Saturday, September 19, 2009

Race and negative emotionality--again: In the last post, data on college students revealed no significant difference between blacks and whites on the trait negative emotionality.

In some ways, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) is a better source of data because: 1) it's a sample of high school students, so it has much less of a range of restriction problem; 2) it includes several racial/ethnic groups; and 3) the sample size is much larger.

I summed answers from five questions about the respondents level of sadness, the blues, depression, fearfulness, and being bothered by things. Three of the questions deal with depression, so this characteristic is weighed heavily. Cronbach's alpha is .79 which indicates that we're measuring a single, underlying trait. Here are the mean scores:

N is 6,476, but of course it gets much smaller for individual groups. To maximize sample size, I first compared groups with males and females lumped together. All minority groups have significantly higher negative emotion scores than whites, but as the effect sizes indicates, differences are not large.

When we turn to gender-specific comparisons, minority groups sometimes differ from whites, but not always. Mexican American and Amerindian males are not higher in negative emotionality than white males, but black and Asian guys are. The black-white difference for females falls just short of statistical significance, but all other minority women have higher scores.

How do we make sense of these patterns? Most of the researchers I know would announce imperiously that this is proof of pervasive white racism. Minorities of all colors experience more negative emotions because they have to deal with us traumatizing white people all the time.

Following the example of my august colleagues, I will declare imperiously that white folks are genetically the most even-keeled of all races.

(By the way, I'm sure you noticed that women score higher on this trait. The effect size for whites is .35--I'd call that a moderate difference).


  1. Anonymous6:14 PM

    I have recently conducted cross-cultural research on Singapore and the US and found that negative emotionality was significantly higher in Singapore (thus the finding is not limited to US Asians). I think the difference is fairly well established.


  2. If I recall right, women generally have higher levels of affect than men (according to studies) ... more positive and negative emotions. With overall about the same happiness / life satisfaction levels on average as men.


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