas

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Unemployment and privilege, take 2

February 15, 2010

Regarding the unemployment levels of the working, service, and so-called creative classes, a commenter writes:

The working-service-creative class distinction. Is this fully an aspect of privilege? Why–because of connection to educational opportunities?

I stumbled across this graph earlier today.  Though Yglesias uses it to make a different point, I was struck by how closely the unemployment line of the creative class mirrors that of college graduates.

I know putting two graphs side-by-side doesn’t mean anything about their relationship, but it doesn’t make me take back my assertion that you can trace job class back to educational attainment back to socioeconomic status.

UPDATE: since most of you are seeing this in Google Reader and not on the actual blog, I’m comparing the graph above with the one below (not the two graphs above with each other).  Sorry, team.

Jonas

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Yet another category of privilege

February 11, 2010

I follow the unemployment numbers–in general, but also by race and gender–pretty closely.  And they’re not good.  Overall unemployment is disheartening, but the racial breakdown is another reminder that we’ve got a long way to go.

In January 2010, White unemployment was 8.7%.  For African Americans, it was 16.5%.  For African American men, the percentage climbs to 17.6.

And scroll back to this summer.  White youth unemployment hovered around 25% but African American youth unemployment nudged 50%.  No matter what time boundaries you draw, African Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed as Whites.  The disparity is incredible.

But it wasn’t until stumbling into Roger Martin’s work at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management that I realized a huge part of why I haven’t felt the high unemployment levels in my peer group–even across race.  By his definition, we’re all in the creative class.  And even now, unemployment in the creative class is just crossing the 4% threshold.

Once you commit to naming your privilege, the list never ends.

Jonas

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SES trumps GPA

September 3, 2009

Sorry for the light posting, folks. I’m on the road for the next month with only intermittent Internet access. I’ll check in when I can but in the meantime, enjoy Flying Whale.

Here are the findings, graph-style, from a Department of Education study tracking college graduation rates. As Nathan points out,

many low-income students who had high math performance still didn’t complete college. The percentage of college completion for low-income, high math students was still lower than high-income, low math students.

snap20051012a.b1bgk0f29b4gwg0o04oksk8sg.8td8r2s3w1cs4kksc4okksgg8.thDepressing.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview last week of some forthcoming research on labelling students academically talented/gifted and–at least in Georgia–the results echo the ones above. Kids’ chances have more to do with their SES status and the quality of their school than, you know, their intellectual ability.

Once you throw race into the mix–it’s almost impossible for a poor African American at a bad school who is academically gifted to be identified as such. If I remember correctly, their chance is something like 1.8%. I’ll post that study here as soon as it becomes available (and edit that number if need be).

Obviously, the solutions that make college graduation more attainable for poor students and the policy and attitudinal changes that would level the nomination and testing process for being identified as academically gifted are quite different. But I’m adding both sets of data to my response arsenal when someone insists we have a merit-based education system.

Jonas