Monday, May 25, 2015

Lack Of Confidence = Lack of Pay?

In class, we have been discussing income gaps and class differences in the United States. I recently saw an article with a possible explanation for income differences based on gender. Below is a graph showing the earnings of workers in 2009 by sex, race, and ethnicity. Clearly, the men (blue color) earn more money than the women, no matter the race or ethnicity. This shows that this income gender gap exists and calls for possible explanations to be discussed, with one being that women have lower expectations and lower confidence than men. This makes me wonder whether society's gender norms and stereotypes are depleting confidence in women and are truly affecting socioeconomic status and income disparities.

Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, by sex, race, and ethnicity in 2009

According to the survey conducted online by job site Monster, only 33 percent of women believe they will earn more than $50,000 in their first job out of college, compared with 48 percent of men. Female college students were also less confident they would even receive job opportunities to begin with, as only 16 percent of women in Monster's survey said they were "absolutely confident" they would find a job.' Clearly, women expect less than men do, which may cause them to underachieve based on the role they believe they should have in society instead of striving for what they are actually capable of.

This caused me to ask myself, why do women expect less? It could stem back to history's traditional family gender roles in which men were the only ones working and providing for the family, therefore granting them the most power. Women were expected to be submissive and serve their husband by taking care of the kids and cleaning the home. Do you think this idea still exists in today's society?

How and why is this idea affecting the income gap? Authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman for The Atlantic said that "success correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence." In other words, there’s a large advantage to having high expectations for oneself. If you want more money, you need to expect to make more money and be upfront in asking for it. According to the article, studies show that men are more likely than women to negotiate for and receive higher pay because of this reason. So clearly, there is evidence supporting the idea that lower expectations and lower confidence is contributing to the lower pay that women receive compared to men. 

As I think about this critically, I still wonder whether the confidence gap can truly be blamed for the income gender gap, or if this psychological explanation is used to simply blame the problem on something that may not actually be as influential as it’s perceived to be. After all, there are many successful and powerful women in our society today, such as Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, and Michelle Obama. Also, the author may be biased towards women, since she is a woman herself. This could generate greater empathy for women and therefore create a skewed point of view on the situation.

What do you think? To what extent do you believe this claim presented is true?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Is Facebook Solving Income Inequality?

During class, we have been talking a lot about income inequality and how much of a problem it is. Below, the graph supports the idea that income inequality is a clear issue, as the incomes of the top 0.01% have continued to grow at an alarmingly high rate compared to the rest of the population. This is extremely troubling because it breaks down the middle class, and in order for a country to be economically successful, there must be a stable middle class.

The incomes of top earners versus the rest of the population in both 2000 (green) and 2006 (blue)
 I found it espeically astounding that there isn’t a greater outcry about this problem. So, when I saw an article about Facebook’s possible solution to improving income inequality, I immediately read into it. It made me wonder whether or not the media is actually able to improve income inequality.

On May 12th, Facebook announced that it would be requiring contractors with more than 25 employees to pay a minimum wage of $15an hour, offer a minimum of 15 paid days off, and pay a $4,000 childcarebenefit if they don’t provide parental leave. This was the first move by a big tech company to raise wages through contracting, which is a step forward in solving the problem.  This actually parallels a similar move by Microsoft, which required its contractors to offer 15 days ofpaid leave in March. In addition, Google and Apple then made their security guards into full-fledged employees, which “entitled them to the same benefitsas someone who writes code for the company.

Derecka Mehrens, executive director of Working Partnerships USA, commented on the involvement of the media, specifically Facebook, in solving income inequality: “We’ve seen incredible movement in a short amount of time. We know that the companies are embarrassed about conditions in thecontracted workforce. Facebook is a leader in saying that all of their subcontracts will have a higher floor.” Clearly, Facebook is a role model and a "leader" for other firms because of their power and wealth, so these actions are a big deal because it will hopefully pressure other firms to follow in the footsteps of this big tech companies. As a result, this may trigger a sort of domino effect which would ideally make a large influence in improving and ultimately solving income inequality.

However, it’s not clear if the media’s role in this problem will actually eliminate income equality. Plus, are the new rules even enforced? How? This is something we will have to assess as citizens who hold the power to change the future of our society. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

African American Students 'Acting White'

Through my junior theme research, I found that many African American students possess a fear of ‘acting white’, which contributes to the wide achievement gap between whites and African Americans in standardized testing. ‘Acting white’ refers to activities and attitudes associated with white middle-class Americans and can be explained through oppositional culture (Paige and Witty 66). 

This is the theory that African Americans are accustomed to society assuming that they will not succeed academically, so they intentionally underperform in standardized testing due to a fear of being stereotyped as ‘acting white’ (Mangino). I found this very interesting, as it was an idea I had never previously thought about it in this perspective. I believed at first that other people should be to blame for this achievement gap (family, schools, teachers, the government), but instead, this theory really focuses on the idea that the African Americans themselves may be largely contributing to the gap. I wonder to what extent this theory exists in our society today and how it affects the education system in America. 

Below is a graph demonstrating the idea that as African American students (dotted line) received higher grades, their popularity went down. This supports the idea that African Americans fear 'acting white' because they will be rejected by their peers and community. 

A graph showing the popularity index versus the grade point average of blacks (dotted line) and whites (solid red line).
This concept is very telling about African American culture, as adherence to white norms in African American communities can be viewed as a betrayal of their culture (Fryer). I think this mindset may be due to the historical battles African Americans have had with the education system (like the Jim Crow Laws – see my previous blog post), as they may feel the need to stick together because of the legacy and discrimination that continues to affect them. However, it also sheds a bad light on American society because our nation is supposed to centered around acceptance, freedom, and equality. However, when a group of people fears being stereotyped so greatly to the point where they sabotage their own education, it is very saddening to me.  

To what extent do you think this idea of 'acting white' really exists? Have you seen any examples of this in any of your classes? If so, explain. 

School Segregation: 1960s - 2015

My junior theme made me think a lot about how historical evidence is apparent in our education system today. Throughout my research, I uncovered that the legacy of Jim Crow Laws can take responsibility for the achievement gap. The Jim Crow Laws were racial segregation state and local laws enacted after the Reconstruction period in Southern United States from 1890 until 1965. These laws "robbed Negroes of their basic rights and created a dual society based on race that claimed to be 'separate but equal'" (Smith, Ellis, and Aslanian). This “separate but equal” idea was used to justify school segregation and the unfair treatment of African Americans, simply because their skin was a different hue.

By 1964, 98% of African American students in Southern schools were enrolled in all-Black schools (Darling-Hammond 35). That is an absurdly high number, and because of this, African American students were put at an extreme disadvantage in relation to white students because of the low quality of these all-Black schools. According to Claire Hartman, a peer researcher on school segregation, most segregated schools were in urban areas, in which they had fewer resources and lower qualified teachers, while most majority white schools were either private or in wealthy districts with higher-salary teachers. Shockingly, Claire in 2011, 77.8% of African American students still attended schools that were majority black (Hartman). Below is a map of the United States showing the distribution of school segregation across the country in 2000: 

A map of the school segregation across the country in 2000. Red represents less than 10% probability that a black student has white classmates, and it increases (20-40%, 40-60%, 60-80%, and over 80%). 
Clearly, things haven’t changed that much, and I found it very interesting that the greatest segregation was in the south. This was where the Jim Crow Laws took place, so clearly, the legacy continues to affect our education system today. Something needs to be done. 

As I was looking at the news the other day, I found an article about Senate’s Bill 683. This would pull draw students from different districts to establish Next Generation Schools. These schools would be run by outside operators to create a student body of no more than 55 percent and no less than 35 percent of students who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals. I found this very interesting, as steps are being taken to improve the modern school segregation issue. The question is, will this bill pass? And more importantly, will it work? What do you think?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Academic Success May Not Be So Academic?

Last week, I discussed socioeconomic disparities as one of the possible explanations regarding the existence of an achievement gap between African American students and white students in terms of standardized testing. Of course, there is more than one explanation, and I think it’s important to analyze how sociopathological culture may influence this achievement gap. Sociopathological culture that affects academic success includes unstable families, poor parenting skills, negative peer pressure, poor choice of role models, high levels of teen pregnancies, drugs, and crime, and lower parental involvement in children’s education. I felt it was necessary to explore this reason further to uncover why this is a possible explanation.

To illustrate one of the elements of sociopathological culture, below is a graph showing the number of teen pregnancies by race, and clearly, African Americans surpass whites, even over a span of time. This affects academic performance, as teen girls who are pregnant have to miss long periods of school, and school is often not their top priority. 

Pregnancy rates for teenagers 15-19 years old, organized by race, between 1990 and 2009. 
Sociopathological culture has a strong influence on the gap because the achievement seems to be closely tied to the extent to which the child’s family is able to create a home environment that encourages learning, communicates high expectations for their childeren’s achievement and future careers, and involves itself in the child’s education at school and in the community” (Paige and Witty 63). African Americans experience these sociopathological struggles more intensely than whites do as a whole, because generally there are more economic troubles leading to instability and a tendency towards peer pressure. Therefore, this affects achievement in the classroom, contributing to the achievement gap. 

However, the fact that many African American children do succeed academically despite the challenges presented by societal conditions weakens the sociopathological explanation (Paige and Witty 64). Believers tend to lecture black communities constantly about the need for a wholesale spiritual awakening to traditional virtues and the work ethic. They think that the problem of the achievement gap needs to be dealt with on a personal level, and African Americans simply need to step up and work harder to overcome this.

What do you think? To what extent do you agree that sociopathological culture affects academic success, and do you see examples of this in your own life? Explain.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Black-White Achievement Gap: Or should we say Income Gap?

There are countless explanations that one may argue are the causes of the achievement gap between African Americans and whites, but one of the root reasons I find important to focus on is the idea of socioeconomic disparities, which may be traced back to slavery. Socioeconomic disparities elude to the income gap between African American families versus white families, as whites generally earn more money.

Below is a graph assessing the reading ability of students between 1943 and 2001 clearly supporting the idea that as the income gap increases, the difference in standardized testing scores increases as well (the red line). As I looked at this critically, I began to wonder exactly why this problem exists.

The income achievement gap between blacks and whites for reading between 1940 and 2000.
This issue can be explained with historical evidence. During times of slavery, African Americans were legally prohibited from reading, forced to attend poor quality schools, restricted to the separate-but-equal laws, and required to work in the fields while other children were at school (Paige and Witty 60). As a result, these families acquired significantly less money than the whites, and they were immediately put at a disadvantage in societal survival. This idea trickles over into today’s society, as black families are still disproportionately represented among lower-income groups.

There is also a difference in parenting skills between parents of low socioeconomic status and those who hold professional positions, which can determine the quality of cognitive development a child will experience. Betty Hart and Todd Risely, two senior scientists with the Shiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies at the University of Kansas, studied the difference in the quality of parent-child dialogue between professional families, working class families, and welfare families. By age three a child from a welfare family could have heard 32 million fewer words than a child from a professional family (Paige and Witty 61).

In addition, families with more money can afford more extracurriculars for their kids which aids in academic success. An article states that today’s society involves  “everyone trying to take care of their kids, but if you have a lot of money, you can do all of [the extracurriculars], the Mandarin, the lacrosse, the SAT tutoring, the camps.” -Richard Murnane, a Harvard University economist. Students that can afford tutoring, academic support, athletics, etc, will rightfully achieve more in school than
the kids that struggle each day to simply eat a good meal. This is clearly an issue.

What do you think about the income gap affecting the achievement gap? What do you think can be done?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Florida Closes Achievement Gap?

I recently decided to write my Junior Theme on why an achievement gap exists between African Americans and whites in the education system today.  Achievement gaps occur when one group of students outperforms another group in average scores. So, when I began research regarding this topic, I was very surprised to come upon an article involving former Gov, Jeb Bush praising Florida for closing the achievement gap. Mr. Bush claims that Florida has bridged the academic gap in test scores between minorities and whites, but I wonder if this is true, or if it is simply a strategy to put Florida in a good light.

Mr. Bush introduced data from the National Center for Education Statistics originating with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This tests fourth through eighth graders across the nation on math and reading, and it is often used to draw comparisons.  Below is a graph showing statistics that Florida has "narrowed the achievement gap" based on test scores.  However, this may not be entirely true. 

Graphs depicting the improvement in narrowing achievement gap in Florida for 4th-grade reading between whites and blacks (left) and whites and hispanics (right). 

These tests can be very misleading depending on how they are examined, and I believe that Mr. Bush used that to his advantage as a way to portray Florida as successful and worthy of reward or attention. Or, there may have been an economic motive, as families may end up moving to Florida if parents (especially of minorities) feel their kids would get a more equal education there.

What do you believe Mr. Bush’s motives were? To what extent is it OK to believe data/statistics?