Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More on the Lowest Difficulty Setting

John Scalzi recently posted an update on his straight-white-male-is-the-lowest-difficulty-setting post. In the latest, he calls attention to a recent Johns Hopkins study:

A 25-year study followed the experience of nearly 800 children in Baltimore, from first grade into adulthood. Half their families were low income, many with parents who had not finished high school; 40% of those low-income kids were white.

A couple of relevant points from the article:
Looking at where these children started in life and where they ended up, the study results are troubling but clear: At 28, hardly any of the children from a disadvantaged background, black or white, had finished college.

But even without the benefit of a college degree, whites, and white men especially, had vastly better employment outcomes. At every age, the white men experienced shorter spells of unemployment, were more likely to be working full-time and earned more.
[T]he consequences have been especially dire for African-Americans. As young adults, African-American men had fared much worse than whites in the job market, even though they and their white counterparts had about the same levels of education and the whites reported higher rates of marijuana and heavy drug use and binge drinking…

Indeed, throughout the course of our study, it was clear that African- Americans face greater barriers to employment. Having an arrest record or failing to complete high school were less consequential for white men than for African-American men: 84% of whites without a high school degree were employed at 22; among African Americans, just 40% were.
And this is the point of the lowest difficulty setting metaphor. It isn’t that folks who are straight, and white, and male, can’t or don’t find themselves on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder. They can and do, and there’s no doubt that it sucks. But even then, they can catch some breaks that others — in this particular study, black men — don’t (or don’t catch as often).

Which is to say: Even as much as your life blows, straight white dude, the black dude in exactly the same situation is likely to have it worse. And not because of anything he (or you) did. Just because it’s the way things are.
That part about the effect of having an arrest record shouldn't go unnoticed. Remember, employers have been shown to prefer white felons over black applicants with no arrest record. So imagine the differential effect when a black person has a conviction.

Here's the write-up (from CNN) by the studies' authors.


Gina said...

Wow. Here's proof positive that race discrimination is definitely alive and well in the great US of A. I think everyone needs to read this -- I'm going to link it to my Facebook wall.

Tracy Buck said...

This makes me sad, wish there was a clear answer and solution for why this still happens.