Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The cost of "acting white" 

I recall reading papers about how having "white" names was supposed to help the earning power of people of color. But "acting white" in school -- in terms of being in honors or AP classes, speaking proper English or dressing the wrong way -- can cost a high school kid friends.
The resulting popularity indexes demonstrate that "the relationship between social status and achievement is categorically different between racial groups, a difference that is robust to changes in specifications, data sub-samples, and definitions of social status or achievement." At a GPA of roughly 2.5, racial differences begin to emerge, and Hispanic students lose popularity rapidly.
Popularity peaks at a GPA of about 3.5 for black students. Whites continue to gain popularity as their grades increase. The social cost of "acting white" is more severe for black males than for black females. It is larger for blacks in public schools, but nonexistent for blacks in private schools, "a finding that may partially explain why black kids in private schools do especially well." Finally, the burden imposed for "acting white" is greater for students with more interracial contact. Blacks in more segregated schools "incur less of a tradeoff between popularity and achievement." The toll for "acting white" is "particularly salient among high achievers and those in schools with more interracial contact."
Here's the paper if you're interested.