Trying Not To Freak Out

by matttbastard

Is this what they call ‘baffling them with bullshit?’ Cos, brother, consider me baffled:

In a recent paper I [Steven D. Levitt] co-authored with Roland Fryer, Lisa Kahn, and Jorg Spenkuch, we look at data to try to answer that question. Here is what we find:

1) Mixed-race kids grow up in households that are similar along many dimensions to those in which black children grow up: similar incomes, the father is much less likely to be around than in white households, etc.

2) In terms of academic performance, mixed-race kids fall in between blacks and whites.

3) Mixed-race kids do have one advantage over white and black kids: the mixed-race kids are much more attractive on average.

The really interesting result, though, is the next one.

4) There are some bad adolescent behaviors that whites do more than blacks (like drinking and smoking), and there are other bad adolescent behaviors that blacks do more than whites (watching TV, fighting, getting sexually transmitted diseases). Mixed-race kids manage to be as bad as whites on the white behaviors and as bad as blacks on the black behaviors. Mixed-race kids act out in almost every way measured in the data set.

So how does Levitt manage to apply economic theory in explaining the shockingly stereotypical results produced by his oh-so-rigourous study of teh mulatto “plight”?

We try to use economic theory to explain this set of facts. I can’t say we are entirely successful. If we had to pick an explanation that best fits the facts, it would be the old sociology model of mixed-race individuals as the “marginal man”: not part of either racial group and therefore torn by inner conflict.

“I can’t say we are entirely successful”–Steve, buddy, when did you of all people become so proficient in the fine art of understatement? Look, thanks for the, um, concern, pal– though my experience is, of course, purely anecdotal, I must confess that the only “inner conflict” this (undeniably attractive) mixed-race individual currently faces is the eternal struggle between waffles and crepes (What? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially after an evening of alcoholic indulgence *cough*). However, in moments like these it seems all-too-apparent that there comes a time when every buzz theorist reaches the limits of what can be pulled out of his or her ass before the ‘hu-whut?! effect becomes just too overwhelming.

And trust me on this: you ain’t got no more pseudo-intellectual dingleberries left to pluck.

h/t Latoya Peterson

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6 thoughts on “Trying Not To Freak Out

  1. When something begins from a faulty premise it usually produces faulty results.

    What I mean is this chicanery attempts to extrapolate something or other about ‘mixed-race kids’ (or as you said, mattt, Teh Mulatto) when the only term of reference in the study for ‘mixed-race’ is one black and one white parent.

    And that ain’t my full experience of ‘mixed-race’ people.

    And yeah, this is rife with stereotyping and profiling and totally extracted out of their posterior region.

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  2. I’m with Frank, I’d expect a lot more variety in ‘mixed race’. Apart from the fact that everything else they say is poppycock.

    Though I must admit that before I developped a crush on Julien Clerq (gosh I am old ;) ) I dreamt about marrying a big black man – mainly because I had a few very attractive classmates with a white and a black parent and I wanted my kids to be beautiful too. I claim youth as an excuse for being so focussed on looks ;)

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  3. Good grief! Are people ever going to get tired of this “tragic mulatto” stereotype? There’s so much wrong with this guy’s paper that I don’t even know where to begin. I will say this, as soon as I got to the part where they talked about physical attractiveness, it was apparent that this was nothing but recycled bullshit.

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