Tag Archives: Class Bias

Yale University study: Class bias in hiring based on few seconds of speech

24 Oct

Roland G. Fryer wrote in the Education Next article, “Acting White”:

“Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn.They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”
—Barack Obama, Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention, 2004

Acting white was once a label used by scholars, writing in obscure journals, to characterize academically inclined, but allegedly snobbish, minority students who were shunned by their peers.
Now that it has entered the national consciousness—perhaps even its conscience—the term has become a slippery, contentious phrase that is used to refer to a variety of unsavory social practices and attitudes and whose meaning is open to many interpretations, especially as to who is the perpetrator, who the victim.
I cannot, in the research presented here, disentangle all the elements in the dispute, but I can sort out some of its thicker threads. I can also be precise about what I mean by acting white: a set of social interactions in which minority adolescents who get good grades in school enjoy less social popularity than white students who do well academically.
My analysis confirms that acting white is a vexing reality within a subset of American schools. It does not allow me to say whose fault this is, the studious youngster or others in his peer group. But I do find that the way schools are structured affects the incidence of the acting-white phenomenon. The evidence indicates that the social disease, whatever its cause, is most prevalent in racially integrated public schools. It’s less of a problem in the private sector and in predominantly black public schools.
With findings as potentially controversial as these, one wants to be sure that they rest on a solid base. In this regard, I am fortunate that the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Adhealth) provides information on the friendship patterns of a nationally representative sample of more than 90,000 students, from 175 schools in 80 communities, who entered grades 7 through 12 in the 1994 school year. With this database, it is possible to move beyond both the more narrowly focused ethnographic studies and the potentially misleading national studies based on self-reported indicators of popularity that have so far guided the discussion of acting white.
The Meaning of the Phrase
Though not all scholars define acting white in precisely the same way, most definitions include a reference to situations where some minority adolescents ridicule their minority peers for engaging in behaviors perceived to be characteristic of whites. For example, when psychologist Angela Neal-Barnett in 1999 asked some focus-group students to identify acting-white behavior, they listed actions that ranged from speaking standard English and enrolling in an Advanced Placement or honors class to wearing clothes from the Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch (instead of Tommy Hilfiger or FUBU) and wearing shorts in winter!
Only some of these behaviors have a direct connection to academic engagement. However, as the remarks of Barack Obama, who would later win a seat in the United States Senate, suggest, it is the fact that reading a book or getting good grades might be perceived as acting white that makes the topic a matter of national concern. Indeed, negative peer-group pressure has emerged as a common explanation for the black-white achievement gap, a gap that cannot be explained away by differences in demographic characteristics alone. If minority students today deliberately underachieve in order to avoid social sanctions, that by itself could explain why the aca¬demic performance of 17-year-old African Americans, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), has deteriorated since the late 1980s, even while that of nine-year-olds has been improving. It may also help us understand the shortage of minority students in most elite colleges and universities… https://www.educationnext.org/actingwhite/

See, A Study in Blackness: What is ‘Acting Black’? https://atlantablackstar.com/2016/07/01/a-study-in-blackness-what-is-acting-black/

PHYS ORG reported in Study shows class bias in hiring based on few seconds of speech:

Candidates at job interviews expect to be evaluated on their experience, conduct, and ideas, but a new study by Yale researchers provides evidence that interviewees are judged based on their social status seconds after they start to speak.
The study, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates that people can accurately assess a stranger’s socioeconomic position—defined by their income, education, and occupation status—based on brief speech patterns and shows that these snap perceptions influence hiring managers in ways that favor job applicants from higher social classes.
“Our study shows that even during the briefest interactions, a person’s speech patterns shape the way people perceive them, including assessing their competence and fitness for a job,” said Michael Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. “While most hiring managers would deny that a job candidate’s social class matters, in reality, the socioeconomic position of an applicant or their parents is being assessed within the first seconds they speak—a circumstance that limits economic mobility and perpetuates inequality.”
The researchers based their findings on five separate studies. The first four examined the extent that people accurately perceive social class based on a few seconds of speech. They found that reciting seven random words is sufficient to allow people to discern the speaker’s social class with above-chance accuracy. They discovered that speech adhering to subjective standards for English as well as digital standards—i.e. the voices used in tech products like the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant—is associated with both actual and perceived higher social class. The researchers also showed that pronunciation cues in an individual’s speech communicate their social status more accurately than the content of their speech.
The fifth study examined how these speech cues influence hiring. Twenty prospective job candidates from varied current and childhood socioeconomic backgrounds were recruited from the New Haven community to interview for an entry-level lab manager position at Yale. Prior to sitting for a formal job interview, the candidates each recorded a conversation in which they were asked to briefly describe themselves. A sample of 274 individuals with hiring experience either listened to the audio or read transcripts of the recordings. The hiring managers were asked to assess the candidates’ professional qualities, starting salary, signing bonus, and perceived social class based solely on the brief pre-interview discussion without reviewing the applicants’ job interview responses or resumes.
The hiring managers who listened to the audio recordings were more likely to accurately assess socioeconomic status than those who read transcripts, according to the study. Devoid of any information about the candidates’ actual qualifications, the hiring managers judged the candidates from higher social classes as more likely to be competent for the job, and a better fit for it than the applicants from lower social classes. Moreover, they assigned the applicants from higher social classes more lucrative salaries and signing bonuses than the candidates with lower social status…. https://phys.org/news/2019-10-class-bias-hiring-based-seconds.html

Citation:

Class bias in hiring based on few seconds of speech
Date: October 21, 2019
Source: Yale University
Summary:
Candidates at job interviews expect to be evaluated on their experience, conduct, and ideas, but a new study provides evidence that interviewees are judged based on their social status seconds after they start to speak.

Journal Reference:
Michael W. Kraus et al. Evidence for the reproduction of social class in brief speech. PNAS, 2019 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1900500116

Here is the press release from Yale:

Yale study shows class bias in hiring based on few seconds of speech

YALE UNIVERSITY
New Haven, Conn. — Candidates at job interviews expect to be evaluated on their experience, conduct, and ideas, but a new study by Yale researchers provides evidence that interviewees are judged based on their social status seconds after they start to speak.
The study, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates that people can accurately assess a stranger’s socioeconomic position — defined by their income, education, and occupation status — based on brief speech patterns and shows that these snap perceptions influence hiring managers in ways that favor job applicants from higher social classes.
“Our study shows that even during the briefest interactions, a person’s speech patterns shape the way people perceive them, including assessing their competence and fitness for a job,” said Michael Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. “While most hiring managers would deny that a job candidate’s social class matters, in reality, the socioeconomic position of an applicant or their parents is being assessed within the first seconds they speak — a circumstance that limits economic mobility and perpetuates inequality.”
The researchers based their findings on five separate studies. The first four examined the extent that people accurately perceive social class based on a few seconds of speech. They found that reciting seven random words is sufficient to allow people to discern the speaker’s social class with above-chance accuracy. They discovered that speech adhering to subjective standards for English as well as digital standards — i.e. the voices used in tech products like the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant — is associated with both actual and perceived higher social class. The researchers also showed that pronunciation cues in an individual’s speech communicate their social status more accurately than the content of their speech.
The fifth study examined how these speech cues influence hiring. Twenty prospective job candidates from varied current and childhood socioeconomic backgrounds were recruited from the New Haven community to interview for an entry-level lab manager position at Yale. Prior to sitting for a formal job interview, the candidates each recorded a conversation in which they were asked to briefly describe themselves. A sample of 274 individuals with hiring experience either listened to the audio or read transcripts of the recordings. The hiring managers were asked to assess the candidates’ professional qualities, starting salary, signing bonus, and perceived social class based solely on the brief pre-interview discussion without reviewing the applicants’ job interview responses or resumes.
The hiring managers who listened to the audio recordings were more likely to accurately assess socioeconomic status than those who read transcripts, according to the study. Devoid of any information about the candidates’ actual qualifications, the hiring managers judged the candidates from higher social classes as more likely to be competent for the job, and a better fit for it than the applicants from lower social classes. Moreover, they assigned the applicants from higher social classes more lucrative salaries and signing bonuses than the candidates with lower social status.
“We rarely talk explicitly about social class, and yet, people with hiring experience infer competence and fitness based on socioeconomic position estimated from a few second of an applicant’s speech,” Kraus said. “If we want to move to a more equitable society, then we must contend with these ingrained psychological processes that drive our early impressions of others. Despite what these hiring tendencies may suggest, talent is not found solely among those born to rich or well-educated families. Policies that actively recruit candidates from all levels of status in society are best positioned to match opportunities to the people best suited for them.”
###
Kraus co-authored the paper with graduate students Brittany Torrez and Jun Won Park, and research associate Fariba Ghayebi.
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

William Julius Wilson wrote in The Declining Significance of Race:

One of the basic arguments of The Declining Signi½cance of Race is that there has been a deepening economic schism as reflected in a widening gap between lower-income and higher-income black families. In light of more recent data, not only has the family income gap between poorer and better-off African Americans continued to widen, but the situation of the bottom ½fth of black families has deteriorated since 1975 (see Table 1). In 2007, 45.6 percent of all poor blacks had incomes below 50 percent of the poverty line.28Overall, poor black families fell below the poverty line by an average of $9,266 in 2007, a depth of poverty exceeding that of all other racial/ ethnic groups in the United States.29 Regardless of the reversal of the relative income gains of younger educated blacks reported in the previous section, the gap between the haves and have-nots in the African American population continues to grow…. https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/8052151/Wilson-DecliningSignificanceRevised.pdf?sequence=1

It is politically expedient from certain elites to emphasize race because it relieves them of their class bias.

“I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.”
George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

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