New York Times to employers: Toss resumes from applicants who went to school in poor neighborhoods

“Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares” was presumably written in the same do-gooder spirit that permeates most of the New York Times. But consider the practical take-away of information such as the following:

We’ve long known of the persistent and troublesome academic gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers in public schools.

Children in the school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts.

Even more sobering, the analysis shows that the largest gaps between white children and their minority classmates emerge in some of the wealthiest communities, such as Berkeley, Calif.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Evanston, Ill.

In some communities where both blacks and whites or Hispanics and whites came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, academic gaps persisted. Mr. Reardon said that educators in these schools may subliminally – or consciously in some cases – track white students into gifted courses while assigning black and Hispanic students to less rigorous courses.

Consider an employer with a stack of 1000 resumes of applicants for a job. Given the above tips from the New York Times, she can cut her workload considerably without a significant risk of overlooking a great candidate. She tells her assistant “Take the resumes from people who went to school in poorer-than-average neighborhoods and toss them into recycling.” If the stack is still daunting, she adds “The Times says that blacks and Hispanics don’t do well academically so toss any resume that you think is from a black or Hispanic person.”

Given the resistance of America’s public school systems (see “Smartest Kids in the World Review”) to any kind of change, what could the Times editors have been thinking the positive effects of running this article were going to be? What if Donald Trump came out with a long statement about the academic performance of Americans sorted by skin color? Would the Times celebrate Trump as making a thoughtful helpful contribution?


7 thoughts on “New York Times to employers: Toss resumes from applicants who went to school in poor neighborhoods

  1. My takeaway from the article:

    We know that whites do better than blacks in school because of their socioeconomic advantages, but when we study racial differences (race being an arbitrary social construct anyway) with the socioeconomic advantages (money) taken away, whites still do better, which could only be explained by subconscious racism.

  2. To answer your question, the point of the article is to show that racism persists, which should help guide our social consciousness, and hopefully affect the current and future elections. You know which candidate will ‘do something ‘ about inequality, don’t you?

  3. The education industry is divided between people who think that the most important priority is to close the Gap, because they think that the Gap is caused entirely by controllable factors, and people who know that the Gap can never be closed because even if all external conditions were absolutely equal, some groups simply have higher average innate academic capability–it’s a small difference compared with the difference between individuals, but statistically it will always show up at something between 2/3 of a standard deviation and 1 standard deviation. Many of the latter category of people are even more enthusiastic advocates of Gap-closing interventions precisely because they know it is guaranteed to generate grants and consultancy fees indefinitely and a career can be made from coming up with new Gap-reducing interventions every few years.

  4. In my family, every adult of the previous generation was an academic. I was pressurised from the earliest childhood to do well in school. I had the very same teachers of people who utterly failed in school — so the issue here is the family, not the school. The NYT times amply admits that extracurricular activities and parent pressure push some kids to excel in school. What the NYT misses is that this kids come from families (1) who care and (2) who, rightly or wrongly, believe that education is a key to success. Parents’ opinion of education is a pretty good predictor of academic success in my experience, over and above money.

    In addition, rather than assuming some nefarious bias in the teachers, it is much more likely that parents who have faced discrimination will not believe that education matters in their children’s future success (most likely it did very little for them), and thus they will put less effort in it.

    The upshot: if we want to make people care about education we need to show education is valued by society at large, and is a key to upwards social mobility. Hence it is even more important to do check whether candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds are actually educated enough for a job: showing that education does matter irrespective of race will help making education matter to everyone, not just two PhDs families.

  5. This report by the Times and the excerpts from the book are just not very good IMO. They seem to be using the data to justify the conclusion rather than doing good research. They left out the issue of Orientals completely and their high academic achievements that better whites. They left out the smart kids from all cohorts having the same scores. And they seem to miss completely that most school districts are a blend of schools with a blend of students. Rich smart kids go to rich good schools and poor minorities go to poor bad schools but summed together for the “school district”. So you get the results shown in the report and graph. And I am pretty sure this is similar across many school districts all over the country.

    I am pretty sure you have read the Bell Curve. It discusses this topic as well.

  6. This is exactly why government regulators should directly make hiring decisions. They’ve proved it works in the public sector.

    And aren’t we tired of asian success (and white relative failure) being ignored? Especially when you look at narrower groups like Han Chinese, Korean, Japanese …

  7. Maybe the answer to all of the above is as simple as “Most NYT readers are white.” What do white people want to read? An article that tells them how much smarter they are than people with darker skin. What do white people not want to read? An article that tells them how much dumber they are than Asians.

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