Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blacks have less trouble sleeping than whites do

Malcolm Pollack reacted to a newly discovered challenge in the quest for racial justice thusly:
Maybe black people and white people are just, well, different in some way that manifests itself, directly or indirectly, in different sleep patterns?
This intransigent hatethought came after it'd been explained to him by National Journal that the apparent observation that blacks spend less of their shuteye time in slow-wave sleep than whites do is a deleterious consequence of discrimination, poverty, and poor health and certainly not due in any way to "innate biological differences" (so certain, in fact, that no data are required to explain why this certainty is so definitively certain!)

Oddly, this putative problem doesn't seem to be one blacks--who are socially encouraged to bellyache loudly about perceived problems and suffered injustices--have any self-awareness of.

In 2010 and 2014, the GSS asked respondents how often they've had trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep in the past year. The percentages among whites (n = 1,802), blacks (n = 354), and Hispanics (n = 127) who answered either "often" or "sometimes"*:

RaceBad Sleep

Curiously, the ordering runs in the opposite direction of what the oppression narrative would suggest. Perhaps it's the guilt weighing on whites and the clean consciences blacks enjoy that allow the latter to sleep better than the former despite the disadvantages they suffer in terms of poverty, discrimination, and loud music!

GSS variables used: SLPPRBLM(1-2)(3-4), RACECEN1(1)(2)(15-16)

* The item contains four possible responses--often, sometimes, rarely, never. If we just look at "often", we get 23.1% for whites, 15.8% for blacks, and 19.1% for Hispanics. If we go the other direction and look at "never" responses, we get 17.0% for whites, 21.9% for blacks, and 21.9% for Hispanics. No matter how it is sliced, blacks report significantly less trouble sleeping well than whites do.


JayMan said...

Are the differences statistically significant? I know the GSS is a small sample, but that could just be noise.

Maybe looking at trends might help here.

Audacious Epigone said...

The p-value for the results from only whites and blacks considered is .01 (99% confidence that it's not merely sampling error). I'm not adept at coding dummy variables to the extent that I'm able to evaluate the entire RACECEN1 variable.

Unfortunately there are only two years of survey data on the question. The 2010 and 2014 results are quite similar by race, though.

Anonymous said...

What about Asians, don't they sleep?

Anonymous said...

@anonymous at 11/2/15, 4:15 PM

Probably not. Plenty of Whites people don't sleep either. My dad has a much younger colleague, who although being a White male, doesn't sleep at all. The dude stays up all night because he does competitive video gaming and practices with people in Japan and South Korea.

Audacious Epigone said...


They report fewer problems going to and staying asleep than whites, blacks, or Hispanics do. I didn't include them because the total sample was only 73 and is spread across seven different identifiers--Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, other Asian.

American Indians (n = 35) fall in between blacks and Hispanics.

So whites do appear to report the most trouble sleeping.

Audacious Epigone said...


Sleeping X amount less is not necessarily the same thing as having more trouble getting to/staying asleep or getting poorer quality sleep, which is what Malcolm was hinting at. To dismiss HBD explanations out of hand is illustrative of why so much popular thinking is worthless or at least incomplete. Could be that East Asians, on average, need less sleep than people of NW Euro ancestry do but also tend to have less trouble sleeping than NW Euros do. The conventional presumption, of course, is that the disparities are 1) harmful, and 2) caused by some sort of social oppression.