Black Beliefs on Progress

I’ll probably do a couple of posts on this one. Here’s a start…race2.png

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released their report on racial attitudes and concludes that optimism regarding black progress is declining and that there is a growing values gap between poor and middle class blacks. The study involves a phone survey administered to a nationwide sample of 1,007 blacks. Here’s some of the findings, some of my initial thoughts, and some warnings:

  • Only 20% of blacks responded that blacks are better off today than 5 years ago. 49% stated that the condition is the same and 29% stated that it was worse.
  • By a ratio of 2 to 1, blacks say the values of poor and middle-class blacks have grown more different over the past decade (61 percent to 31 percent). Most blacks, 54 percent, say the values of blacks and whites have grown more alike during the same period. [AP]
  • Most blacks believe racial discrimination is pervasive when applying for a job (67 percent), renting an apartment or buying a house (65 percent), eating at restaurants and shopping (50 percent) or applying to a college or university (43 percent). That’s compared with whites who, by majorities of 2-to-1 or more, said blacks rarely face bias in such situations. [AP]
  • While saying prejudice is widespread, blacks were less likely to believe discrimination is the main reason they cannot get ahead. Fifty-three percent of blacks said they are mainly responsible for their situation, compared with 30 percent who blame it on racial discrimination. As recently as the mid-1990s, black opinion on this question tilted in the opposite direction. [AP]

Some thoughts:

Related to the last bullet point, is this reflecting a growing endorsement of messages like Cosby’s–that in today’s age blacks are doing more harm to themselves than racism and discrimination? (By the way, when asked to rate how much 14 popular black figures had a good or bad influence on the black community, Oprah and Cosby received the highest marks with 50 Cent receiving the lowest). What I found interesting was that even when given the choice of selecting discrimination AND personal responsibility as reasons to the question of why blacks can’t get ahead, 53% of blacks still said that blacks were responsible (compared to 14% for both reasons). This is a 12% increase from 2005–pretty substantial.

Some warnings:

Having said that, here are some caveats about the study. First, we need to be cautious about making strong claims about this survey representing what the average black person thinks since the study is based on 1,000 blacks. But to the study’s credit, the authors do make efforts to statistically correct for various sampling issues (download the full report for details on their methodology). Furthermore, commonly cited public opinion polls tend to use similar sample sizes and decisions are regularly based on them. Still, some caution is required.

The second issue has to do with the types of questions that are asked of the study’s participants and the answer choices they are offered. For example, the question about the reason blacks can’t get ahead is a bit leading in that it assumes the respondent believes blacks aren’t getting ahead. How would the respondent who believes blacks are getting ahead respond? Or how about one who believes blacks were not getting ahead but that it was due to some unlisted reason? Their only choice would be to refuse to answer. A better way of doing this would have been to first ask the respondent whether they believed blacks were getting ahead or not and then follow it with this question. Providing additional response options would also be a good idea.


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