Monday, August 29, 2011

Around 8% of computer programmers are black

Half Sigma writes:
As far as I know, no employer of computer programmers has ever been sued for discrimination, even though there are no black people working in programming. OK, that’s a lie, there was one black computer programmer. But he was not a typical black man, he was actually a black Hispanic; he was born somewhere in Central America and moved here when he was a young child.
He's obviously exaggerating to make a point, but having a very good friend who is a systems and network administrator, I've heard stories from a frustrated narrator about more than a handful of incompetent black programmers who this friend "knows" to be beneficiaries of affirmative action policies (though because he cannot specifically identify these policies, he refers to the process as one of "soft" affirmative action). So I was skeptical about the claim that there are virtually no blacks in the programming profession.

Using ISCO88 occupational classifications, the GSS reveals the following racial distribution among computer programmers (n = 144):

White -- 75.6%
Black -- 8.1%
Other -- 16.3% (most of whom are Chinese or Indian; breaking the numbers down by ancestry, 7.6% of all programmers are of Chinese descent and another 8.2% are of Indian descent, for a Chinese-Indian combined total of 15.8%. Tangentially, none are of Mexican ancestry.)

Seems like the threat of sex discrimination charges would be a greater worry for employers of programmers than complaints about racial discrimination would be, as 71.6% of GSS programmer respondents are men (and the GSS slightly over-samples women).

GSS variables used: RACE, ISCO88(2132), ETHNIC, SEX

Sunday, August 28, 2011

NAM, defined

The Steveosphere has created some catchy and useful acronyms, but they're mostly just used in-house, otherwise unfamiliar to the broader public. Well, one way to induce thinking about HBD is to raise awareness* of some of its unique terminology. I've created the following entry for NAM in the Urban Dictionary:
An acronym that stands for non-Asian minority, usually used to more accurately describe a person who is referred to as a member of a minority group in mainstream media or popular discourse. It is necessitated by the general success and prosperity of Asians in the United States, who do as well or better on a host of social indicators than whites do. Thus when a media figure discusses the economic or educational struggles of a minority, he is almost always referring to a NAM, or a non-Asian minority.

"The minority income gap in the US has only gotten worse since the recession!"

"You mean the NAM income gap has gotten worse. Asians are actually doing even better relative to whites than they were before the recession."
It's competing with nine other definitions. Most of them are garbage, but one of them--the Southeast Asian country--is the formidable king of the hill. If you feel so inclined, help knock it from the head of the heap and propel the non-Asian minority definition to the top by dropping in and clicking on the thumbs-up icon, currently the fourth entry shown.

* Happily, SWPL is already firmly established at UD.

AE in the WSJ

... via an op/ed (fourth paragraph, referencing this post) by City Journal editor, author, and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Steven Malanga on the disconnect between the leftist advocacy and financing provided by union leadership and the sentiments of far more centrist due-paying, rank-and-file union members.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Conservative or traditionalist?

Ed Tom Kowalsky wondered if "traditionalist" has made any headway as a synonym for "conservative". The frequencies of each, pluralized, among all books published in the US over the last century:

I'm surprised to find that the term, while far less common than "conservative", was being used a century ago. I was under the impression that it was pretty new, employed by guys like Bill O'Reilly who try to position themselves as patriotic populists without appearing to be overly political, but that's not the case, as it predates the no spin zone by more than a generation. "Traditionalist" experienced an uptick during the cultural upheaval of the sixties (as did "conservative"), but has maintained steady state since then.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Liberal or progressive?

It's asserted with some frequency that using "liberal" as a political label carries with it too much baggage, and consequently those on the left have increasingly opted to self describe as "progressive" instead. In his syndicated column, Pat Buchanan recently made reference to this.

Living in the center of the country, thousands of miles away from the trend-setters on the coasts, I realize that I may as well be living in a time machine, but I have never noticed much in the way of execution of that label switching in my own personal experiences.

Via Google's Ngram viewer, take a look at the frequency of the terms "liberals" and "progressives" (used instead of "liberal" and "progressive" to avoid errant counting of non-political occurrences of the two words) in books published in the US over the last century:

"Liberal" enjoyed rapid ascension during the thirties and then again in the sixties, but the Carter Presidency and Reagan Republicanism put it back in its pre-hippie place. Since then, it's been steady as she goes. "Progressive", meanwhile, like "liberal", became a familiar enough term during the Great Depression and the FDR presidency. It has remained steadily so since then, but over the course of the last 100 years has never come close to supplanting "liberal" as the term of choice to describe those somewhere on the left end of the American political spectrum.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Who believes in the power of hard work?

Advances in gene sequencing and brain scanning technologies are continually threatening the human notion of free will, and the smart money appears to be on us coming to the uncomfortable realization that we have a lot less control over our actions, behaviors, and abilities than we think we do, sooner rather than later.

That said, it's encouraging to find that over two-thirds of Americans, when questioned on what it takes to get ahead, assert that hard work is more important than are lucky circumstances or getting help from others. At the individual level, the belief in the efficacy of personal effort is a benefit, a beneficent lie to the extent that it is overemphasized. What good does it do for someone of limited ability and prospects to languish in self-pity or resentment, resigning himself to a dismal, effortless existence because he knows the game is fixed, and so what's the point in trying?

There are inherent dangers in believing effort is everything, especially for those who have won life's lottery. If someone of nearly limitless potential decides to coast on his early accomplishments, having attained a bachelor's degree from State U and currently making $80,000 a year in a comfortable job, reasoning that "Hey, I'm doing better than most people, and that's pretty good, right?", the world is the poorer for it. More pithily, if accomplishments are exclusively the products of personal effort, the venerable words from Luke--that "from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked"--lose much of their meaning.

There is also the problem of people having unrealistic expectations about success, the idea that any child is capable of becoming an astronaut or the future president of the US, as NCLB illustrates. But a more pressing concern to me seems to be the sense of entitlement that has infected Western civilization, the sense that everyone deserves a prestigious, fun existence and lots of material accouterments to accompany it without having to do much of anything to earn them.

The declaration that two-in-three Americans believe hard work is paramount in getting ahead in life comes from a GSS question that reads "Some people say that people get ahead by their own hard work; others say that lucky breaks of help from other people are more important. Which do you think is most important?" The three possible answers are "hard work", "both equally", and "luck or help". It's a question that is posed to a huge swath of participants, so sample sizes are large across the board. The following table shows a self-determination index (SDI) score, computed by taking the percentage of respondents who say hard work is more important and subtracting from it the percentage of respondents who say "luck or help" is more important. For contemporary relevance, all responses are from 2000 onward:


Native Americans

Really smarts
Pretty smarts
Pretty Dumbs
Real Dumbs

Political orientation

Partisan affiliation



US native

Uncertain believer
Firm believer
Educational attainment

Less than high school
High school grad
Some college
Bachelor's degree
Post-secondary work

The largest differences are racial, political, and theological. Intelligence, educational attainment (though the academic world's emphasis on the powerlessness of the individual and the heavy influence of societal forces beyond the individual's control shouldn't be discounted in the observation that those with less education put more emphasis on the value of hard work than those with more education do), sex, age, and whether or not you were born in the country do not factor in much.

I'm not surprised to find that blacks, many of whom are enmeshed in the idea that white society is forever holding them down, and Asians, who despite doing well, seem strangely fascinated by luck or the lack thereof, take a more cynical view of the value of hard work than whites do. That Hispanics and Native Americans actually believe in the importance of effort a little more than whites do is more unexpected. To offer an explanation after the fact, Amerindians have lower levels of self-esteem and are less braggadocios than blacks and whites are, so perhaps they're more willing to accept the fact that while hard work is helpful, they don't always possess the will to work very hard themselves.

The political shake out is predictable. Liberals and Democrats are more inclined towards the idea that people are a product of societal forces beyond their control and consequently there is a need for a powerful central government to right societal wrongs and redistribute wealth in an equitable manner. Conservatives and Republicans are closer to the Ron Paul message of individual liberty and personal responsibility, viewing government as a nefarious force that punishes the innocent and rewards the guilty.

Somewhat ironically, those who believe in God are more likely to feel that it's up to oneself to make it in the world, even as they pray for blessings and assistance from above, while atheists and agnostics feel that a person has relatively little control over his circumstances in life.

Parenthetically, the slight increase in the belief in hard work among the young tracks with the gentle trend over the four decades that the GSS has asked the question for people to increasingly respond that hard work more than luck is more important in determining whether or not a person gets ahead in life.

GSS variables used: GETAHEAD(1-3), YEAR(2000-2010), SEX, RACECEN1(1)(2)(3)(4-10)(15-16), GOD(1)(2)(3-5)(6), POLVIEWS(1-2)(3-5)(6-7), PARTYID(0-1)(2-4)(5-6), BORN, WORDSUM(see *), EDUC(0-11)(12)(13-15)(16-17)(18-20)

* Respondents are broken up into five categories; Really Smarts (wordsum score of 9-10, comprising 13% of the population), Pretty Smarts (7-8, 26%), Normals (6, 22%), Pretty Dumbs (4-5, 27%), and Real Dumbs (0-3, 12%)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Aw, the way we was

I noticed this retrograde, hate-spewing vile of bile while walking through the arcade wing of a shop just the other day (the relevancy ends after the first five seconds):

It's possibly even more vile than Double Dragon, where the chivalrous blond-haired, blue-eyed Billy is attacked by blacks, women, and mongoloids--not exclusively, but only because the racists at Technos were sophisticated enough to feign a little tactfulness in their design (start 40 seconds in, where someone who knows what he's doing starts playing):

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tracing isolationism

There are derogatory terms flung around that have been part of the popular lexicon for as long as I can remember, but whose etymology is something I, at best, only make lazy assumptions about. One of those that has experienced a bit of a resurgence with the NATO bombing campaign in Libya is "isolationism". While the term could conceivably be as old as our republic, the US was pretty isolationist up through World War I. We were too busy making the Louisiana Purchase, taking Florida, bringing Texas aboard, taking the Southwest and the Northwest, and buying a firesale Alaska from Russia to, uh, pay attention to anything going on outside of our original 13 colonies.

So I turned to Google's handy Ngram viewer, which shows the incidence of selected words or phrases in published books over time, to trace the history of the term:

It looks like Pat Buchanan's unnecessary war spread the unnecessary phrase that, while having likely forever retreated from its WWII high, is still thrown around almost as loosely and carelessly as its other -ism cousins.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting it exactly wrong

On Friday, the day after the GOP presidential debate in Iowa, All Things Considered aired a segment purporting to capture the sentiments of Republican voters a day before the much hyped Ames straw poll.

With the exception of one woman who found Mitt Romney a little too low key for her tastes, the insinuated consensus was that the bickering between the two from Minnesota was uncalled for and unhelpful, turning prospective backers of both of them away, while Romney by far looked the most presidential of the bunch. Ron Paul, unsurprisingly, went completely unmentioned (see the entire transcript here).

Well, we know how the story ended. Bachman won, with the unmentionable Ron Paul only half a pace behind. Pawlenty finished third. Romney was beaten by Rick Perry, who wasn't even on the ballot and had to be written in.

Small wonder those who get their news from NPR are clueless (in actuality, it's largely because NPR's listenership skews more heavily female than that of other media outlets, and women are less informed than men are).

Parenthetically, this is the last bit of whining about media bias for awhile, promise.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

More on the myth of Hispanic social conservatism

From the Pew Research Center comes more evidence that the open borders Republicans' nonsense about Hispanics being natural Republicans because of their putative "family values" social conservatism is just that, nonsense.

Pew conducted a survey earlier this year in which respondents were queried about their positions on seven areas of contemporary change in family structure that has occurred in the US over the last several decades. The seven are "more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them", "more unmarried couples raising children", "more gay and lesbian couples raising children", "more people living together without getting married", "more mothers of young children working outside the home", "more people of different races marrying each other", and "more women not ever having children". Respondents rated each of the items as being "good for society", "bad for society", or "makes no difference".

From the responses, Pew categorized participants into three groups of roughly equal size ("accepters", "skeptics", and "rejecters"). Accepters were the most likely to render the changes as being good for society and rejecters the most likely to render them bad for society, while skeptics fell in between.

The following table displays a progressive index for various demographic groupings, computed by simply taking the percentage of each group classified as accepters and subtracting from that the percentage of the group classified as rejecters. Thus, the higher the value, the more progressive that group is:




Marital status

Political affiliation

Electoral status

Registered voter
Church attendance

Monthly or less

Hispanics hold far more 'progressive' views on the breakdown of the traditional nuclear family than blacks and whites do. Who would've thought blacks are even more natural Republicans than Hispanics are?! Hispanics are even slightly more progressive than self-described Democrats and those under the age of 30 are. Only the irreligious are more libertine in their views on the state of the family in contemporary America than Hispanics are.

The other results come as little surprise, meshing well with conventional wisdom, with a couple possible exceptions in the sex and registered voters gaps. After all, it's women who are said to suffer more from single parenthood, hence the recourse available to women through the legal system to force absent fathers to transfer resources to them. Regarding registered voters being more traditional than the population at large, it's yet another reason I'm an opponent of universal suffrage.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A random day's worth of whining about media bias

Instead of just speaking to the walls as I work out while listening to the news, I'll mix it up by soiling this blog a bit by griping about a few examples of the media's sins of omission. In my personal life I'm hesitant to moan about this kind of thing not so much for fear of the censure it provokes (it's not like talking about differences in IQ or athleticism, where egalitarian sacred cows are butchered left and right--I'm just after fair, objective reporting is all!) as from an ethos from which taking offense, soliciting pity, or feeling sorry for oneself are precluded. I suppose I'm a throwback in that regard, playing by a hidebound set of self-imposed rules that an increasing number of people in the West have no concept of, let alone any intention of imposing on themselves.

From yesterday's All Things Considered (a misnomer if I've ever heard one) comes a report on protests against high housing costs in a posh area of Tel Aviv. More recently, these inclusive protests have expanded to take in other malcontents. The addition of Jewish settlers from the 'West Bank' appears to be an especially sore spot for many of the original protesters:
SHEERA FRENKEL [correspondent]: The settlers want the government to solve the housing issue by expanding the settlements. And they have secured the backing of 42 members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. But the arrival of the settlers incensed Assi Rothbard, who has been living in the protest camp for the past week with his three young children.

ASSI ROTHBARD [protester]: They are doing the smartest thing that they can do because they want to destroy the protest. So the best thing they can do is build a tent here. Because these lunatic extreme settlers, I have nothing with them.

FRENKEL: Rothbard notes that the settlers have already received subsidized housing. Figures published by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics show that Israel spends 15 percent of its housing budget on the settlements, though less than 4 percent of Israelis live there. Haim Ramon, a liberal lawmaker, says the government spends twice as much per capita on the settlers as it does on other Israelis. Rothbard says the issue is one of priorities. [emphasis added]

Without pretending to have a firm grasp on the dynamics of Israeli society, the open pronouncement of such statistics is something to be envied by those of us on the other side of the Atlantic. It's difficult to imagine HUD publishing similar stats on per capita federal subsidization by race for housing in the US. It's equally difficult to imagine a media organ like NPR seeking such data out even if it did (or even 'considering' criticism of disproportionate spending blacks or Hispanics in the first place).

Orthogonally, the five New Orleans police officers who were charged with, among other things, multiple civil rights violations in the notorious Danziger Bridge killings are quite the diverse bunch (two whites, two blacks, and one Hispanic). That the victims are black is made clear in the same NPR program's story on the convictions, but nothing descriptive about the officers is offered--not even their names, as Anthony Villavaso distorts the images of the crooked cops that listeners are supposed to have in their heads:

Of course, nothing was to be heard about the racially-motivated attacks against whites at the opening night of Wisconsin's State Fair, where one white boy under the age of 16 was severely beaten by a group of black 'youths', one of whom pushed a construction sign over on him before tossing him from the sidewalk into the bushes. And why would there be any coverage of such an incident, anyway? After all, what does could it possibly have to do with civil rights?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

On the wealth gap

Pew recently published a report accompanied by a press release that highlights the recent growth in the ratio of the median wealth of white households relative to that of black and Hispanic households. As of 2009, the median white household's net worth was 20 times that of blacks. Just four years prior, the multiple had 'only' been 11.

The median net worth of white households fell over $22k from $135k in '05 to $113k '09, while black net worth decreased $6, from $12k to $6k. White wealth decreased more than NAM wealth in absolute terms.

As nearly one-quarter of NAM households have no assets beyond a vehicle (about 1 in 17 white households are in the same situation), it's a bit misleading to focus on relative multiples, since the floor is not zero, but some undefined negative number far below that. If a double dip recession propels us into "peak everything", imagine the consequences are another $20k off of median white household net worth and another $5k off black net worth. Now we're looking at a multiple of nearly 100 between white and black wealth. Is it plausible that the relative increased suffering of blacks will be an order of magnitude worse than the pain this causes whites? If black net worth falls to $100 and white net worth to $50k, is the black situation 500 times worse? Doubtful (though it is admittedly difficult to quantify economic suffering). And what if median black wealth falls $7k, into negative territory, where a large number of blacks already are? The multiplier becomes a negative number, which just gets really confusing in the popular press.

Anyway, the underlying data that comparative reports like these are built upon is often useful for calibrating one's hazy conception of the American scene (in this case, by affluence and race) into something sharper. Unfortunately, even though the report understandably focuses on median rather than mean wealth, breaking out actual average dollar figures by asset class for all households is more tenable for mean wealth than it is for median wealth based on the figures provided. Consequently, that's what the following table displays, derived primarily from the data on page 6 of the full report (all figures are in US dollars, rounded to the nearest $100):

Asset class
Total assets
Own home
Rental property
Other real estate
Stocks and mutual funds
IRA and Keogh accounts
401(k) and thrift accounts
Financial institution accounts
Other interest-earning assets
Business equity
Other assets
Unsecured liabilities

The gap between whites and NAMs is by far the widest in categories involving financial assets. While the average white family's sedan is only twice as nice as the average Hispanic's family van, the white family's Scottrade account is 20 times as valuable. Seeing people on the street gives the general impression that whites tend to be a little better off than NAMs, but it's certainly nothing like a British tourist traveling to a village in the Congo. Seeing each of these people's personal ledgers reveals that behind relatively equal public appearances, whites have a lot more tucked away than NAMs do (and Asians--whose cars are less flashy than those of whites--have even more than that tucked away). If whites and Asians tried to be as opulent relative to their real wealth as blacks (and to a lesser extent, Hispanics) do, racial tensions and the clamor for robin hood economics would be even worse than they already are.

A couple of other interesting asides: 1) The report mentions that the Asian figure for stocks and bonds is noticeably higher than it was four years ago, even though the DJIA lost around 40% of its value over that period of time, and suggests caution in putting too much stake in an Asian sample that may have had an unexpectedly high number of very affluent participants. The total mean wealth of Asian households holds over the four year period. As the recession hit states with large immigrant populations the hardest, it would be expected for mean Asian wealth to drop quite a bit, like Hispanic mean wealth did. So the caution is valid.

2) While the median Hispanic household's net worth is higher than the median black net worth, mean black net worth is higher than mean Hispanic net worth. Among the lower classes, blacks struggle a little more than Hispanics do. But there are a lot more blacks than there are Hispanics who make it big in things like sports and the world of entertainment.