Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Regional Racism

Critics like to paint the South as a hotbed of ignorant racism, and film and TV does us no favors, creating racist charicatures that almost always hail from the South.

But I have suspected for some time now that the seat of American racism lies not in the South, where we have had to deal with the issue of race in our daily lives for hundreds of years, but rather that the most racist region lies to our North, specifically in the American Northeast.

My suspicions have been scientifically confirmed by some kindly Stanford economists, who's experimental paradigm consisted of an iPod for sale in a Craigslist ad.

Over the course of a year, they placed hundreds of ads in local online markets, randomly altering whether the hand holding an iPod for sale was black, white, or white with a big tattoo. Here is what they found:

Black sellers do worse than white sellers on a variety of market outcome measures: they receive 13% fewer responses and 17% fewer offers. These effects are strongest in the Northeast, and are similar in magnitude to those associated with the display of a wrist tattoo.

Interesting that the Northeast, the supposed bastion of liberal tolerance, is also where black people face the most racism.

The research delves deeper into the data, finding even more measures on which blacks are at a disadvantage, but I felt this particular geographic detail to be the most interesting.

[via those awesome guys at Freakonomics]


  1. Another interesting example of this was on LA Radio station KFI Bill Handle is the morning host. He is generally a social liberal and somewhat fiscal conservative. So after the passage of the Health Care bill he asks the audience to call if they have any comment if they know if the 1964 civil rights act had any post passage fighting or if the South conceded for the most part(He wanted to compare the partisanship between the two). What was interesting was of the folks who called in (show starts at 5:00 AM so not many callers) they said their experience was the south complied but the North kept their covert racist overtones. So while the South was definitely more dangerous, the north were not a bunch of saints either. And because it was more subtle, the north would continue longer and was harder to police. I never expected that response from the callers.