Black Teachers, Auto Insurance, and Economic Mobility in the South

April 11, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. Why It’s So Hard to Get Ahead in the South
Alana Semuels in The Atlantic City Lab: “Despite being a leader in economic development in the South, data suggests that Charlotte is a dead-end for people trying to escape poverty with Charlotte ranking last in an analysis of economic mobility in America’s 50 largest cities by the Equality of Opportunity Project. The report reveals that children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution in Charlotte had just a 4.4 percent chance of making it to the top 20 percent of the income distribution. In some ways, Charlotte is indicative of a more widespread problem in the region. Map out the data from the Equality of Opportunity Project and you’ll find that much of the South has low mobility rates. These are among the lowest odds of advancement in the country. Of course, some of the reasons the South is lagging behind when it comes to economic mobility have to do with very specific policy choices made by state governments. Southern states have low minimum wages, so many poor people make less than they do in other regions, and have less money to spend on creating opportunities for their children. Southern states also generally spend less on education than other states do. While states like New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts spend $15,000 per student on elementary and secondary education, North Carolina spends almost half that, at $8,500 per student, and other states such as Tennessee and Mississippi spend around the same, according to Governing magazine. Research also suggests that tax policy is especially regressive in the South, meaning the tax burden falls the hardest on low-income families.”

2. Having Just One Black Teacher Can Keep Black Kids In School
Anya Kamenetz for NPR: “A new working paper by Seth Gershenson and Constance A. Lindsay of American University, Cassandra M.D. Hart of U.C. Davis and Nicholas Papageorge at Johns Hopkins, looked at long-term records for more than 100,000 black elementary school students in North Carolina and suggest that by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. They also found that not only did the black students assigned to black teachers graduate high school at higher rates, they also were more likely to take a college entrance exam. This paper is another piece of social science evidence reinforcing the case for having more teachers of color and for training teachers to be more culturally responsive. We’ve reported on instances of implicit bias by white teachers, even toward preschool students, that black students are more often recommended for gifted programs by teachers of color and that students of all races prefer teachers of color. Based on the research, Nicholas Papageorge has an immediate policy recommendation. Having just one black teacher in his study made all the difference to students; having two or three didn’t increase the effect significantly. Therefore, schools could work to change student groupings so that every black student gets at least one black teacher by the end of elementary school.”

3. Meet the Scholars Building a Network Around Black Girlhood
Adam Harris in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “The History of Black Girlhood Network is a loose collective of scholars researching the experience of black girls across continents. It was originally conceived by the three as a way to better organize panels at conferences and symposiums, but it has expanded into a network of hundreds of scholars who have organized a stand-alone conference, created an email list, in 2016, that distributes calls for proposals and other information, and now plan an edited volume of work that will serve as an introduction to the field. […] Ms. Simmons, whose book on black girls in segregated New Orleans, Crescent City Girls, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015, said the group would have been useful when she was researching the book, particularly because it distributes information about current work in the field. ‘I kind of worked on that book in isolation,’ she said. The book, which won an award from the Southern Association for Women Historians, ‘would have been a lot better,’ she said, if she had been able to discuss black girls’ history with other researchers beforehand.”

4. The ungrateful refugee: ‘We have no debt to repay’
Dina Nayeri in The Guardian: “Despite a lifetime spent striving to fulfill my own potential, of trying to prove that the west is better for having known me, I cannot accept this way of thinking, this separation of the worthy exile from the unworthy. Civilised people don’t ask for resumes when answering calls from the edge of a grave. It shouldn’t matter what I did after I cleaned myself off and threw away the last of my asylum-seeking clothes. My accomplishments should belong only to me. There should be no question of earning my place, of showing that I was a good bet. My family and I were once humans in danger, and we knocked on the doors of every embassy we came across: the UK, America, Australia, Italy. America answered and so, decades later, I still feel a need to bow down to airport immigration officers simply for saying ‘Welcome home’. […] Still, I want to show those kids whose very limbs apologise for the space they occupy, and my own daughter, who has yet to feel any shame or remorse, that a grateful face isn’t the one they should assume at times like these. Instead they should tune their voices and polish their stories, because the world is duller without them – even more so if they arrived as refugees. Because a person’s life is never a bad investment, and so there are no creditors at the door, no debt to repay. Now there’s just the rest of life, the stories left to create, all the messy, greedy, ordinary days that are theirs to squander.”

5. Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risks
Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Lauren Kirchner and Surya Mattu in ProPublica: “For decades, auto insurers have been observed to charge higher average premiums to drivers living in predominantly minority urban neighborhoods than to drivers with similar safety records living in majority white neighborhoods. Insurers have long defended their pricing by saying that the risk of accidents is greater in those neighborhoods, even for motorists who have never had one. But a first-of-its-kind analysis by ProPublica and Consumer Reports, which examined auto insurance premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri, has found that many of the disparities in auto insurance prices between minority and white neighborhoods are wider than differences in risk can explain. Our findings document what consumer advocates have long suspected: Despite laws in almost every state banning discriminatory rate-setting, some minority neighborhoods pay higher auto insurance premiums than do white areas with similar payouts on claims. This disparity may amount to a subtler form of redlining, a term that traditionally refers to denial of services or products to minority areas. And, since minorities tend to lag behind whites in income, they may be hard-pressed to afford the higher payments.”