Saturday, June 02, 2012

Laziness and job status among blacks

In his book White Guilt, Shelby Steele argues that few blacks excel in high status jobs because they lack the required skills. From childhood they are told that failure is not their fault, so they never learn that they are responsible for their lack of skills. While other people are working hard to become competent to avoid feeling like failures, blacks don't fear failure; after all, it's not their doing, it's the system.

GSS data can give us some idea if a work ethic among blacks is as important as Steele thinks. Respondents were asked:  "To what extent do you agree or disagree that you see yourself as someone who tends to be lazy." Answers ranged from "strongly agree" (1) to "strongly disagree" (5). I calculated the means for those with low job prestige and those with high prestige. The mean work ethic score is 4.19 for the low-status group (n = 115) and 4.03 for the high-status group (n = 66). The two means are not signficantly different. According to these data, higher class blacks are no more hard working than their lower class counterparts. (The means indicate a bias toward thinking that one is not lazy, but this is not really a problem when comparing the two groups unless the bias is systematically stronger in one group than the other.)

56 comments:

pat said...

I read this blog because it cites object evidence. But I as a mere blog commenter should not be held to such a high standard.

Thus I preface another anecdotal remark which I hope is relevant.

Unlike almost anyone else anywhere on this planet I have supervised black programmers. If you only know programming from Hollywood movies you may be surprised to learn that there are almost no blacks in high tech. IBM at one time hired a lot of blacks as sales representatives especially reps for government accounts. There are some blacks in help desk positions but only in first level support. Systems engineers, data base administrators and application programmers are almost all white or Asian.

I had also taught several hundred tech students in commercial schools (Novell and Microsoft) and in three or four colleges. There were a smattering of blacks in the introductory courses but none in the advanced courses.

So I was a little surprised to have had not just one but two black programmers when I took over the supervison of a development unit at an Internet start-up. I had known a lot a programmers by then and I had never even heard of a black programmer much less seen one.

It was a mark of how much trouble this company was in that they had black programmers at all. There is a BBC reality show called "Kitchen Nightmares" in which the star chef goes in to a new failing restaurant each week and uncovers all the rotten food in their refrigerators. I had discovered black programmers - the equivalent of a dead rat in the bouillabaisse.

The problem is that in programming if it doesn't run - it doesn't run. Charm or guilt or rationalization or anything else doesn't much matter.

I eventually fired both of those black guys and returned the unit to de facto industry standards (eg. black free).

One of them insisted against all evidence that he was a genius. In fact he was no better than poor. His other behavior was quite remarkable - drugs, booze, sex, shutting down the servers to party, sleeping all day at his desk, etc. The second one was quite candid about his inability to program. He had never been a programmer before and never expected to be hired as one. He was
embarrassed. He spent eight hours once just staring at the screen hoping to figure out what to do. He was relieved when I fired him. The other one had challenged me to a fist fight when I let him go.

This particular company didn't pay well so I spent almost half my time recreeuiting and interviewing. I eventuall found a Chinese guy who was good - better than I was. I snapped him up.

I suppose all this marks me as an irremidiable racist. What can I say?

Albertosaurus

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