White favoritism by Major League home plate umps lowers minority pitcher performance and pay, baseball study finds

When it comes to Major League Baseball's pitchers, the more strikes, the better. But what if white umpires call strikes more often for white pitchers than for minority pitchers?

New research findings provide an answer. Analysis of 3.5 million pitches from 2004 to 2008 found that minority pitchers scale back their performance to overcome racial/ethnic favoritism toward whites by MLB home plate umpires, said economist Johan Sulaeman, a financial economist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a study author.

The study found that minority pitchers reacted to umpire bias by playing it safe with the pitches they throw in a way that actually harmed their performance and statistics, said Sulaeman, a labor and discrimination expert.

Specifically, minority pitchers limited the umpires' discretion to call their pitch a "ball" by throwing squarely across the plate in the strike zone more often. Unfortunately for the pitcher, such throws are also easier for batters to hit.

The finding builds on an earlier study that discovered Major League Baseball's home plate umpires called strikes more often for pitchers in their same ethnic group — except when the plate was electronically monitored by cameras, Sulaeman said.

While the earlier finding surprised the researchers, they said, the latest results are even more surprising.

Since most MLB umpires are white, the overall effect is that umpire bias pushes performance measures of minorities downward, said Sulaeman, an expert in labor economics and discrimination.

The findings have important implications for measuring the extent of discrimination not only in baseball, but also in labor markets generally, say the authors.

"In MLB, as in so many other fields of endeavor, power belongs disproportionately to members of the majority — white — group," the authors write.

Findings draw on analysis of pitching in QuesTec-monitored parks

Sulaeman and his co-authors analyzed 3.5 million pitches by Major League Baseball pitchers from 2004 to 2008. All parks are now monitored, but during those four years about one-third of major league ballparks were monitored with computers and cameras to check the accuracy of the umpires' ball and strike calls.

Four cameras tracked and recorded the location of each pitch, with umpires and pitchers aware that QuesTec was the primary mechanism for gauging umpire performance. MLB considers an ump's performance sub-standard if more than 10 percent of his calls differ from QuesTec.

Of the 3.5 million pitches, umpire and pitcher were the same race — usually white — for about two-thirds of the 1.89 million pitches that were called strikes or balls. About 89 percent of umpires and 70 percent of pitchers were white.

The researchers looked not only at the race of umpires, pitchers and batters, but also: effects for each pitcher, umpire and batter; presence or absence of QuesTec; importance of the at-bat; when the pitch would terminate the at-bat; whether the pitch came early or later in the game; importance of the game; racial demographics of the neighborhood around the park; umpire age and experience; pitch characteristics, including horizontal pitch distance and pitch height; and whether the throw was a fastball, curveball, slider or cutter.

The study controlled for inning, pitch count, pitcher score advantage and whether the pitcher was playing at home or visiting.

The study, "Strike Three: Discrimination, Incentives, and Evaluation," is published in the current issue of the scholarly journal The American Economic Review.

In addition to Sulaeman, co-authors were Christopher A. Parsons, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Michael C. Yates, Auburn University; and Daniel S. Hamermesh, University of Texas at Austin.

Findings: Minimal direct impact, but significant indirect influence

The researchers found:

  • In non-monitored parks, the percentage of called pitches that are strikes is higher when the race of both umpire and pitcher match than when it does not. This is true not only of whites, but also Hispanics and blacks.
  • In QuesTec parks, if the race of the pitcher and umpire match, the likelihood that a called pitch is ruled a strike is reduced by more than one percentage point relative to the same setup in non-QuesTec parks. This implies umpires implicitly allow their apparent favoritism to be expressed when not being monitored, the study authors say.
  • Implicit monitoring — for example, an important pitch viewed by a big crowd — also dramatically alters umpire behavior. On the other hand, white and minority umpires at poorly attended games appear to favor pitchers of the same race by calling more strikes.
  • Umpires favor pitchers of the same race only when the pitch won't terminate the batter's plate appearance.
  • Little evidence was found to indicate the umpire is influenced by the race of either the batter or the catcher.
  • A higher strike percentage showed umpires exhibited same-race favoritism in non-QuesTec parks. A lower strike percentage indicated negative bias toward pitchers of different races in QuesTec parks.
  • There is some weak evidence that bias is more likely among younger and less experienced umpires.
  • Favoritism was a significant factor for pitches thrown to the edge of the strike zone — where umpires have the most discretion — but not for pitches inside or outside the strike zone. In QuesTec parks, the umpire and pitcher having the same race has virtually no effect on pitch location. In non-QuesTec parks, pitches to the edges significantly increase when umpire and pitcher share the same race. The finding suggests pitchers gamble on the fact that this region can reasonably be called as either balls or strikes and therefore offers them an advantage.
  • In QuesTec parks, matched race is associated with a slight preference for hard-to-hit and hard-to-call curveball pitches. In non-QuesTec parks, that preference quadruples.

The researchers concluded:

  • The direct effects on pitch outcomes are small. The indirect effect on players' strategies may have larger impacts on the outcomes of plate appearances and games.
  • From the starting pitcher's perspective, a racial match with the umpire helped his statistics by yielding fewer earned runs, fewer hits and fewer home runs.
  • Because the majority of umpires are white, teams with minority pitchers have a distinct disadvantage in non-monitored parks.
  • There is no evidence that visiting managers adjusted their pitching lineups to minimize exposure of their minority pitchers to the subjective bias of a white umpire.
  • In parks without QuesTec, pitchers of the same race threw pitches that allowed umpires the most discretion, apparently to maximize their advantage stemming from the umpires' favoritism.
  • A batter who swings is less likely to get a hit when the umpire and pitcher match.
  • Applying the effects of favoritism, and given that the average salary of starting pitchers in MLB was $4.8 million in 2006, the findings suggest minority pitchers were underpaid relative to white pitchers by between $50,000 and $400,000 a year.

"If a pitcher expects favoritism, he will incorporate this advantage into his strategy, perhaps throwing pitches that allow the umpire more discretion," the authors write. "If the batter expects such pitches to be called strikes, he is forced to swing at worse pitches, which reduces the likelihood of getting a hit."

Not just Major League Baseball; a factor in all work environments

How many minority pitchers have had their pitching records diminished by this phenomenon is impossible to say, Sulaeman said, adding that one can only guess at the impact over decades of professional baseball. But discovery of the indirect effect of racial bias in MLB pointedly demonstrates how discrimination alters the behavior of a discriminated group, say the authors.

In any workplace where pay is based on measured productivity, the findings of small direct and larger indirect effects of favoritism and negative bias have important implications for measuring the extent of wage discrimination not only in baseball, but also in labor markets generally, say the authors.

Supervisory racial bias must be accounted for when generating measures of wage discrimination, the authors conclude.

The researchers' earlier analysis of the data found that ethnic bias is virtually eliminated when an umpire knows his calls are being monitored with video cameras to check for accuracy.

"The good news is that all ballparks are now equipped with this technology, likely eliminating this subconscious bias," said Sulaeman, assistant professor of finance in SMU's Cox School.

Monitoring suppresses bias when evaluators are observed for bias

That isn't the case, however, in other workplaces, where monitoring is not the norm, he said. As a result, supervisors have ample opportunity to subconsciously evaluate those of a different race more negatively, he said. Supervisors may be less prone to this subconscious bias if they know they are being monitored.

"When their decisions matter more, and when evaluators are themselves more likely to be evaluated by others, our results suggest that these preferences no longer manifest themselves," the authors say.

Journal Reference:

  1. Christopher A Parsons, Johan Sulaeman, Michael C Yates, Daniel S Hamermesh. Strike Three: Discrimination, Incentives, and Evaluation. American Economic Review, 2011; 101 (4): 1410 DOI: 10.1257/aer.101.4.1410

Research examines the black-and-white issues surrounding executions in the South

An examination of post-emancipation executions in the South is revealing how race played a significant and under-examined role in executions. Annulla Linders, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of sociology, will present the research on Aug. 21, at the 106th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas.

Linders combed through newspaper archives in the Library of Congress to examine the meanings and understandings about race and justice that were produced in newspaper accounts of legal, public executions of African-American convicts — reports produced by white reporters for white readers.

Previous research has suggested that capital punishment in the South was used against African-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century to ensure and reinforce white domination, says Linders. However, she writes that, "Partially concealed under the weight of oppression is evidence that the execution also served as a critical site of resistance."

She explains that the executions of black convicts also became black cultural events that evolved into sites of black resistance to oppression. "Thus it is evident, despite many accounts to the contrary, that the white authorities recognized the danger of using capital punishment as a form of racial domination, even as they held on to the belief that the (public) execution of black criminals was an important tool in the control and submission of blacks," writes Linders.

Linders explains that while "white justice" was put on public display, there could be hundreds of African Americans congregating at the site, taking off work and traveling long distances. "It's quite clear that these events posed a potential source of conflict. Thousands of black people are coming to town to see one black person publicly executed.

"So, there are two fundamental ways in which the reporters addressed that conflict," says Linders. "One was to try to reassure readers that the black community also felt the event was a 'just' execution. Also, the portrayal of hostility served different purposes, primarily to justify the oppression. So it was a difficult balancing act for the news writers in downplaying the oppression and legitimizing it at the same time."

Linders adds that the reports of the religious fervor of the audience was another signal that these executions had become sites for black resistance, adding that segregated churches were the sites where the Civil Rights Movement was eventually born. "Taken together, the subversion of executions by black audience members fits into the much larger mobilization of black resistance throughout the late 19th and early 20th century," concludes Linders.

The research was supported by the University of Cincinnati's Charles Phelps Taft Research Center.

Sex differences in mental illness: Men more likely to develop substance abuse, antisocial problems; women more likely to develop anxiety, depression

When it comes to mental illness, the sexes are different: Women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, while men tend toward substance abuse or antisocial disorders, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

Published online in APA's Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the study looked at the prevalence by gender of different types of common mental illnesses. The researchers also found that women with anxiety disorders are more likely to internalize emotions, which typically results in withdrawal, loneliness and depression. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to externalize emotions, which leads to aggressive, impulsive, coercive and noncompliant behavior, according to the study. The researchers demonstrated that it was differences in these liabilities to internalize and to externalize that accounted for gender differences in prevalence rates of many mental disorders.

Researchers analyzed data collected in 2001 and 2002 by a National Institutes of Health survey of 43,093 U.S. residents 18 and older who were civilians and not institutionalized. Of those, 57 percent were women and 56.9 percent were white; 19.3 percent were Hispanic or Latino; 19.1 percent were African-American; 3.1 percent Asian, native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; and 1.6 percent were American Indian or native Alaskan. The data were representative of the age, race/ethnicity and gender distributions of the U.S. population in the 2000 Census. Participants answered interview questions. The analysis examined their lifetime mental health history as well as over the prior 12 months.

The authors cited previous research that found women suffer more than men from depression, because "women ruminate more frequently than men, focusing repetitively on their negative emotions and problems rather than engaging in more active problem solving."

The findings support gender-focused prevention and treatment efforts, the study said. "In women, treatment might focus on coping and cognitive skills to help prevent rumination from developing into clinically significant depression or anxiety," said lead author Nicholas R. Eaton, MA, of the University of Minnesota. "In men, treatment for impulsive behaviors might focus on rewarding planned actions and shaping aggressive tendencies into non-destructive behavior."

Past research also indicated that women report more neuroticism and more frequent stressful life events than men do before the onset of a disorder, indicating that environmental stressors may also contribute to internalizing, the report said.

Journal Reference:

  1. Nicholas R. Eaton, Katherine M. Keyes, Robert F. Krueger, Steve Balsis, Andrew E. Skodol, Kristian E. Markon, Bridget F. Grant, Deborah S. Hasin. An invariant dimensional liability model of gender differences in mental disorder prevalence: Evidence from a national sample.. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2011; DOI: 10.1037/a0024780

Female minorities are more affected by racism than sexism, research suggests

Studies by the University of Toronto's psychology department suggest that racism may impact some female minority groups more deeply than sexism.

"We found that Asian women take racism more personally and find it more depressing than sexism," said lead author and doctoral student Jessica Remedios.

"In order to understand the consequences for people who encounter prejudice, we must consider the type of prejudice they are facing," says Remedios.

In one study, 66 participants of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Japanese descent were assigned one of three hypothetical situations. They were all told to imagine they were trying to get permission to enrol in a course but the professor's reasons for their denial were different.

For example, in one situation a Chinese student would be rejected from a course only to learn from a friend that no Chinese students were admitted but 10 white people were.

There were also participants who were told the professor didn't let any women into the course and some subjects were personally rejected by being told the "professor thought they were stupid."

The second study was intended to study more personal reactions to prejudice. Sixty participants of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino descent were assigned to write about a past experience of rejection because of racism, sexism or their personalities. They then were asked to rate their emotional responses on a scale of one to seven. According to Remedios, the women assigned to contemplate racism were more likely than those assigned to contemplate sexism to believe that they had been rejected by others because of 'something about them' or because of 'who they are.'

"This suggests that to these women, racism feels like a personal rejection whereas sexism feels more like the result of others' ignorance," says Remedios.

The research was published in a paper entitled "Not all prejudices are experienced equally: Comparing experiences of racism and sexism in female minorities" co-written with U of T psychologist Alison Chasteen and recent Honours Bachelor of Science grad Jeffrey Paek. It appeared in the Group Processes and Intergroup Relations journal on June 17.

Journal Reference:

  1. J. D. Remedios, A. L. Chasteen, J. D. Paek. Not all prejudices are experienced equally: Comparing experiences of racism and sexism in female minorities. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 2011; DOI: 10.1177/1368430211411594

Stark differences in media use between minority and white youth, according to U.S. report

— Minority youth aged 8 to 18 consume an average of 13 hours of media content a day — about 4-1/2 hours more than their white counterparts, according to a Northwestern University report, the first national study to focus exclusively on children's media use by race and ethnicity.

"In the past decade, the gap between minority and white youth's daily media use has doubled for blacks and quadrupled for Hispanics," says Northwestern Professor Ellen Wartella, who directed the study and heads the Center on Media and Human Development in the School of Communication. "The big question is what these disparities mean for our children's health and education."

The report finds that minority children spend one to two additional hours each day watching TV and videos, approximately an hour more listening to music, up to an hour and a half more on computers, and 30 to 40 minutes more playing video games than their white counterparts.

The only medium for which no difference was found between minority and white youth was reading print for pleasure. Young people in all groups read for pleasure approximately 30 to 40 minutes a day, the study finds.

"Our study is not meant to blame parents," says Wartella, a longtime Sesame Workshop trustee and Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in Communication. "We hope to help parents, educators and policymakers better understand how children's media use may influence health and educational disparities."

The study, "Children, Media and Race: Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic and Asian American Children," is based on a new analysis, by race, of data from the Kaiser Family Foundation's previous media use studies. It finds that race-related differences among youth are robust even when controlling for factors including parent education and whether or not children are from single- or two-parent families.

Other report findings:

  • Minority youth are especially avid adopters of new media, spending about an hour and a half more each day than White youth using their cell phones, iPods and other mobile devices to watch TV and videos, play games, and listen to music (a total of 3 hours and 7 minutes, or 3:07 in mobile media use among Asians, 2:53 among Hispanics, 2:52 among blacks, and 1:20 among whites).
  • Traditional TV viewing remains the most popular of all media — with black and Hispanic youth consuming an average of more than three hours of live TV daily (3:23 for blacks, 3:08 for Hispanics, 2:28 for Asians and 2:14 for whites).
  • TV viewing rates are even higher when data on time-shifting technologies such as TiVo, DVDs, and mobile and online viewing are included. Total daily television consumption then rises to 5:54 for black youth, 5:21 for Hispanics, 4:41 for Asians, and 3:36 for whites.
  • Black and Hispanic youth are more likely to have TV sets in their bedrooms (84% of blacks, 77% of Hispanics compared to 64% of whites and Asians), and to have cable and premium channels available in their bedrooms (42% of blacks and 28% of Hispanics compared to 17% of whites and 14% of Asians).
  • Minority youth eat more meals in front of the TV set — with 78% of black, 67% of Hispanic, 58% of white and 55% of Asian 8- to 18-year-olds reporting that the TV is "usually" on during meals at home.
  • Trends such as TV sets in the bedroom and eating meals with the TV on begin at an early age. Black children under 6 are twice as likely to have a TV in their bedroom as whites and more than twice as likely to go to sleep with the TV on. Black children under 6 are almost three times as likely to eat dinner in front of the TV than white children the same age.
  • Asian youth spend more time in recreational computer use: nearly 3 hours a day (2:53) compared to just under 2 hours for Hispanics (1:49), nearly 1-1/2 hours for blacks (1:24) and slightly less for whites (1:17).
  • Asian youth also are more likely to have computers at home (an average of 2.8 computers per home compared to 2.0 for whites and 1.8 for blacks and Hispanics) and are more likely to have a computer in their bedroom (55%, compared to 39% of Hispanics, 34% of blacks, and 32% of whites).
  • No significant differences exist in the time young people spend using a computer for schoolwork, and only modest differences are evident in their tendency to multitask with media while doing homework. White, black and Hispanic youth average 16 minutes a day using a computer for schoolwork while Asians average 20 minutes (not a significant difference). The proportion of young people who report using entertainment media "most of the time" while doing homework ranges from 28% of whites and 30% of Asians to 35% of blacks and Hispanics.
  • There are no significant differences in time spent by youth multi-tasking their media. For example, 37% of white, 44% of black and 41% of Hispanic middle and high school students report using another medium "most of the time" while watching TV.

The report is being released at the June 8 Lambert Family Communication Conference on Children, Media and Race, which will explore the health and educational implications of racial and ethnic differences in young people's media use. The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center, 901 E Street NW, in Washington, D.C.

Participants will include Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn; National Telecommunications Information Administration Deputy Director Anna Gomez; MTV Tr3s executive Jose Tillan; and experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Common Sense Media, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and PBS Kids.

The Northwestern report analyzes by race data from the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation Generation M2 study on media use among 8- to 18-year-olds and the foundation's 2006 Media Family study on children from birth to age 6. It is co-authored by Wartella, who also is professor of psychology in Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; Vicky Rideout, former Kaiser Family Foundation vice president; and Northwestern post-doctoral fellow Alexis Lauricella. The data include a nationally representative sample of 1,858 8- to 18-year-old students and 996 parents of 0- to 6-year-olds. Unless otherwise noted, all findings in this release concern 8- to 18-year-olds.

Education doesn't increase odds that minorities play 'high-status' sports, study suggests

 Black and Mexican American doctors and lawyers aren't any more likely to play "high-status" sports such as golf or tennis than less educated people within their racial-ethnic groups, and more educated blacks may actually be less inclined to do so, suggests a new study in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Relying on nationally representative data from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey-Sample Adult Prevention Module, and focusing on 17,455 adults ages 25 to 60, the study finds that racial-ethnic differences in the types of physical exercises people engage in don't narrow with increasing education. According to the study, whites disproportionately undertake facility-based exercise (e.g., golf and tennis), blacks tend toward team sports (e.g., basketball, football, and soccer) and fitness activities (e.g., running, weight lifting, and cycling), and Mexican Americans gravitate toward team-centered athletics.

"We assumed that people with higher levels of education were more likely to be in prestigious fields such as law or medicine, and if we think about the physical activities that lawyers and doctors participate in, they are often sports like golf or tennis," said study co-author Jarron M. Saint Onge, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Houston. "We expected that regardless of race-ethnicity, people at the upper levels of the educational spectrum would gravitate toward these so called high-status behaviors of the dominant group."

But, instead, Saint Onge and co-author Patrick M. Krueger, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado-Denver, find this is not the case, and that for blacks the opposite actually holds true regarding their participation in "high-status" sports. With increasing education, blacks also move further away from whites when it comes to participation in team-based athletics and the gap between whites and Mexican Americans grows as it pertains to fitness activities.

"We find no evidence of narrowing racial-ethnic differences in exercise with increasing education," Saint Onge said. "Rather, what we find is that with increasing levels of education, we continue to see this racial-ethnic division and, in fact, it grows."

Saint Onge said there are several possible reasons why racial-ethnic differences in exercise persist and, in some cases, expand with more education. "One possibility is that high-status minorities may seek to differentiate themselves from whites in an effort to maintain their racial and ethnic solidarity and to increase their political power," Saint Onge said. "Exercise and sports provide social contexts that allow groups to create social identities and resist — or sometimes reinforce — cultural stereotypes."

Other possible reasons include the fact that blacks and Mexican Americans often attend lower quality schools than whites, where they may acquire less human capital per school year and have limited access to cultural resources that encourage high-status behaviors. And, even highly educated blacks and Mexican Americans may live in segregated neighborhoods where exercise preferences are shaped by cultural norms and the availability of recreational opportunities.

While the study finds that whites, blacks, and Mexican Americans are not more likely to engage in the same types of physical activities as their education levels increase, the likelihood that they participate in some type of exercise does rise with education.

"More educated people generally have more motivation to exercise," Saint Onge said. "They know the benefits of exercising, they spend time with people who are more likely to be exercising, and they have the time and resources to exercise."

In terms of policy implications, Saint Onge said the study could aid the design of effective public health interventions to promote physical activity. "Public health interventions might be more effective if they take into account the fact that more education leads to more physical activity and also recognize that members of different education and racial-ethnic groups gravitate toward certain types of exercise, either because of their limited access to recreational facilities or because of different exercise preferences," Saint Onge said.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jarron M. Saint Onge and Patrick M. Krueger. Education and Racial-Ethnic Differences in Types of Exercise in the United States. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2011; 52 (2): 197-211 DOI: 10.1177/0022146510394862

Whites believe they are victims of racism more often than blacks, study suggests

Whites believe that they have replaced blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America, according to a new study from researchers at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. The findings, say the authors, show that America has not achieved the "post-racial" society that some predicted in the wake of Barack Obama's election.

Both whites and blacks agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, according to the study. However, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased and is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

"It's a pretty surprising finding when you think of the wide range of disparities that still exist in society, most of which show black Americans with worse outcomes than whites in areas such as income, home ownership, health and employment," said Tufts Associate Professor of Psychology Samuel Sommers, Ph.D., co-author of "Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game that They Are Now Losing," which appears in the May 2011 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Sommers and co-author Michael I. Norton of Harvard asked a nation-wide sample of 208 blacks and 209 whites to indicate the extent to which they felt blacks and whites were the targets of discrimination in each decade from the 1950s to the 2000s. A scale of 1 to 10 was used, with 1 being "not at all" and 10 being "very much."

White and black estimates of bias in the 1950s were similar. Both groups acknowledged little racism against whites at that time but substantial racism against blacks. Respondents also generally agreed that racism against blacks has decreased over time, although whites believed it has declined faster than blacks do.

However, whites believed that racism against whites has increased significantly as racism against blacks has decreased. On average, whites rated anti-white bias as more prevalent in the 2000s than anti-black bias by more than a full point on the 10-point scale. Moreover, some 11 percent of whites gave anti-white bias the maximum rating of 10 compared to only 2 percent of whites who rated anti-black bias a 10. Blacks, however, reported only a modest increase in their perceptions of "reverse racism."

"These data are the first to demonstrate that not only do whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do blacks, but whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality — at their expense," note Norton and Sommers. Whites see racial equality as a zero sum game, in which gains for one group mean losses for the other.

The belief that anti-white bias is more prevalent than anti-black bias has clear implications for future public policy debates and behavioral science research, say the authors. They note that claims of so-called reverse racism, while not new, have been at the core of an increasing number of high-profile Supreme Court cases.

Journal Reference:

  1. M. I. Norton, S. R. Sommers. Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2011; 6 (3): 215 DOI: 10.1177/1745691611406922

Is there a 'tiger mother' effect? Asian students study twice as many hours, analysis finds

 It's officially the "Year of the Rabbit" on the Chinese calendar. But 2011 might be better known as the "Year of the Tiger Mother."

In early January, Yale law professor Amy Chua published a critique of coddling Western-style parenting in The Wall Street Journal, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." The essay, summarizing her book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" — in which she details, among other things, how she raised her daughters in the "traditional Chinese" way, with strict discipline and an emphasis on academic success and music lessons above all else, prohibiting TV, computer games, play dates and sleepovers — set off a media maelstrom. She was hailed. She was reviled. Lots of parents wrung their hands. Controversy over Chua's extreme parenting even reached as far as the Davos summit, where former Harvard president Larry Summers commented on the debate. Columnist David Brooks of The New York Times called her a "wimp."

The hullaballoo prompted Valerie Ramey, a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, to ask: What did the data have to say?

Chua's book, said Ramey, struck a nerve in part because of the stereotype of Asian academic success. And statistics back up that stereotype. The most recent academic test scores from the Program for International Student Assessment show that four of the world's five top-scoring countries are Asian countries. (Finland is the non-Asian exception). In California, Asians represent 12 percent of high school graduates, but one-third of admissions to the University of California and almost half of all undergraduate admissions to UC San Diego.

And why does this matter? Doing better in school, Ramey said, still leads to better financial outcomes over the long haul: High school performance is an important determinant in admission to college, and going to college significantly raises one's income. The income gap between college and high school graduates, Ramey added, has been widening since the 1980s, and the latest U.S. Census figures show that Asians as a group are much more likely to have college degrees and also have much higher household incomes.

To begin to answer the question of whether Asian parents and children were behaving differently, Ramey analyzed the American Time Use Survey. A project of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the survey measures the time use of thousands of individuals from 2003 to 2009 based on time diaries. It includes data on individuals ages 15 and older, so Ramey concentrated her analysis on the time use of high school students, college students and parents.

Asian high-school students spend significantly more time studying and doing homework, Ramey found, than any other ethnic or racial group. Averaged over the entire year (including summer vacations), the average, non-Hispanic white student spends 5.5 hours per week studying and doing homework, while Hispanic and non-Hispanic black students spend even less. In contrast, the average Asian student spends a whopping 13 hours per week. Parents' educational levels do not explain the differences, Ramey said, as these become even greater if the sample is limited to children who have at least one parent with a college degree.

The average Asian high-school student does not fit every aspect of Chua's prescription for her daughters, Ramey discovered. In particular, the average Asian student spends no more time practicing and performing music, about the same amount of time watching TV, and more time playing on the computer. But Asians do spend less time on sports and socializing than any of the other ethnic groups. The biggest difference, though, is in time spent working at a job: White students spend 5.8 hours per week on average, and Asian students spend only 2.4 hours.

Ramey next wondered: Do Asian students "coast" once they escape the grips of their Tiger Moms? The gap is not so extreme among fulltime college students, Ramey said, but it is still the case that Asian students spend more time studying: 15-plus hours per week in comparison with white students who spend a little over 10 hours per week, and with black and Hispanic students who spend less time.

So what about the parents? Ramey, together with her husband, Garey Ramey, had earlier documented — in a study the coauthors dubbed the "Rug Rat Race" and which was published by the Brookings Institution last year — that college-educated parents, mothers especially, had since the 1990s dramatically increased the time they spent caring for their children and managing their activities (in hopes of getting them into elite universities). Now Valerie Ramey asked: Could it be that Asian mothers spend even more time grooming their progeny?

The numbers show that Asian mothers do spend more time in educational activities, such as reading to their children or helping with homework, Ramey said, but only by a half-hour per week more than white mothers. There is no difference in time spent on all child care activities between white and Asian mothers, though both groups devote more time than black and Hispanic mothers. These averages control for differences across groups in the number and age of children, education of the mother and marital status.

So, Ramey said, these Tiger Mothers seem to be able to make their children spend a lot more time on their studies without having to spend too much more of their own time: "That's a lot of bang for the parenting buck. And perhaps this is what Chua's 'Chinese discipline' is all about."

"More seriously, though," Ramey, said, "it is clear from the data that Asian teenagers and college students spend more time studying than their counterparts in any other ethnic group. This is consistent with the claims made by Chua. But whether it's the case that Asian-style parenting is the cause of the difference remains for further research to ferret out.

"At this point, my work is 'just the facts, ma'am,'" Ramey said.

She plans to extend her research on the subject in the coming months. Meanwhile, Ramey, who is white, takes a certain pride in having herself once been lambasted as being "Asian" (by a friend of her then-7th-grade daughter). Today, Ramey's son is about to graduate from Stanford with an engineering major. Her daughter is now a junior at a prestigious high school, studying for her Advanced Placement exams and preparing to apply to colleges.

Studies on heart disease and stroke prevention overlook ethnic groups, study shows

Major clinical studies that evaluate prevention strategies for heart disease and stroke fail to consider a participant's ethnicity, a factor that can more than double the rate of death in some groups, according to research led by St. Michael's Dr. Joel Ray.

The study, published online in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine, reviewed 45 major clinical trials on prevention strategies. Researchers found that only 1 in 4 studies reported on the ethnicity of participants. None included information about whether a participant was an immigrant. When ethnicity is reported, it is often superficial in scope.

"On the one hand, some immigrant groups to Canada have lower rates of chronic diseases than Canadian-born residents," Ray explains. "But, at the same time, some ethnic groups — like those from South Asia, including India and Pakistan — have dramatic early onset of heart disease and stroke. And, not all ethnic groups respond to preventive treatments in the same manner, such blood pressure medications among persons of Afro-Caribbean decent."

In Canada, 17 per cent of citizens are of a visible minority. Heart disease costs accounts for 17 per cent of hospitalizations each year. Rates of heart disease and stroke are highest among South Asians, one of the largest and fastest growing ethnic groups in Canada, the USA and the U.K. South Asian immigrants have up to a four times higher risk of death from heart disease compared to native-born populations.

"This makes it important to consider ethnicity when conducting research studies so that we can better target prevention strategies to different ethnic groups," says Ray.

The researchers say some ethnic groups may also be reluctant to enrol in clinical trials because consent forms tend to be in English and French. Others may shy away from committing to participating in research because of cultural norms, they add.

"Most of our scientific research on heart disease and prevention stems from studies conducted in the industrialized world, and among predominantly White populations," Ray said. "Future studies must both recruit and report on ethnic and immigrant status of their study groups to ensure we are treating these patients in the best way possible. This must become a priority concept for researchers and funding agencies such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada."

Children of U.S. immigrants more apt than natives to live with both parents

Children of immigrants are more likely to live in households headed by two married parents than children of natives in their respective ethnic groups, according to Penn State sociologists.

This intact family structure may offer immigrant children economic and social advantages that help them adapt to their new country, according to Nancy Landale, professor, sociology and demography.

"An intact family is a positive family arrangement because it maximizes the resources available to children," said Landale. "The family is the main source of children's economic resources, as well as their protection and support."

The researchers, who published their findings in the current issue of The Future of Children, examined the data on family living arrangements for Mexican, southeast Asian and black immigrant families using the Current Population Survey, a survey of about 50,000 households conducted by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2005 to 2009. In each group, children of immigrants were more likely to live in households with two parents than the children of natives.

According to Landale, who also serves as the director of Penn State's Population Research Institute, 52 percent of Hispanic children of immigrants in the survey live with married parents, compared to 44 percent of the children of Hispanic natives. A total of 65 percent of children of Asian immigrants live with married parents, compared to 50 percent of Asian natives.

Approximately 44 percent of non-Hispanic black children of immigrants live with married parents, compared to 24 percent of native non-Hispanic black children of natives. A total of 63 percent of non-Hispanic white children of immigrants live with married parents, while 58 percent of non-Hispanic white children of natives live in households with married parents.

Raising children in intact families can help immigrants adjust socially and economically to the challenges they face adapting to life in a new country. Single-parent households have higher child poverty rates than families led by married parents, according to Landale, who worked with Kevin Thomas, assistant professor, African and African American studies, sociology and demography, and Jennifer Van Hook, professor, sociology and demography. Living arrangements can also influence family stress, the amount of parental attention and the quality of parenting, Landale said.

"Across generations, the pattern does change," said Landale. "The family structure begins to match that of the native population, in part due to changes in cultural norms."

Landale said the growing size of the immigrant population makes the study of immigrant family structure important. Children of immigrants represent more than 75 percent of the growth in the U.S. child population, according to Landale.

"Children of immigrants are a growing share of the child population in the United States and most children of immigrants are U.S. citizens," said Landale. "These children are an important part of the future adult population of the United States and understanding the circumstances in which they grow up is important."

The study could also help U.S. immigration officials shape policy. While U.S. immigration policy has, in principle, sought to reunite immigrant families, long waits for family members seeking to rejoin their families legally can interfere with this positive dynamic.