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Monday, September 17, 2012

A Puzzle

As a percentage of their total population, roughly eight times as many blacks in the U.S. marry whites as do whites marry blacks. Is this evidence of racism or white privilege?

Discuss.



21 comments:

  1. Isn't this probably just a statistical likelihood given the relative populations sizes of blacks and whites in the USA ?

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  2. Didn't know they kept stats on who asked whom.

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    1. No, Gabe, nothing here about who asked whom: but I think in suspecting that that was in these stats you are on to the key here.

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    2. I thought you left something out by accident, and the puzzle was why this discrepancy exists.

      You ever read Steve Sailer's thoughts on this subject? They're a little reductive, but I think they're more humane than the other explanation that occurs to me.

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    3. Gabe, the actual explanation is purely mathematical.

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  3. Both? Whites prefer to marry each other (racism!). White women in particular are in relatively high demand comparitively and white men have given themselves a near monopoly on access to them (privilege!).

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  4. On first sight this just appears to be a mathematical relationship between the relative populations. Do you have some numbers for us?

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    1. Ye
      S, traumerei, that's right. But many people might miss that point.

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    2. Well the reason I wanted numbers is because African Americans are 13.6% (12.6% if counting "pure" blacks) of the population whereas White Americans (including Hispanic Whites) are 78%.

      At most this yields a ratio of 6.2x not 8x.

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    3. I was using old numbers from Schelling

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  5. In a population made up 15% of raceA and 85% of raceB and the race of your marriage partner was random then 15% of raceA would marry someone of the other own race and 85% of raceB would marry someone of the other race.

    So random choice of marriage partner would generate the result you describe.

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    1. Very good, Rob, you got it!

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  6. Talk about decoy codes! You haven't even cracked your own code here, Gene. Unless I'm missing something the proposed puzzle solution has nothing to do with the actual question. It seems you've masked a legitimate intro to stats question with a rather interesting, more subtle problem - and then claimed the whole point of the question was to illustrate the stats lesson.

    Where does "white privilege" come into play in (either) foolish statistical analysis? I truly don't get it. The statistical question is cute when stated well, but given the particulars of your problem statement the statistical nature of interracial marriage is the real problem. There are many people who claim that white privilege is alive and well in the marriage market! Talk to asian males or black females sometime about it.

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    1. "Where does "white privilege" come into play in (either) foolish statistical analysis?"

      That was "humor."

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  7. Well, and there's also the simple mathematical fact that there COULD never be percentage parity. If 100% of American blacks married whites, then ~12.5% of whites would be married to blacks (IIRC, African-Americans are ~12.5% of the population right?).

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    1. Yes, Tom, you've analyzed this exactly right. But for many people, this would be a conumdrum.

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  8. Well that's not nearly as interesting.

    Still, I'm a little confused by Rob's comment. There aren't enough members of Race A for 85% of Race B to marry. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something.

    And Tom's forgetting that the ~12.5% black population comes out of the total, so ~14.3% of whites would marry blacks if there were no all black marriages. You should link to Landsburg more often, your commentariat needs the practice.

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    1. Gabe,

      Yeah, math is not my strong suit ;-)

      What's Landsburg?

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  9. Haven't read the rest of the comments, but as I'm sure many have pointed out it's a matter of arithmetic.

    The numerators have to be exactly the same (assuming none of these are fundamentalist Mormons), so the rates are governed by the denominators.

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  10. Wow, is there a good example of someone making this error (or a closely analogous one)? I took this as a joke until I saw the comments.

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    1. Schelling writes a good bit about how people often overlook this simple identities. That's what inspired this post.

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