Thursday, February 09, 2012

Opting Out and Rational Decisionmaking

Here's an interesting post, on a book which argues that some blacks in higher education end up going away from STEM and towards the softer side.

, according to the 2000 Census, the top 20 white-collar careers among both black and white employees include elementary and secondary education as well as registered nursing. But break it down further and you’ll find that white people hold proportionately more high-status positions: lawyers, physicians, surgeons, chief executives and financial, general and operations managers. Black employees, in contrast, trend toward “service-oriented, racialized jobs” including counselors, education administrators, preschool and kindergarten teachers and community and social service specialists. Taken together, the differences in employment result in: chief executives being the fifth most common white-collar occupation among whites, but 35th among blacks; lawyers being 10th among whites but 27th among blacks; and physicians being 19th among whites but 31st among blacks.
I'd argue a part, perhaps a small part, but a part of this is a rational choice based maximizing one's assets.  Since this is a touchy subject, let me use myself as an example.  As a farm boy I could bring some intangibles to some jobs, and not to others. I tried to play this card when interviewing for college: when asked what I could contribute to Harvard I argued they didn't have many farm boys in the student body.  Unfortunately, my argument from diversity fell flat and they rejected me.  But my background was an asset in my work for USDA.  It wouldn't have been an asset had I gone into math or science, or even computer programming.

I think much the same applies to the occupations above: the jobs may be "racialized" (not sure what that means but it sounds bad) but when you think about it, on the average most blacks will have had more experience dealing with more different people than most whites. More experience usually translates into more capable.

As I said, this may be a small part, but it makes sense to me.

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