Saturday, September 11, 2010

"black" names and class; the first problem with Tim Wise's latest book

Tim Wise posted, "Just got this excellent and detailed review of my latest book, Colorblind, from the Chandigarh Tribune, in the Chandigarh territory of India (in Northern India), and thought I’d share it."

I followed the link. Here's the review's second paragraph:
As Tim Wise writes in his recent book, Colorblind: "After all, 2004 was the same year that research from MIT and the University of Chicago found that job applicants with ‘white’ names were 50 per cent more likely to be called back for an interview than those with ‘black’ names, even when all their qualifications were indistinguishable."
I remembered that "black names" don't affect life outcome. A Roshanda by Any Other Name first criticizes the research Wise uses, then notes:
The California names data, however, afford a more robust opportunity. By subjecting this data to the economist's favorite magic trick—a statistical wonder known as regression analysis—it's possible to tease out the effect of any one factor (in this case, a person's first name) on her future education, income, and health.

The data show that, on average, a person with a distinctively black name—whether it is a woman named Imani or a man named DeShawn—does have a worse life outcome than a woman named Molly or a man named Jake. But it isn't the fault of his or her name. If two black boys, Jake Williams and DeShawn Williams, are born in the same neighborhood and into the same familial and economic circumstances, they would likely have similar life outcomes. But the kind of parents who name their son Jake don't tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn. And that's why, on average, a boy named Jake will tend to earn more money and get more education than a boy named DeShawn. DeShawn's name is an indicator—but not a cause—of his life path.
Or, in other words, it's class, not race.

Sorry, Tim. I didn't finish your review and don't plan to read your book.