Christopher D. DeSante published an article in the American Journal of Political Science titled, "Working Twice as Hard to Get Half as Far: Race, Work Ethic, and America’s Deserving Poor" (57: 342-356, April 2013). The title refers to survey evidence that DeSante reported indicating that, compared to hypothetical white applicants for state assistance, hypothetical black applicants for state assistance received less reward for hard work and more punishment for laziness.
The study had a clever research design: respondents were shown two applications for state assistance, and each applicant was said to need $900, but there was variation in the names of the applicants (Emily, Laurie, Keisha, Latoya, or no name provided) and in the Worker Quality Assessment of the applicant (poor, excellent, or no assessment section provided); respondents were then asked to divide $1500 between the applicants or to use some or all of the $1500 to offset the state budget deficit.
Table 1 below indicates the characteristics of the conditions and the mean allocations made to each alternative. In condition 5, for example, 64 respondents were asked to divide $1500 between hardworking Laurie, lazy Emily, and offsetting the state budget deficit: hardworking Laurie received a mean allocation of $682, lazy Emily received a mean allocation of $566, and the mean allocation to offset the state budget deficit was $250.
I'm going to quote DeSante (2013: 343) and intersperse comments about the claims. For the purpose of this analysis, let's presume that respondents interpreted Emily and Laurie as white applicants and Keisha and Latoya as black applicants. Reported p-values for my analysis below are two-tailed p-values. Here's the first part of our DeSante (2013: 343) quote.
Through a nationally representative survey experiment in which respondents were asked to make recommendations regarding who should receive government assistance, I find that American “principles” of individualism, hard work, and equal treatment serve to uniquely benefit whites in two distinct ways. First, the results show that compared to African Americans, whites are not automatically perceived as more deserving of government assistance.
Condition 7 paired Laurie with Keisha, neither of whom had a Worker Quality Assessment. Laurie received a mean allocation of $556, and Keisha received a mean allocation of $600. Keisha received $44 more than Laurie, a $44 difference that is statistically significant at p<0.01. So DeSante is technically correct that "whites are not automatically perceived as more deserving of government assistance," but this claim overlooks evidence from condition 7 that a white applicant was given LESS government assistance than an equivalent black applicant.
Instead of reporting these straightforward results from condition 7, how did DeSante compare allocations to black and white applicants? Below is an image from Table 2 of DeSante (2013), which reported results from eleven t-tests. Tests 3 and 4 provided the evidence for DeSante's claim that, "compared to African Americans, whites are not automatically perceived as more deserving of government assistance."
Here's what DeSante did in test 3: DeSante took the $556 allocated to Laurie in condition 7 when Laurie was paired with Keisha and compared that to the $546 allocated to Latoya in condition 10 when Latoya was paired with Keisha; that $9 advantage (bear with the rounding error) for Laurie over Latoya (when both applicants were paired with Keisha and neither had a Worker Quality Assessment) did not reach conventional levels of statistical significance.
Here's what DeSante did in test 4: DeSante took the $587 allocated to Emily in condition 4 when Emily was paired with Laurie and compared that to the $600 allocated to Keisha in condition 7 when Keisha was paired with Laurie; that $12 advantage for Keisha over Emily (when both applicants were paired with Laurie and neither had a Worker Quality Assessment) did not reach conventional levels of statistical significance.
So which of these three tests is the best test? My test had more observations, compared within instead of across conditions, and had a lower standard error. But DeSante's tests are not wrong or meaningless: the problem is that tests 3 and 4 provide incomplete information for the purposes of testing for racial bias against applicants with no reported Worker Quality Assessment.
Here's the next part of that quote from DeSante (2013: 343):
Instead, the way hard work and "laziness" are treated is conditioned by race: whites gain more for the same level of effort, and blacks are punished more severely for the same level of "laziness."
Here's what DeSante did to produce this inference. Emily received a mean allocation of $587 in condition 4 when paired with Laurie and neither applicant had a Worker Quality Assessment; but hard-working Emily received $711 in condition 6 when paired with lazy Laurie. This $123 difference can be interpreted as a reward for Emily's hard work, at least in relation to Laurie's laziness.
Now we do the same thing for Keisha paired with Laurie: Keisha received a mean allocation of $600 in condition 7 when paired with Laurie and neither applicant had a Worker Quality Assessment; but hard-working Keisha received $607 in condition 9 when paired with lazy Laurie. This $7 difference can be interpreted as a reward for Keisha's hard work, at least in relation to Laurie's laziness.
Test 7 indicates that the $123 reward to Emily for her hard work was larger than the $7 reward to Keisha for her hard work (p=0.03).
But notice that DeSante could have conducted another set of comparisons:
Laurie received a mean allocation of $556 in condition 7 when paired with Keisha and neither applicant had a Worker Quality Assessment; but hard-working Laurie received $620 in condition 8 when paired with lazy Keisha. This $64 difference can be interpreted as a reward for Laurie's hard work, at least in relation to Keisha's laziness.
Now we do the same thing for Latoya paired with Keisha: Latoya received a mean allocation of $546 in condition 10 when paired with Keisha and neither applicant had a Worker Quality Assessment; but hard-working Latoya received $627 in condition 11 when paired with lazy Keisha. This $81 difference can be interpreted as a reward for Latoya's hard work, at least in relation to Keisha's laziness.
The $16 difference between Laurie's $64 reward for hard work and Latoya's $81 reward for hard work (rounding error, again) is not statistically significant at conventional levels (p=0.76). The combined effect of the DeSante test and my alternate test is not statistically significant at conventional levels (effect of $49, p=0.20), so -- in this dataset -- there is a lack of evidence at a statistically significant level for the claim that "whites gain more for the same level of effort."
I conducted a similar set of alternate tests for the inference that "blacks are punished more severely for the same level of "laziness"; the effect size was smaller in my test compared to DeSante's test, but evidence for the the combined effect was believable: a $74 effect, with p=0.06.
Here's the next part of that quote from DeSante (2013: 343):
Second, and consistent with those who take the "principled ideology" approach to the new racism measures, the racial resentment scale is shown to predict a desire for smaller government and less government spending. However, in direct opposition to this ideology-based argument, this effect is conditional upon the race of the persons placing demands on the government: the effect of racial resentment on a desire for a smaller government greatly wanes when the beneficiaries of that government spending are white as opposed to black. This represents strong evidence that racial resentment is more racial animus than ideology.
DeSante based this inference on results reported in Table 3, reproduced below:
Notice the note at the bottom: "White respondents only." DeSante reported results in Table 3 based on responses only from respondents coded as white, but reported results in Table 2 based on responses from respondents coded as white, black, Asian, Native American, mixed race, or Other. Maybe there's a good theoretical reason for changing the sample. DeSante's data and code are posted here if you are interested in what happens to p-values when Table 2 results are restricted to whites and Table 3 results include all respondents.
But let's focus on the bold RRxWW line in Table 3. RR is racial resentment, and WW is a dichotomous variable for the conditions in which both applicants were white. Model 3 includes categories for WW (two white applicants paired together), BB (two black applicants paired together), and WB (one white applicant paired with one black applicant); this is very important, because these included terms must be interpreted in relation to the omitted category that I will call NN (two unnamed applicants paired together). Therefore, the -337.92 coefficient on the RRxWW variable in model 3 indicates that -- all other model variables held constant -- white respondents allocated $337.92 less to offset the state budget deficit when both applicants were white compared to when both applicants were unnamed.
The -196.43 coefficient for the RRxBB variable in model 3 indicates that -- all other model variables held constant -- white respondents allocated $196.43 less to offset the state budget deficit when both applicants were black compared to when both applicants were unnamed. This -$196.43 coefficient did not reach statistical significance, but the coefficient is important because the bias in favor of the two white applicants relative to the two black applicants is only -$337.92 minus -$196.43; so whites allocated $141.49 less to offset the state budget deficit when both applicants were white compared to when both applicants were black, but the p-value for this difference was 0.41.
Here's a few takeaways from the above analysis:
1. The limited choice of statistical tests reported in DeSante (2013) produced inferences that overestimated the extent of bias against black applicants and missed evidence of bias against white applicants.
2. Takeaway 1 depends on the names reflecting only race of the applicant. But the names might have reflected something other than race; for instance, in condition 10, Keisha received a mean allocation $21 higher than the mean allocation to Latoya (p=0.03): such a difference is not expected if Keisha and Latoya were "all else equal."
3. Takeaway 1 would likely not have been uncovered had the AJPS not required the posting of data and replication files from its published articles.
4. Pre-registration would eliminate suspicion about research design decisions, such as decisions to restrict only some analyses to whites and to report some comparisons but not others.
UPDATE (Nov 2, 2014)
I recently received a rejection for the manuscript describing the results reported above; the second reviewer suggested portraying the raw data table as a graph: I couldn't figure out an efficient way to do that, but the suggestion did get me to realize a good way to present the main point of the manuscript more clearly with visuals.
The figure below illustrates the pattern of comparison for DeSante 2013 tests 1 and 2: solid lines represent comparisons reported in DeSante 2013 and dashed lines represent unreported equivalent or relevant comparisons; numbers in square brackets respectively indicate the applicant and the condition, so that [1/2] indicates applicant 1 in condition 2.
The figure below indicates the pattern of reported and unreported comparisons for black applicants and white applicants with no Worker Quality Assessment: the article reported two small non-statistically significant differences when comparing applicants across conditions, but the article did not report the larger statistically significant difference favoring the black applicant when a black applicant and a white applicant were compared within conditions.
The figure below indicates the pattern of reported and unreported comparisons for the main takeaway of the article. The left side of the figure indicates that one of the black applicants received a lesser reward for an excellent Worker Quality Assessment and received a larger penalty for a poor Worker Quality Assessment, compared to the reward and penalty for the corresponding white applicant; however, neither the lesser reward for an excellent Worker Quality Assessment nor the larger penalty for a poor Worker Quality Assessment was present at a statistically significant level in the comparisons on the right, which were not reported in the article (p=0.76 and 0.31, respectively).
UPDATE (Mar 8, 2015)
The above analysis has been published here by Research & Politics.