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March 23, 2017

Job male applicants feminine language; upshot disconnect ?

Job postings for home health aides say applicants need to be
"sympathetic" and "caring," "empathetic" and focused on "families."

It turns out that doesn't lead very many men to apply.

Employers have something to do with that: An analysis of listings for the 14 fastest-growing jobs from 2014 to 2024 found that they used feminine language, which has been statistically shown to attract women and deter men. The study was done by Textio, which has analyzed 50 million job listings for language that provokes disproportionate responses from men or women.

Compare that with job listings for cartographers, one of the few fast-growing jobs that is male-dominated. It is 62 percent male and expected to grow 29 percent by 2024. Common key words were manage, forces, exceptional, proven and superior. These words tend to appeal to men and generally result in a male hire, Textio found.

Job descriptions for the two fastest-growing jobs that men mostly do -- wind turbine technicians and commercial divers -- also used masculine language.

Upshot's job-disconnect-male-applicants-feminine-language.

Continue reading "Job male applicants feminine language; upshot disconnect ?" »

March 9, 2017

Re-intermediation: lead generators

Consider, for example, a person who googles "need rent money fast" or "can't pay rent."

Among the search results that Google returns, there may be ads that promise to help provide payday loans--ads designed to circumvent Google's policies against predatory financial advertising.

They're placed by companies called lead generators, and they work by collecting and distributing personal information about consumers online. So while Google says it bans ads that guarantee foreclosure prevention or promise short-term loans without conveying accurate loan terms, lead generators may direct consumers to a landing page where they're asked to input sensitive identifiable information.

Then, payday lenders buy that information from the lead generators and, in some cases, target those consumers--online, via phone, and by mail--for the very sorts of short-term loans that Google prohibits.

Continue reading "Re-intermediation: lead generators" »

February 11, 2017

Park-poor, low-income communities of color, forgotten in the shadows ?

As American downtowns repopulate and densify, green space is at more and more of a premium. Very few open lots that could be turned into parks remain around urban cores; often, land that becomes available holds remnants of the industrial past. That's why so many of these "adaptive reuse" projects--with sleek aesthetics that often highlight, rather than hide, the old highway/flood channel/railway--are getting built.

Meanwhile, city governments rarely have room in their budgets, or even imaginations, to redevelop those tracts on their own. It's largely up to private funders to bankroll these projects--and it's mostly private individuals who dream them up. From an investor standpoint, the High Line's stunning successes make these projects no-brainers to back: Green space draws new businesses and dwellings. There's big redevelopment money to be made. So they partner with city governments, hungry for a heftier tax base, to do it.

But these obsolete bits of infrastructure generally have people living near them, and often, they are park-poor, low-income communities of color, forgotten in the shadows of that very strip of concrete or steel. This is true for many of the 17 projects involved in the High Line Network. Planners and designers--who are usually white--may try to engage residents in dialogue; often, they fail.

January 31, 2017

New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate

New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate
A new book argues that poor communities of color are hurt by the city's zoning and housing policies.

Today, historical color lines are being redrawn through a concentration of wealth and the displacement of communities of color. In New York, that phenomenon may be spurred in part by the city's well-intentioned land-use policies. Various types of rezoning--upzoning and mixed-use zoning, for example--have inadvertently but disproportionately harmed poor neighborhoods. That's the central argument of Zoned Out!, a new book edited by Tom Angotti, an urban planning professor at the City University of New York, and housing advocate Sylvia Morse.

we talk about in the book is the watering down of the word "affordable." Affordable housing used to imply that it was housing for people who had less money, who needed help affording housing. Now, it basically means anything that meets the federal guidelines for rent not costing more than 30 percent of household income, and really there's a lot of room to obscure which groups you're serving through affordable housing. I think that's a very New York City-specific context. Of course, we still have the old school, low-density NIMBYism, which we talk about [in the book].

Continue reading "New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate" »

January 30, 2017

Propublica: breaking the black box what Facebook knows about you

Propublica's breaking the black box what Facebook knows about you.

January 29, 2017

Minimum SAT score for college admission: varies by race ?

A 2009 Princeton study showed Asian-Americans had to score 140 points higher on their SATs than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks to have the same chance of admission to leading universities.

A lawsuit filed in 2014 accused Harvard of having a cap on the number of Asian students -- the percentage of Asians in Harvard's student body had remained about 16 percent to 19 percent for two decades even though the Asian-American percentage of the population had more than doubled. In 2016, the Asian American Coalition for Education filed a complaint with the Department of Education against Yale, where the Asian percentage had remained 13 percent to 16 percent for 20 years, as well as Brown and Dartmouth, urging investigation of their admissions practices for similar reasons.

Continue reading "Minimum SAT score for college admission: varies by race ?" »

July 2, 2016

Facebook tinkered with users emotions in 2014 news feed experiment

NY Times Technology on Facebook's tinkering with users emotions in 2014 news feed experiment: outcry stirred.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/technology/facebook-tinkers-with-users-emotions-in-news-feed-experiment-stirring-outcry.html.

May 26, 2016

Party to violence predicted

The Chicago police, which began creating the Strategic Subject List a few years ago, said they viewed it as in keeping with findings by Andrew Papachristos, a sociologist at Yale, who said that the city's homicides were concentrated within a relatively small number of social networks that represent a fraction of the population in high-crime neighborhoods.

Miles Wernick, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, created the algorithm. It draws, the police say, on variables tied to a person's past behavior, particularly arrests and convictions, to predict who is most likely to become a "party to violence."

The police cited proprietary technology as the reason they would not make public the 10 variables used to create the list, but they said that some examples were questions like: Have you been shot before? Is your "trend line" for crimes increasing or decreasing? Do you have an arrest for weapons?

Dr. Wernick said the model intentionally avoided using variables that could discriminate in some way, like race, gender, ethnicity and geography.

Jonathan H. Lewin, the deputy chief of the Chicago Police Department's technology and records group, said: "This is not designed to replace the human process. This is just designed to inform it."

Continue reading "Party to violence predicted" »

May 13, 2016

Evaluating men and women on different traits, Rate My Professor

Benjamin Schmidt, a professor at Northeastern University, created a searchable database of roughly 14 million reviews from the Rate My Professor site.

Among the words more likely to be used to describe men: smart, idiot, interesting, boring, cool, creepy. And for women: sweet, shrill, warm, cold, beautiful, evil. "Funny" and "corny" were also used more often to describe men, while "organized" and "disorganized" showed up more for women.

In short, Schmidt says, men are more likely to be judged on an intelligence scale, while women are more likely to be judged on a nurturing scale.

"We're evaluating men and women on different traits or having different expectations for individuals who are doing the same job," says Erin Davis, who teaches gender studies at Cornell College.

March 25, 2016

Suburban Jungle

"Neither of us really wanted to live in the suburbs," he said. They came across Suburban Jungle while attending a baby industry event last May and spent an hour and a half on the phone with a consultant who sent them town reports on Harrison and Rye in Westchester County and Darien and Greenwich in Fairfield County.

"They could tell us more than a broker is legally allowed to tell us," Mr. Allen said. "Because they were moms living there with their kids," he added, the strategists not only knew which areas were zoned for good public middle schools, "they knew which roads you don't want to live on because the traffic is heavy." He added, "It was like getting an insider's perspective."

After ruling out Westchester because of high taxes, they narrowed their search to Old Greenwich for its "proper Main Street," good schools and proximity to the water.

Continue reading "Suburban Jungle" »

February 14, 2016

One person, one vote ?

Evenwel-v. Abbott, or one voter, one vote ? A question of law.

Continue reading "One person, one vote ?" »

January 21, 2016

FDIC's Signs of predatory lending

Signs of predatory lending include the lack of a fair exchange of value or loan pricing that reaches beyond the risk that a borrower represents or other customary standards.

  • Furthermore, as outlined in the interagency Expanded Examination Guidance for Subprime Lending Programs,1 "predatory lending involves at least one, and perhaps all three, of the following elements:

    Making unaffordable loans based on the assets of the borrower rather than on the borrower's ability to repay an obligation;

  • Inducing a borrower to refinance a loan repeatedly in order to charge high points and fees each time the loan is refinanced ("loan flipping"); or

  • Engaging in fraud or deception to conceal the true nature of the loan obligation, or ancillary products, from an unsuspecting or unsophisticated borrower."

January 7, 2016

Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3

Seattle Times' business' real estate's minorities exploited by Warren Buffett's mobile home empire -- Clayton Homes.

Mike Baker and Daniel Wagner write in The Seattle Times / BuzzFeed News.

Compared to peers, Vanderbilt charges minorities the most

Clayton Mortgage Pricing Comparison.png

Under federal rules, a lender making a "higher-priced" loan must disclose data about its interest rate. Among the 25 companies that originated at least 500 such mobile-home loans over the past five years, Clayton Homes' Vanderbilt Mortgage gave the highest rates to minority borrowers as compared to whites.

Continue reading "Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3" »

January 4, 2016

Clayton Homes 2

2. Single Parent Programs:

assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2650256/Gonzales-Single-Parent-Loan-Ad.pdf.

SingleParentPrograms_Clayton_Mtg.png


Previously: 1: Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed

January 3, 2016

Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed

Reporting Mischaracterizes Clayton Homes' Treatment of Customers and Employees
Company Serves Underserved Markets, Making Homeownership Affordable

We categorically and adamantly deny discriminating against customers or team members based on race or ethnicity as Dan Wagner and Mike Baker insinuate in an article published by The Seattle Times and BuzzFeed. In fact, our company is committed to building on our track record of helping individuals and families from all walks of life, including people in historically underserved markets, achieve the American dream of home ownership.

Gawker chimes in.

Next:


  1. Clayton homes 2

  2. FDIC's signs of predatory lending

  3. Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3

  4. d

Continue reading "Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed" »

December 20, 2015

Physics happens after the classroom

By suggesting, and sadly litigating, that diversity -- and more important, inclusion and equal opportunity -- aren't paramount to the production of new scientific information, we wrongly imply that the most important part of scientific discovery is in the classroom.

The purpose of the classroom is to build a tool kit and to understand what we know in the hopes of uncovering something that we don't. It's the door through which we create new physicists. Closing that door to students of color unless they can justify their presence is closing the door to the kinds of creativity that can be shown only after a student has mastered basic skills.

A physics class should interrogate and transfer the canon of scientific knowledge. Those students will go on to consider the many unanswered questions at the frontiers of what is known about the universe.

If we limit the physics classroom to white students, or students whose presence in a classroom we leave unquestioned, we also limit the production of new information about the world -- and whose perspective that world will reflect. If that's the case, then we all lose.

-- Jedidah C. Isler, a National Science Foundation astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University.

November 29, 2015

Proportionate response ?

Removing police racial bias will have little effect on the killing rate. Suppose each arrest creates an equal risk of shooting for both African-Americans and whites. In that case, with the current arrest rate, 28.9 percent of all those killed by police officers would still be African-American. This is only slightly smaller than the 31.8 percent of killings we actually see, and it is much greater than the 13.2 percent level of African-Americans in the overall population.

If the major problem is then that African-Americans have so many more encounters with police, we must ask why. Of course, with this as well, police prejudice may be playing a role. After all, police officers decide whom to stop or arrest.

But this is too large a problem to pin on individual officers.

First, the police are at least in part guided by suspect descriptions. And the descriptions provided by victims already show a large racial gap: Nearly 30 percent of reported offenders were black. So if the police simply stopped suspects at a rate matching these descriptions, African-Americans would be encountering police at a rate close to both the arrest and the killing rates.

Continue reading "Proportionate response ?" »

March 1, 2015

Privileges, such as discretionary benefits, service with a smile

to live in the world while being given the benefit of the doubt. Have you ever been able to return a sweater without a receipt? Has an employee ever let you into a store after closing time? Did a car dealership take a little extra off the sticker price when you asked? When's the last time you received service with a smile?

Privilege doesn't (usually) operate as brazenly and audaciously as in the Eddie Murphy joke, but it continues in the form of discretionary benefits, many of them unconscious ones. These privileges are hard to eradicate, but essential to understand.

Ian Ayers.

October 27, 2014

Google fibre and universal service 2

In April, AT&T said it would introduce a gigabit-speed TV and Internet service, U-verse with GigaPower, in 21 metropolitan areas in the United States. Three cities in Texas already have it: Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.

Google won't say how many people have signed up for Fiber, which costs $70 for Internet or $120 a month for Internet and cable TV. There is also an option that offers much slower broadband for a $300 installation fee. A door-to-door study commissioned by Bernstein Research and performed by Haynes & Company found that about a third of lower-income households in Fiber areas had signed up for some version of the service, along with three-quarters of the households in areas with incomes of $100,000 or more.

Kevin Lo, the general manager of Google Fiber, said the Internet giant had plenty of patience to see what percolated in the cities with its high-speed network. "We need to encourage developers who have great ideas, but we also need to build a critical mass of people who can use those applications. You need both for the breakthroughs to happen," he wrote in an email.


July 3, 2014

"fold out" version of its disclosure form, prepaid

How would I receive the proposed disclosure, if I obtained my prepaid card at a retail store, rather than at a bank branch?

Pew is proposing a "fold out" version of its disclosure form that would be available in stores on the same hooks that display the prepaid cards. Right now, disclosures are typically contained inside the package containing the card, so consumers can't see them ahead of time, and they are often difficult to read, Susan K. Weinstock, director of Pew's safe checking research project said.

July 1, 2014

More data for health insurance: shopping habits

The Pittsburgh health plan, for instance, has developed prediction models that analyze data like patient claims, prescriptions and census records to determine which members are likely to use the most emergency and urgent care, which can be expensive. Data sets of past health care consumption are fairly standard tools for predicting future use of health services.

But the insurer recently bolstered its forecasting models with details on members' household incomes, education levels, marital status, race or ethnicity, number of children at home, number of cars and so on. One of the sources for the consumer data U.P.M.C. used was Acxiom, a marketing analytics company that obtains consumers' information from both public records and private sources.

With the addition of these household details, the insurer turned up a few unexpected correlations: Mail-order shoppers and Internet users, for example, were likelier than some other members to use more emergency services.

Of course, buying furniture through, say, the Ikea catalog is unlikely to send you to the emergency-room. But it could be a proxy for other factors that do have a bearing on whether you seek urgent care, says Pamela Peele, the chief analytics officer for the U.P.M.C. insurance services division. A hypothetical patient might be a catalog shopper, for instance, because he or she is homebound or doesn't have access to transportation.

"It brings me another layer of vision, of view, that helps me figure out better prediction models and allocate our clinical resources," Dr. Peele said during a recent interview. She added: "If you are going to decrease the costs and improve the quality of care, you have to do something different."

The U.P.M.C. health plan has not yet acted on the correlations it found in the household data. But it already segments its members into different "market baskets," based on analysis of more traditional data sets. Then it assigns care coordinators to certain members flagged as high risk because they have chronic conditions that aren't being properly treated. The goal, Dr. Peel

Continue reading "More data for health insurance: shopping habits " »

May 10, 2014

Co-housing, not in Georgia's Cobb County

In Cobb, where there are fewer apartment buildings and little traditional subsidized housing, the most affordable places to live are trailer parks like Castle Lake, or older homes in the county's earliest developments--low-slung brick ranches and split-levels built in the 1960s and 1970s. Politics is a factor here too: Cobb County could have done more but refused to loosen restrictions that control how many unrelated adults can live in a single-family home. Critics say the law was racially motivated, aimed at immigrants who shared houses. "In essence, we limit people's ability to make unaffordable housing affordable," says Lisa Cupid, a Cobb County commissioner who tried and failed to change the 2007 ordinance.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/sprawled-out-in-atlanta-106500_Page3.html#ixzz31KRMYHOV

Continue reading "Co-housing, not in Georgia's Cobb County" »

February 25, 2014

Better track geography and know where stories are being published and talked about

Going forward, this study provides an interesting foundation for thinking about how our media are interrelated, and how various facts, anecdotes, and bits of misinformation make their way to the public.

"Can we start exploring the data not from identifying these topics of keywords upfront, but asking an algorithm to surface some of those for us?" asks Graeff. "What are some unusual things or clusters of news stories that will allow us to get a sense of news stories that otherwise wouldn't be seen?"

In the future, Graeff says he'd like to be able to better track geography and know where stories are being published and talked about. The team is also interested in using natural language processing to track the spread of quotations from source to source. In addition, "automated coding and sentiment analysis" could be used to better understand how perspectives in the newsroom are molding stories -- tools like OpenGender Tracker.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a suite of tools that activists, journalists, and academics can learn from. Says Graeff: "A lot of what we show here is that there are better methods for studying the media as a so-called media ecosystem that allow us to really understand how a story goes from barely a blip to a major national/international news event, and how controversies circle around that."

February 24, 2014

Zillow on race (African-American and Hispanic) and mortgages


African-American and Hispanic borrowers have been largely shut out of the conventional mortgage market, according to a new report from Zillow and the National Urban League. Citing 2012 loan data reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, along with results from a Zillow poll of 700 mortgage applicants in December, the analysis found that whites accounted for about 69 percent of all conventional mortgage applications. The share of applications filed by blacks was under 3 percent; Hispanics represented only 5 percent.


zillow.com/blog/research/2014/01/15/minority-mortgage-access/

zillow.mediaroom.com/file.php/1759/Executive+Summary_FINAL.pdf

via NY Times

Continue reading "Zillow on race (African-American and Hispanic) and mortgages" »

January 8, 2014

Uber price spiking 2


Market efficiency is not always the same thing as consumer benefit -- a lesson worth learning in the digital age, for Uber riders as well as everyone else. There are far more sly forms of technology-enabled price discrimination out there, from airlines charging more if you are using a savvy web browser to online retailers charging you more if you are from a posh ZIP code. But on the Internet, the deck is still stacked on the consumer's side, given the web's powerful ability to facilitate comparison shopping. Shocked by Uber's surge prices, after all, there's nothing from holding an Uber user back from hoofing it home free or trying her luck waving her arms at the passing, fixed-price cabs on the street.

September 28, 2013

Workplace wellness questionaires raise privacy, discrimination concerns



It is legal for employers to use financial incentives to encourage workers to fill out health risk assessment forms as long as that reward is based on completion of a wellness form and not tied to specific questions related to an employee's health status.

In fact, employer use of financial inducements is likely to increase under new wellness rules, scheduled to take effect in January as part of the Affordable Care Act. The rules allow employers to offer incentives of up to 30 percent of health coverage costs to employees who complete participatory wellness programs like health risk questionnaires, or biometric assessments like body-fat percentage measurements.

A workplace wellness questionnaire that asked female employees questions about their pregnancy plans might cause a disproportionate number of women to decline to participate in the program, said Matthew T. Bodie, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law. If that employer also fined its employees for not filling out the questionnaire, its wellness program could potentially have a discriminatory financial impact on that company's female employees, he said.

"Down the road, the law could get a little firmer on this if there is a consensus that employers are going overboard in what they are asking," said Professor Bodie, who specializes in labor and employment law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had a special meeting in May on wellness programs in which its legal expert concluded that the agency should issue guidance on the potential intersection of wellness programs and federal antidiscrimination laws. In particular, the expert said, the agency should clarify the meaning of "voluntary" employee participation.

Continue reading "Workplace wellness questionaires raise privacy, discrimination concerns" »

August 25, 2013

The prejudiced computer


The prejudiced computer

For one British university, what began as a time-saving exercise ended in disgrace when a computer model set up to streamline its admissions process exposed - and then exacerbated - gender and racial discrimination.

As detailed here in the British Medical Journal, staff at St George's Hospital Medical School decided to write an algorithm that would automate the first round of its admissions process. The formulae used historical patterns in the characteristics of candidates whose applications were traditionally rejected to filter out new candidates whose profiles matched those of the least successful applicants.

By 1979 the list of candidates selected by the algorithms was a 90-95% match for those chosen by the selection panel, and in 1982 it was decided that the whole initial stage of the admissions process would be handled by the model. Candidates were assigned a score without their applications having passed a single human pair of eyes, and this score was used to determine whether or not they would be interviewed.

Quite aside from the obvious concerns that a student would have upon finding out a computer was rejecting their application, a more disturbing discovery was made. The admissions data that was used to define the model's outputs showed bias against females and people with non-European-looking names.

The truth was discovered by two professors at St George's, and the university co-operated fully with an inquiry by the Commission for Racial Equality, both taking steps to ensure the same would not happen again and contacting applicants who had been unfairly screened out, in some cases even offering them a place.

Nevertheless, the story is just one well documented case of what could be thousands. At the time, St George's actually admitted a higher proportion of ethnic minority students than the average across London, although whether the bias shown by other medical schools was the result of human or machine prejudice is not clear.

April 24, 2013

Experiment design: psychology


Diederik Stapel, a Dutch social psychologist was approached by another colleague of his at Tilburg, Ad Vingerhoets, who asked Stapel to help him design a study to understand whether exposure to someone crying affects empathy. Stapel came up with what Vingerhoets told me was an "excellent idea." They would give elementary-school children a coloring task in which half the kids would be asked to color an inexpressive cartoon character, while the other half would have to color the same character shown shedding a tear. Upon completing the task, the children would receive candy and then be asked if they were willing to share the candy with other children -- a measure of pro-social behavior.

March 28, 2013

Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage


The World Economic Forum published a report late last month that offered one path -- one that leans heavily on technology to protect privacy. The report grew out of a series of workshops on privacy held over the last year, sponsored by the forum and attended by government officials and privacy advocates, as well as business executives. The corporate members, more than others, shaped the final document.

The report, "Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage," recommends a major shift in the focus of regulation toward restricting the use of data. Curbs on the use of personal data, combined with new technological options, can give individuals control of their own information, according to the report, while permitting important data assets to flow relatively freely.

"There's no bad data, only bad uses of data," says Craig Mundie, a senior adviser at Microsoft, who worked on the position paper.

The report contains echoes of earlier times. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, passed in 1970, was the main response to the mainframe privacy challenge. The law permitted the collection of personal financial information by the credit bureaus, but restricted its use mainly to three areas: credit, insurance and employment.

Continue reading "Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage" »

March 17, 2013

Afirmative action 2


WHAT'S more important to how your life turns out: the prestige of the school you attend or how much you learn while you're there? Does the answer to this question change if you are the recipient of affirmative action?

From school admissions to hiring, affirmative action policies attempt to compensate for this country's brutal history of racial discrimination by giving some minority applicants a leg up. This spring the Supreme Court will decide the latest affirmative action case, weighing in on the issue for the first time in 10 years.

Scholars began referring to this theory as "mismatch." It's the idea that affirmative action can harm those it's supposed to help by placing them at schools in which they fall below the median level of ability and therefore have a tough time. As a consequence, the argument goes, these students suffer learningwise and, later, careerwise. To be clear, mismatch theory does not allege that minority students should not attend elite universities. Far from it. But it does say that students -- minority or otherwise -- do not automatically benefit from attending a school that they enter with academic qualifications well below the median level of their classmates.

Data presented a plausible opportunity to gauge mismatch. The fact that 689 black students got into their first-choice law school meant that all 689 were similar in at least that one regard (though possibly dissimilar in many other ways). If mismatch theory held any water, then the 177 students who voluntarily opted for their second-choice school -- and were therefore theoretically better "matched" -- could be expected, on average, to have better outcomes on the bar exam than their peers who chose the more elite school. Mr. Sander's analysis of the B.P.S. data found that 21 percent of the black students who went to their second-choice schools failed the bar on their first attempt, compared with 34 percent of those who went to their first choice.

The experiment is far from ideal. Mismatch opponents argue that there are many unobservable differences between second-choice and first-choice students and that those differences, because they're unknown, cannot be accounted for in a formula. In the case of the B.P.S. data, maybe the second-choice students tended to have undergraduate majors that made them particularly well suited to flourish in the classroom and on the bar, regardless of which law school they attended. "All this work on mismatch assumes you know enough to write an algebraic expression that captures what's really going on," says Richard A. Berk, a professor of criminology and statistics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Here, there's so much we don't know. Besides, the LSAT is a very imperfect measure of performance in law school and thereafter, as is the bar exam."

Daniel E. Ho, a law professor at Stanford, also disputes the mismatch hypothesis. In a response to Mr. Sander's 2005 law review article, Mr. Ho wrote in the Yale Law Journal that "black law students who are similarly qualified when applying to law school perform equally well on the bar irrespective of what tier school they attend."

Continue reading "Afirmative action 2" »

March 13, 2013

Affirmative action, on many bases


Most prominent liberals, including civil rights leaders and the Obama administration's lawyers, have indeed urged the court to uphold the current version of affirmative action. Yet a rump group of left-leaning legal scholars and education experts share at least some of Justice Kennedy's concerns. And they find themselves in the unusual position of seeing upsides in another potential liberal defeat in Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s court.

When elite colleges describe their admissions process, it sounds like one that follows Justice Kennedy's standard, with race as just one factor. In an amicus brief supporting the University of Texas, the eight Ivy League universities and six others said they sought a student body that was "diverse in many ways."

In fact, race plays a role unlike almost any other factor. An African-American student with a similar application to a white student received the equivalent of a 310-point lift in SAT scores, on a 1,600-point scale, according to a study of elite colleges by Thomas J. Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist. For Latino students, the margin was 130 points.

Recruited athletes and so-called legacy applicants also receive huge bonuses. But students who bring the other diversity that colleges claim to value -- socioeconomic status, geography and perspective, to name three cited in the brief -- receive no such advantage.

One study of 1990s data found that, all else equal, poorer students received no lift relative to affluent ones. Mr. Espenshade found that low-income minorities were somewhat more likely to gain admission than similar higher-income minorities but that lower-income whites received no advantage. In effect, poor and middle-income students are rejected, while others with the same scores and grades -- legacies, athletes and minorities, often from privileged backgrounds -- are admitted.

As a result, elite public and private colleges remain dominated by affluent students. Some colleges probably have more students from the top 2 percent of the income distribution than the bottom 50 percent.

Continue reading "Affirmative action, on many bases" »

February 26, 2013

Pregnant and borrowing: maternity mortgage


Mortgage lenders are not allowed to deny or delay a loan to a woman simply because she is on maternity leave. Yet the Department of Housing and Urban Development says it receives complaints that this is happening.

"Where lenders run up against the fair lending law is where they single out pregnant women for a difference in treatment based upon an assumption that either they're not being paid on leave, they don't have a job to go back to, or that they are unwilling to go back," said John Trasvina, HUD's assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Under the law, lenders may not use parental leave as a basis for denial if the borrower demonstrates that she intends to return to work, and otherwise has enough income to qualify for the mortgage loan.

Continue reading "Pregnant and borrowing: maternity mortgage " »

February 18, 2013

Acting like test preparation invalidates inferences that can be drawn" about children's "learning potential and intellect and achievement


Assessing students has always been a fraught process, especially 4-year-olds, a mercurial and unpredictable lot by nature, who are vying for increasingly precious seats in kindergarten gifted programs.

In New York, it has now become an endless contest in which administrators seeking authentic measures of intelligence are barely able to keep ahead of companies whose aim is to bring out the genius in every young child.


Hunter, a public school for gifted children that is part of the City University of New York, requires applicants to take the Stanford-Binet V intelligence test, and until last year, families could pick from 1 of 16 psychologists to administer the test. Uncovering who was the "best tester," one who might give children more time to answer, or pose questions different ways, was a popular parlor game among parents.

The city's leading private schools are even considering doing away with the test they have used for decades, popularly known as the E.R.B., after the Educational Records Bureau, the organization that administers the exam, which is written by Pearson.

"It's something the schools know has been corrupted," said Dr. Samuel J. Meisels, an early-childhood education expert who gave a presentation in the fall to private school officials, encouraging them to abandon the test. Excessive test preparation, he said, "invalidates inferences that can be drawn" about children's "learning potential and intellect and achievement."

Last year, the Education Department said it would change one of the tests used for admission to public school gifted kindergarten and first-grade classes in order to focus more on cognitive ability and less on school readiness, which favors children who have more access to preschool and tutoring.

Continue reading "Acting like test preparation invalidates inferences that can be drawn" about children's "learning potential and intellect and achievement" »

February 5, 2013

Would older workers benefit during the remainder of their careers much from more education now


"You just get sad," Mr. Agati said. "I see people getting up in the morning, going out to their careers and going home. I just wish I was doing that. Some people don't like their jobs, or they have problems with their jobs, but at least they're working. I just wish I was in their shoes."

He said he cannot afford to go back to school, as many younger people without jobs have done. Even if he could afford it, economists say it is unclear whether older workers like him benefit much from more education.

"It just doesn't make sense to offer retraining for people 55 and older," said Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin. "Discrimination by age, long-term unemployment, the fact that they're now at the end of the hiring queue, the lack of time horizon just does not make it sensible to invest in them."

Many displaced older workers are taking this message to heart and leaving the labor force entirely.

The share of older people applying for Social Security early spiked during the recession as people sought whatever income they could find. The penalty they will pay is permanent, as retirees who take benefits at age 62 -- as Ms. Zimmerman did, to help make her mortgage payments -- will receive 30 percent less in each month's check for the rest of their lives than they would if they had waited until full retirement age (66 for those born after 1942).

Those not yet eligible for Social Security are increasingly applying for another, comparable kind of income support that often goes to people who expect never to work again: disability benefits. More than one in eight people in their late 50s is now on some form of federal disability insurance program, according to Mark Duggan, chairman of the department of business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

September 16, 2012

Clash of the fairness doctrines: Romney over Obama


Now it's clear that Mr. Romney is not about to cede fairness to his rival.

In a new argument that he first offered in a primary victory speech on Tuesday, Mr. Romney is laying claim to his own version of the fairness issue. He argues that the policies pursued by Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies are fundamentally unfair to Americans.

"I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living," he said, speaking in New Hampshire. "This America is fundamentally fair."

"And as I look around at the millions of Americans without work, the graduates who can't get a job, the soldiers who return home to an unemployment line, it breaks my heart," Mr. Romney added. "This does not have to be. It's the result of failed leadership and a faulty vision."

Call it the clash of the fairness doctrines.

September 14, 2012

Finish line equality: veil of opulence; Starting line equality: veil of ignorance


Nowadays, the veil of ignorance is challenged by a powerful but ancient contender: the veil of opulence. While no serious political philosopher actually defends such a device -- the term is my own -- the veil of opulence runs thick in our political discourse. Where the veil of ignorance offers a test for fairness from an impersonal, universal point of view -- "What system would I want if I had no idea who I was going to be, or what talents and resources I was going to have?" -- the veil of opulence offers a test for fairness from the first-person, partial point of view: "What system would I want if I were so-and-so?" These two doctrines of fairness -- the universal view and the first-person view -- are both compelling in their own way, but only one of them offers moral clarity impartial enough to guide our policy decisions.

Those who don the veil of opulence may imagine themselves to be fantastically wealthy movie stars or extremely successful business entrepreneurs. They vote and set policies according to this fantasy. "If I were such and such a wealthy person," they ask, "how would I feel about giving X percentage of my income, or Y real dollars per year, to pay for services that I will never see nor use?" We see this repeatedly in our tax policy discussions, and we have just seen the latest instance of it in the Tax Policy Center's comparison of President Obama's tax plan versus Mitt Romney's tax plan.

Benjamin Hale, assistant professor of philosophy and environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a co-editor of the journal Ethics, Policy & Environment

Continue reading "Finish line equality: veil of opulence; Starting line equality: veil of ignorance" »

July 3, 2012

Employment discrimination provisions


An employer's evidence of a racially balanced workforce will not be enough to disprove disparate impact.

Employment discrimination provisions of the act apply to companies with more than 15 employees and define two broad types of discrimination, disparate treatment and disparate impact. Disparate treatment is fairly straightforward: It is illegal to treat someone differently on the basis of race or national origin.

For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire an African-American with a criminal conviction but hire a similarly situated white person with a comparable conviction.

Disparate impact is more complicated. It essentially means that practices that disproportionately harm racial or ethnic groups protected by the law can be considered discriminatory even if there is no obvious intent to discriminate. In fact, according to the guidance, "evidence of a racially balanced work force will not be enough to disprove disparate impact."

EEOC: 1, 2.


July 1, 2012

Axciom, data refinery


A bank that wants to sell its best customers additional services, for example, might buy details about those customers' social media, Web and mobile habits to identify more efficient ways to market to them. Or, says Mr. Frankland at Forrester, a sporting goods chain whose best customers are 25- to 34-year-old men living near mountains or beaches could buy a list of a million other people with the same characteristics. The retailer could hire Acxiom, he says, to manage a campaign aimed at that new group, testing how factors like consumers' locations or sports preferences affect responses.

But the catalog also offers delicate information that has set off alarm bells among some privacy advocates, who worry about the potential for misuse by third parties that could take aim at vulnerable groups. Such information includes consumers' interests -- derived, the catalog says, "from actual purchases and self-reported surveys" -- like "Christian families," "Dieting/Weight Loss," "Gaming-Casino," "Money Seekers" and "Smoking/Tobacco." Acxiom also sells data about an individual's race, ethnicity and country of origin. "Our Race model," the catalog says, "provides information on the major racial category: Caucasians, Hispanics, African-Americans, or Asians." Competing companies sell similar data.

Acxiom's data about race or ethnicity is "used for engaging those communities for marketing purposes," said Ms. Barrett Glasgow, the privacy officer, in an e-mail response to questions.

There may be a legitimate commercial need for some businesses, like ethnic restaurants, to know the race or ethnicity of consumers, says Joel R. Reidenberg, a privacy expert and a professor at the Fordham Law School.

"At the same time, this is ethnic profiling," he says. "The people on this list, they are being sold based on their ethnic stereotypes. There is a very strong citizen's right to have a veto over the commodification of their profile."

He says the sale of such data is troubling because race coding may be incorrect. And even if a data broker has correct information, a person may not want to be marketed to based on race.

"DO you really know your customers?" Acxiom asks in marketing materials for its shopper recognition system, a program that uses ZIP codes to help retailers confirm consumers' identities -- without asking their permission.

"Simply asking for name and address information poses many challenges: transcription errors, increased checkout time and, worse yet, losing customers who feel that you're invading their privacy," Acxiom's fact sheet explains. In its system, a store clerk need only "capture the shopper's name from a check or third-party credit card at the point of sale and then ask for the shopper's ZIP code or telephone number." With that data Acxiom can identify shoppers within a 10 percent margin of error, it says, enabling stores to reward their best customers with special offers. Other companies offer similar services.

"This is a direct way of circumventing people's concerns about privacy," says Mr. Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy.

June 12, 2012

Protected the exclusivity of suburban public schools


For the last half-century, just about every education reform -- from desegregation to school choice -- has taken care to keep city and suburban schools and students separate. Buses for school desegregation rarely crossed the urban-suburban boundary, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 1974, which meant that suburban students would not have to participate in court-ordered desegregation of city schools.

Most modern school choice plans have followed the same pattern by offering students choices among schools within the same school district. A perfect example is the No Child Left Behind Act, which allows kids in "failing" schools to choose another school, as long as it is within the same district.

What these reforms have in common is that they have protected the exclusivity of suburban public schools and have ensured that city students would stay put in city schools.

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May 26, 2012

Six degrees of meeting the definition of "employee"


The definition of "employee" under the Fair Labor Standards Act is quite broad, and it covers many unpaid interns. Only unpaid internships that build skill and meet the Department of Labor's six-part test are exempt from minimum-wage laws.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

December 12, 2011

For-profit schools -- predatory ?


The industry was on the defensive after a series of federal investigations portrayed it as rife with abuse. They found that recruiters would lure students -- often members of minorities, veterans, the homeless and low-income people -- with promises of quick degrees and post-graduation jobs but often leave them poorly prepared and burdened with staggering federal loans.

In response to the rising concerns, 18 months ago the Obama administration proposed its tough restrictions linking tens of billions of dollars in federal student aid to formulas measuring students' debt levels and income after graduation. Colleges whose students were not earning enough money to start paying back their loans would be in danger of losing federal aid altogether.

The proposal was aimed at ensuring that the for-profit schools were providing "gainful employment" in a wide range of vocational fields they taught, like medical testing, massage therapy, business management and cosmetology. The joke in Washington, however, was that the industry effort to defeat the plan mainly ensured "gainful employment" for the capital's Democratic lobbyists and political consultants.


The final standards leave a maximum of 5 percent of schools facing financial sanctions at the start; the original plan would have meant penalties against an estimated 16 percent.

The rules also pushed back the penalties to 2015 from 2012, while requiring schools to disclose more data about loans, defaults and job placement.


Schools also questioned the motives of a key witness at Mr. Harkin's hearings, the noted hedge-fund trader Steve Eisman, who blasted the colleges' sky-high profit margins and likened them to subprime mortgage lenders. After Mr. Eisman acknowledged he held financial positions in the industry, the colleges charged that he stood to make millions by battering their reputations and short-selling their stocks.

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December 10, 2011

Affordable housing and people can't afford it not coming to Darien, yet.


One remark was taken from a 2008 hearing on another affordable housing application, in which Mr. Conze referred to such housing as "a virus" that needed to be contained.

The other is from his State of the Town Address last December, when, speaking of the trend toward development of high-density housing along transportation corridors, Mr. Conze warned, "The demographic and economic forces generated by our immediate neighbors to our east and west cannot be taken lightly," adding that many people "view Darien, CT, as a housing opportunity regardless of its effect on the character of our town and existing home values."

Darien's neighbors to the east and west are the cities of Norwalk and Stamford. Mr. Hamer's complaint contrasts the 0.5 percent of Darien's population that is black with the roughly 22 percent in the bordering cities.

Continue reading "Affordable housing and people can't afford it not coming to Darien, yet." »

September 23, 2011

Optimal number and locations of fire stations, by RAND


Take the 1968 decision by New York Mayor John V. Lindsay to hire the RAND Corporation to streamline city management through computer models. It built models for the Fire Department to predict where fires were likely to break out, and to decrease response times when they did. But, as the author Joe Flood details in his book "The Fires," thanks to faulty data and flawed assumptions -- not a lack of processing power -- the models recommended replacing busy fire companies across Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx with much smaller ones.

What RAND could not predict was that, as a result, roughly 600,000 people in the poorest sections of the city would lose their homes to fire over the next decade. Given the amount of money and faith the city had put into its models, it's no surprise that instead of admitting their flaws, city planners bent reality to fit their models -- ignoring traffic conditions, fire companies' battling multiple blazes and any outliers in their data.

The final straw was politics, the very thing the project was meant to avoid. RAND's analysts recognized that wealthy neighborhoods would never stand for a loss of service, so they were placed off limits, forcing poor ones to compete among themselves for scarce resources. What was sold as a model of efficiency and a mirror to reality was crippled by the biases of its creators, and no supercomputer could correct for that.

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July 14, 2011

Screening tenants for credit and income


Most landlords in NYC require a lot of information. They want to see a prospective tenant's tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, proof of employment, photo identification, and sometimes, reference letters from previous landlords. Everyone will run a credit check (many Manhattan landlords look for a score above 700) and just about all, from big management firms to small-time landlords, want to know that your gross income is somewhere between 40 and 50 times the monthly rent.

Using that formula, someone renting an apartment for $3,000 a month must earn at least $120,000 a year.

"It mirrors the requirements used to qualify you for a mortgage," said Scott Walsh, the director of market research at TF Cornerstone, a property management and construction firm in Manhattan.

Apartment hunters should be ready to produce all of these documents. And, said Steve Maschi, a vice president of Glenwood, a Manhattan property management firm, prospective tenants should be ready to write a check on the spot for the first month's rent, the security deposit (usually a month's rent) and if a broker is involved, that fee (8 to 15 percent of a year's rent).

Those who lack the required income or credit score, or those relocating here from overseas, may be shut out.

One recent apartment hunter, Sara Davar, said she was shocked when she ran into these hurdles. Ms. Davar, 28, an area director for Meltwater Buzz, which provides analytic tools for social media, had lived in her native Stockholm, as well as in London and in Philadelphia, and had not encountered anything like the requirements here. The stumbling block for her was the same as that encountered by most foreigners: no credit history in this country. Without it, no landlord would consider her.

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May 31, 2011

FrankNDodd


Dodd-Frank is so sprawling -- the legislation runs to more than 2,000 pages -- that the law firm Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) dubbed the tracker it created to monitor the implementation process "FrankNDodd."

Congress set aggressive deadlines for regulators to make rules to enforce the law, and, unsurprisingly, they are failing to meet them. The agencies missed each of the 26 deadlines they were supposed to meet for April. So far, regulators have finalized 24 rules and missed deadlines on 28, according to the law firm Davis Polk.


-- Propublica

May 5, 2011

Gender imbalance ? Counting athletes


Universities must demonstrate compliance with Title IX in at least one of three ways: by showing that the number of female athletes is in proportion to overall female enrollment, by demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women, or by proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students.

After South Florida added more than 100 football players, it was out of balance under the first test. Lamar Daniel, a gender-equity consultant, told the university in 2002 that it failed the other two as well. He recommended adding a women's swimming team and warned that trying to comply with the proportionality option would be difficult because South Florida's female participation numbers were too low.

But university officials tried anyway. A primary strategy was to expand the women's running teams. Female runners can be a bonanza because a single athlete can be counted up to three times, as a member of the cross-country and the indoor and outdoor track teams.

In 2002, 21 South Florida women competed in cross-country. By 2008, the number had grown to 75 -- more than quadruple the size of an average Division I cross-country team.

When told of the team's size, Mr. Daniel, a former investigator for the Office for Civil Rights, said: "Good gracious. That would certainly justify further examination."

In 2009-10, South Florida reported 71 women on its cross-country team, but race results show only 28 competed in at least one race.

At a recent track meet at South Florida, three female long jumpers who are listed on the cross-country roster said they were not members of that team.

-- Karen Crouse, Griffin Palmer and Marjorie Connelly

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April 14, 2011

Ten most segregated cities by Census 2010


Ten most segregated cities by Census 2010, by Salon with maps.

March 13, 2011

Slacktivist credit scoring and unemployment


MSN Money's Liz Pulliam Weston says a survey of HR managers found the use of credit-checks in hiring had increased from 25 percent in 1998 to 43 percent in 2006. Weston also describes the elegantly nasty conundrum this creates for those who lost their jobs in the global financial crisis:

Many Americans these days are discovering the Catch-22 of unemployment. And that is: You might fall behind on your bills because you've lost your job, and you might not be able to land a new job because you've fallen behind on your bills.

Slacktivist

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March 6, 2011

Georgia's anti-predatory-lending law: issuers and investors in mortgage pools held liable for abusive loans.


Back in 2003, for example, Georgia's legislature enacted one of the toughest predatory-lending laws in the nation. Part of the law allowed issuers of and investors in mortgage pools to be held liable if the loans were found to be abusive. Shortly after that law went into effect, the ratings agencies refused to rate mortgage securities containing Georgia loans because of this potential liability. The law was soon rewritten to eliminate the liability, allowing predatory lending to flourish.

Continue reading "Georgia's anti-predatory-lending law: issuers and investors in mortgage pools held liable for abusive loans. " »

August 29, 2010

Kindergarten prep in NY


A test-prep industry for 4-year-olds has burgeoned. Bige Doruk opened Bright Kids NYC in 2009, and there is so much demand that she says she's opening a second site this month. She runs a two-month "boot camp" for the gifted test in the fall that includes eight one-on-one 45-minute sessions and two test-prep books for $1,075.

Blacks and Hispanics in gifted kindergarten programs dropped to 27 percent this year under the test-only system, from 46 percent under the old system (66 percent of city kindergartners are black or Hispanic).

other testing experts -- including Tonya Moon, a University of Virginia professor and principal investigator for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, and Robert Tobias, a New York University professor who directed assessment for city schools from 1988 to 2001 -- say there is no magic test that can't be gamed. They say tests need to be supplemented with teacher evaluations, classroom observation and interviews.

"No test gives a full picture," Dr. Moon said. "There's need for multiple measures."

While applauding Mr. Klein for creating a citywide standard, Mr. Tobias said the test should be just one part of the evaluation: "Tests are fallible. I don't know a test in existence that's not subject to test prep. You will always have results biased toward kids with better opportunity."

Continue reading "Kindergarten prep in NY" »

August 28, 2010

Cel phone tower NIMBYs


Charles Kovit, the Hempstead, NY deputy town attorney, said that under the proposed code change any new towers or antennas would have to be 1,500 feet from residences, schools, houses of worship and libraries.

The town recently hired a consultant, Richard A. Comi of the Center for Municipal Solutions in Glenmont, to review antenna applications.

Under the new ordinance, applications for wireless facilities would require technical evidence that they had a "gap" in coverage necessitating a new tower.

"If not, they will get denied," Mr. Kovit said. The wireless companies would also have to prove that the selected location had "the least negative impact on area character and property values." If another location farther away from homes can solve the gap problem, "they are going to have to move."

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July 19, 2010

The lower a family's socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted ?


Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.

This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family's socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.

This may be a money-saving tactic. In a footnote, Espenshade and Radford suggest that these institutions, conscious of their mandate to be multiethnic, may reserve their financial aid dollars "for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students," leaving little room to admit financially strapped whites.

Continue reading "The lower a family's socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted ?" »

June 2, 2010

Gender gap for gifted five year olds favours girls


"Girls at that age tend to study more, and the boys kind of play more," said Linda Gratta, a parent at the Anderson School on the Upper West Side, NY, one of the most selective. "But it's a mixed bag. The day of the test, you could be the smartest boy in the world and just have a bad day." She said that Timothy, her first-grade son, had approximately 10 boys and 18 girls in his class.

Biases and expectations among adults are often in play when determining which children count as gifted, and fewer boys appear to end up in gifted programs nationally. A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences reported that boys were "overrepresented in programs for learning disabilities, mental retardation and emotional disturbance, and slightly underrepresented in gifted programs," said Bruce A. Bracken, a professor at the College of William & Mary who wrote one of the two exams that the city uses to test gifted children. He said the implications of the study were "disturbing."

Dr. Bracken's assessment, which makes up 25 percent of a child's gifted score in the city, has been field tested for gender bias, and during a recent round of testing in Virginia, no gender differences in the score were recorded. But the longer Otis-Lennon Ability Test, the other 75 percent of the gifted exam, is "more verbal than some of the other tests," which could play to girls' strengths, said David F. Lohman, a professor and testing expert at the University of Iowa.

Continue reading "Gender gap for gifted five year olds favours girls" »

February 1, 2010

The original Title VII, in 1964, prohibited "disparate treatment" on the basis of race. In 1991, Congress amended the law to prohibit employment policies that have a "disparate impact" as well.

A target that does bear watching is the heavily freighted civil rights issue that the court raised and then skirted last June in the New Haven firefighters case, Ricci v. DeStefano. The issue in that case was whether the city engaged in a prohibited act of employment discrimination when it discarded the results of a promotion exam on which no black test-taker scored high enough to win a promotion. White firefighters who believed they were entitled to promotion sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race.

The original Title VII, in 1964, prohibited "disparate treatment" on the basis of race. In 1991, Congress amended the law to prohibit employment policies that have a "disparate impact" as well. The question for the Supreme Court last June was whether, in trying to avoid the racially disparate impact of the exam, New Haven had made the successful white firefighters the victims of disparate treatment.

The court ruled against the city; Justice Kennedy wrote for the 5-to-4 majority that New Haven's concern about liability for the racially disparate impact of the exam was overblown and insufficient to justify withholding promotions from the successful white test-takers.

The decision avoided a tricky question: suppose the racially disparate impact of a municipal employment policy is so grave that the Civil Rights Act requires a remedy that itself takes race into account - in other words, a remedy for disparate impact that requires disparate treatment.

The court's current majority has made clear that for the government to count individuals by race for almost any purpose is a violation of constitutional magnitude. So how could a statute that could require such an outcome be constitutional? In the New Haven case, Justice Kennedy left it to Justice Scalia to observe sarcastically in a concurring opinion that the court's resolution of the firefighter dispute "merely postpones the evil day on which the court will have to confront the question" of the Civil Rights Act's constitutionality.

Finding the law unconstitutional would be an astonishing step, all the more so because the Civil Rights Act's current form is a Congressional response to a series of Supreme Court decisions in the late 1980's that gave the law a reading that Congress thought was too narrow. The 1991 amendment codified a unanimous opinion of the Burger court, which in 1971 interpreted the original Civil Rights Act to bar employment policies that had a racially disparate impact, such as education requirements that were unrelated to the actual job.

-- Linda Greenhouse


Continue reading "The original Title VII, in 1964, prohibited "disparate treatment" on the basis of race. In 1991, Congress amended the law to prohibit employment policies that have a "disparate impact" as well." »

December 28, 2009

Predatory loans: uncollectable fo B of A / Countrywide ?

"This is a first step in a decision by a federal judge that says even after the servicers' safe harbor was enacted and even after all the wrangling in Congress, we are still going to allow people to enforce their contract rights when it is appropriate," said Owen L. Cyrulnik, counsel at Grais & Ellsworth in New York, which is representing investors in the suit against Countrywide.

The lawsuit was filed in December after Bank of America struck a predatory lending settlement with attorneys general in 11 states. In that deal, the bank agreed to modify thousands of mortgages written by Countrywide, providing $8.4 billion in loan aid to an estimated 400,000 Countrywide borrowers.

Under the terms of the settlement, Countrywide said it would cut principal balances on some loans and reduce interest rates on others. Rates could decline to 2.5 percent
depending upon a borrower's ability to pay, and remain at that level for five years.

Continue reading "Predatory loans: uncollectable fo B of A / Countrywide ?" »

December 6, 2009

Private schools, private loans, not all exclusive and elusive

The for-profit higher education sector is no stranger to scandal. In the 1980s and early '90s, it came to light that hundreds of fly-by-night schools had been set up solely to reap profits from the federal student loan programs, in part by preying on poor people and minorities. The most unscrupulous of them enrolled people straight off the welfare lines, and got them to sign up for the maximum amount of federal student loans available--sometimes without their knowledge or consent.

The rampant abuses caught the attention of the news media, sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill, and led to a year-long, high-profile Senate investigation led by Senator Sam Nunn, the Georgia Democrat. The standing-room-only hearings had all the trappings of scandal, with trade school officials pleading the Fifth and a school owner, who had been convicted of defrauding the government, brought to the witness table in handcuffs and leg irons.

Key lawmakers considered kicking all trade schools out of the federal student aid programs--a virtual death sentence given the institutions' heavy reliance on these funds. But Congress ultimately stepped back from the brink and instead strengthened the Department of Education's authority to weed out problem institutions. Under the new rules, for-profit colleges had to get at least 15 percent of their tuition money from sources other than federal loans and financial aid. Also, if more than a quarter of a school's students consistently defaulted on their loans within two years of graduating or dropping out, the school could be barred from participating in federal financial aid programs. The idea was to get rid of those schools that were set up solely to feed on federal funds and didn't provide the meaningful training students needed to get jobs and pay off their debt. As a result, during the 1990s more than 1,500 proprietary schools were either kicked out of the government's financial aid programs altogether or withdrew voluntarily. In an effort to rein in abusive recruiting tactics, in 1992 Congress also barred schools from compensating recruiters based on the number of students they brought in.

These changes shook up the industry. The old generation of trade schools gradually died off and were replaced by a new breed of for-profit colleges--mostly huge, publicly traded corporations. The largest, the Apollo Group, owns the University of Phoenix, which serves more than 400,000 students at some ninety campuses and 150 learning centers worldwide. Others include the Career Education Corporation, which serves 90,000 students at seventy-five campuses around the world, and Corinthian Colleges, which serves 69,000 students at more than 100 colleges in the United States and Canada.

Not only did these companies promise that their schools would be more responsive to the needs of students and employers than the previous generation, they also said they would be more accountable to the public because, as publicly traded companies, they were heavily regulated. "We've seen a fire across the prairie, and that fire has had a purifying effect," Omer Waddles, then the president of the Career College Association, told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 1997. "As our sector has weathered the storms of recent years, a stronger group of schools is emerging to carry, at a high level of credibility, the mantle of training and career development."

In reality, the new breed of schools had quite a bit in common with their predecessors; in some cases, they even operated out of the same buildings and employed the same personnel. What's more, rather than making them more accountable, the fact that they were publicly traded created a powerful incentive for them to game the system. After all, to keep their stock prices up and investors happy, the schools had to show that they were constantly expanding, which meant there was intense pressure to get students in the door and signed up for classes and financial aid.

Continue reading "Private schools, private loans, not all exclusive and elusive" »

October 17, 2009

Whitopian migration results from tempting pulls as much as alarming pushes

When those pop-up lists beckon you from your Web browser ("Retire in Style: Fifteen Hotspots!"), or those snappy guidebooks flirt with you from the bookstore shelves (America's 25 Best Places to Live!), ever notice how white they are?
Whitopian migration results from tempting pulls as much as alarming pushes. The places luring so many white Americans are revealing. The five towns posting the largest white growth rates between 2000 and 2004 -- St. George, Utah; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Bend, Oregon; Prescott, Arizona; and Greeley, Colorado -- were already overwhelmingly white. Certainly whiter than the places that new arrivals left behind and whiter than the country in general. We know why white folks are pushed from big cites and their inner-ring suburbs. The Whitopian pull includes economic opportunity, more house for your dollar, a yearning for the countryside, and a nostalgic charm.

Most whites are not drawn to a place explicitly because it teems with other white people. Rather, the place's very whiteness implies other perceived qualities. Americans associate a homogeneous white neighborhood with higher property values, friendliness, orderliness, cleanliness, safety, and comfort. These seemingly race-neutral qualities are subconsciously inseparable from race and class in many whites' minds. Race is often used as a proxy for those neighborhood traits. And, if a neighborhood is known to have those traits, many whites presume -- without giving it a thought -- that the neighborhood will be majority white.

Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America (Hardcover)
by Rich Benjamin (Author)

October 4, 2009

Low-income housing in New Orleans stokes long-simmering tensions

James Perry, executive director of the housing center and a candidate for mayor of New Orleans, said class animosity might be at the root of much of this anger, though discrimination against the poor is not a violation of the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal to discriminate against minorities, however, and given that a disproportionate number of those who need affordable housing in the area are black, he said, these arguments almost inevitably involve race.

Continue reading "Low-income housing in New Orleans stokes long-simmering tensions" »

June 10, 2009

Affirmative gao kao (the high test)

Mr. Liu calculated that his score leaped by more than 100 points over last year's dismal performance. But he was still downcast, uncertain whether he would make the cutoff to apply to top-tier universities. The cutoff mark can vary by an applicant's place of residence and ethnicity.
Ms. Li, on the other hand, was exhilarated by her estimate of 482.5, figuring it was probably high enough for admittance to a college of the second rank.

Posted to Fair and Asia.

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