Monday, May 08, 2006

More on race and self-image: Readers have indicated that blacks have high self-esteem. To put numbers on it, the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children asked kids if they have confidence in themselves. The following said "always":

1. Blacks 50%
2. American Indians 44
3. Hispanics 42
4. Whites 34
5. Asians 32

1. Blacks 45
2. American Indians 31
3. Hispanics 29
4. Whites 23
5. Asians 18

It's difficult for me to imagine any teenager never having moments of doubt, so there might be a little bit of posturing here, but these rankings are similar to the attractiveness rankings listed in the earlier post.

These findings match the research which shows that, despite the popularity of the idea, low self-esteem does not raise the risk of involvment in delinquency. The one thing that mugging someone does require is self-confidence.

You can imagine the thinking process here: We know that bad black behavior is caused by mean white people, but how do we fill in the blanks? Well, mean people like to tell you all the time that you are no good, and eventually you'll believe this, especially if these mean people are the ones with authority who run society. Once you become convinced that you're no good, you hate yourself and act self-destructively. There! We've filled in the story now. The one little problem is that this thinking doesn't draw the least bit on knowledge, experience, or known facts. It's simply a mental exercise that connects two things assumed to be true: blacks commit a lot of crimes and somehow whites are behind it. Then, after we've spend a lot of money to test this "theory" with research, the results just makes criminologists look foolish.


  1. Actually, do you have data on being arrested and self confidence? For youth preferably. Would be great to crush that myth if you can (racial correation is not enough, someone could claim it is the 50% with less than supert self esteem that commit the crimes).

    I think I remeber Heckman showing high self confidence blacks earn more.

  2. Using the same survey, I calculated the Pearson correlation coefficients for having confidence in yourself and bullying, physical fights, and cocaine and marijuana use. Confidence was unrelated to all of them.

  3. There's one word I never hear in reports about these self-esteem studies. "Bravado".

  4. I agree that mugging requires self-confidence (bravado), so does burglary and other crimes where the criminal pits himself against hostile individuals (the victims). In Britain we have a very large underclass, yet most of them don't commit any crime (other than a bit of benefit fraud against the State) - I blame low self-esteem. >:)


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