Monday, December 10, 2007

Being Black Makes It Worse

Michael O'Hear remarks on the findings of a book examining how convicted criminals re-enter American society. One of the more "provocative" findings is that -- all else being equal, including resumes, type of crime, demeanor, and background -- Black former criminals are more likely to be rejected from jobs than White applicants.

I hate to be a cynic here, but is there anyone who finds this even remotely surprising? For every single metric of social disadvantage I've ever seen -- from wealth to gender to sexual orientation to criminal history -- the effects are amplified when you're Black. Some would say that's signifies something about America.

Now, I'm of the distinct opinion that we need to do a better job reintegrated offenders into our society. What do we expect released convicts to do once they're free, if legal society is barred from them? Meditate? But once again, while this is a problem for people of every race, it's a problem that affects Blacks more, as they are more likely to be arrested and convicted of crimes, and, as this research demonstrates, face stiffer post-incarceration consequences as well.


Cycle Cyril said...

Without reading the book and only the entry from your link several questions need to be asked.

First the difference between 50 and 60 percent is not necessarily significant. You would need, for the four people "seeking employment", hundreds of encounters to be statistically significant, a venture that would take months at the least. Did the researcher do this? I don't know but pending evidence I would accept this stat reluctantly. As the old saying goes there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.

Second it should be relatively easy to get actual statistics from released criminals with regards to their employment and recidivism while correcting for the major variables such as education. Was this done? Again I do not know.

In brief the "old Russian" saying "trust but verify" should go for not just what you do not believe in at first blush but in what you do believe at first blush.

I do not intend to read the book but I offer this as a general guideline.

A book of interest would be Sowell's Vision of the Anointed in which the vision or the intent of some is so strong that it clouds reality.

PG said...

Cycle Cyril,

The book description says "Devah Pager matched up pairs of young men, randomly assigned them criminal records, then sent them on hundreds of real job searches throughout the city of Milwaukee." I don't know if these "hundreds of encounters" were the right number of hundreds for you to deem them statistically significant, but I don't think the editors at the University of Chicago Press have as low standards as you seem to think.

Also, backward looking studies are going to be viewed with suspicion because -- and this is something I've actually heard from conservatives -- "black men are more likely to have bad attitudes." That is, if I pulled the statistics on offenders and corrected for recorded aspects like education, and found a racial discrepancy, I can guarantee you that someone would reply, "But a huge component of a job interview is how you present yourself. The kind of people who go to prison and come out probably don't come off as well as people who have not gone to prison. And black men have that gangster walk and gangster dress and poor way of speaking..."

Hence the need to do a forward-looking study, where the researcher could ensure that the black and white people, and people with criminal records and those without, were matched about as perfectly as possible.