White Cops and Black Cops in the ’Hood

February 26, 2020
Posted by Jay Livingston

In the early years of this blog, I wrote a post ( here) with the title “Racism Without Racists.” (I don’t think I originated the phrase, though I still don’t know who to credit it to.) The point was that racially discriminatory outcomes can result even when the people producing those outcomes are not racists.

That post looked at data showing that LAPD car stops, Blacks and Latinos, compared with Whites, were more likely to be ordered out of the car, frisked, ask to consent to a search, and arrested. The chief of police, Bill Bratton, insisted that the department did not have a policy of racial profiling. My guess was that you could get these racially skewed outcome even without a profiling policy and even if no cops harbored racist attitudes. Instead, it could result from our inability to “read” people of a different race.

That was car stops and searches. What about shootings?

For their recent NBER paper, Mark Hoekstra and Carly Will Sloan sifted through 2 million 911 calls in two cities in order to compare shootings by White and Black cops. The paper is behind a paywall at NBER, but here’s the key sentence from the abstract.

While white and black officers use gun force at similar rates in white and racially mixed neighborhoods, white officers are five times as likely to use gun force in predominantly black neighborhoods.


White cops in Black areas — five times more likely to shoot than are Black cops. In part, that’s because White cops are generally more violent (“white officers use force 60 percent more than black officers, and use gun force twice as often.”) But they may also perceive situations differently. Just as our cross-race readings of individuals is unreliable, so too may be our reading of cross-race social settings, especially in tense situations that require very quick decisions.White cops in Black neighborhoods may read a situation as extreme danger where Black cops see it as less threatening and less urgent

Trump — Working the Crowd, Working the Refs

February 25, 2020
Posted by Jay Livingston

When people criticize or oppose Trump, or even provide information that contradicts him, his main strategy is to try to discredit them, to challenge their legitimacy. They are, he claims, unfair and biased against him. So when Justice Sotomayor noted the unprecedented number of cases where the Court’s conservative majority had acceded to Trump administration requests to fast-track cases, Trump, unsurprisingly, issued a typical tweet. I found it in this NPR story today.

(Click on an image for a larger version.)

Here Trump was trying to discredit specific judges. He has done it before. But many on the left fear that Trump is also trying to discredit American institutions. That’s because he often puts it that way. He attacks not just this or that journalist but “the fake-news media,” by which he means all media except Fox News. He attacks not just a judge but entire courts. “The 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster.”   

Is the Trump strategy is having the effect that progressives fear? It’s hard to know. The GSS shows a decline in confidence in the courts in 2018, but since the previous rates are from 2008, we can’t know when that change occurred.


The Gallup Poll finds a small decrease in 2018 for confidence in the Supreme Court, but generally the percent of those who have great confidence in SCOTUS has not changed much in the last decade, fluctuating between 30% and 40%.  Before that, going back to 1973, confidence in SCOTUS stayed above 40%.


Last May, I posted an audio clip from an interview with Michael Lewis, who had just launched a podcast about attacks on the legitimacy of all kinds of judges, not just those in courtrooms. Here is the relevant excerpt from that blogpost. (The entire post is here.)
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Lewis says that one inspiration for the series was what happened after a close play at home in a softball game played by nine-year old girls. It happened ten years earlier. But it can easily be an allegory for tactics and a tactician of the present moment.



The story continues (to hear the rest of it, get the entire episode and push the slider to about 12:40), but the excerpt here is sufficient. It shows a winning-obsessed and angry man using his position of power to bully an impartial judge. I chose to end the clip at the point where the angry bully says, “You’re fired.” (We’re not long on subtlety here at the Socioblog.)

The Times Wedding Announcements They Are a-Changin’

February 21, 2020
Posted by Jay Livingston

Here are some more trends dredged up from Wedding Crunchers, the New York Times corpus of words in its wedding announcements. As I noted in the previous post about brides keeping or changing their name (here), these announcements are not a representative sample of couples. And while they are not even representative of couples in the Times’s corner of US society, I think they point to some general trends in that elitish slice of the world.

Take grade inflation. This well-documented trend is reflected in Times weddings as well.

 (Click on an image to enlarge it.)
From 1981 to 2019, the proportion of announcements with a summa more than doubles (from 4% top 10%) as does the magna rate (9% to 19%). It’s possible, though unlikely, that Times has raised its bar for putting your announcement in the paper. Or maybe today’s couples really were better students in their college days. We do know that more of them are going on to post-BA programs. But which?


In the 1980s, we saw the rise of the MBA, the Wall Street “masters of the universe” in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, or in real life the recently pardoned Michael Milken (MBA Wharton 1979, Pleasanton Federal Prison 1993). The 1990s was for lawyers. (I recall a New Yorker cartoon, which I cannot now find online, which shows a young woman and man at a cocktail party. She is saying, “How did I know you’re a lawyer? Everyone’s a lawyer.”)

As we head to the 21st century, two other phrases start turning up —  “hedge fund” and “start up.”

The numbers are small, never more than one announcement in 25 including either of them, but starting about ten years ago, start ups began to replace hedge funds as the choice of the adventurous and ambitious (and perhaps avaricious).

The other newcomer to the these pages is the dating app. The steep increase starts in 2013 or 2014. In only 5-6 years, about 20% of the wedding couples announce that they met via a dating app.


Finally, remarriage in the Times seems to run parallel with national trends.



The US divorce rate peaked in 1980, and since the most remarriages occur on average 5 years after divorce, we should expect the downward slope that begins in 1984. More curious are the upward trend 1996 - 2004 and the decline after that. Of course, remarriage in the Times is somewhat rare — the rate ranges from about 7% to 13% — so maybe we shouldn’t make too much of these fluctuations.

If you’re curious and what to explore your own key words, go to weddingcrunchers.com.

Brides and Names, New York Times Edition

February 20, 2020
Posted by Jay Livingston

“She’s keeping her name,” a friend said the other day. We were talking about a girl we know who got married last year. Is that still a thing, I wondered, keeping your name. What I really meant was: how much of a thing is it? Then I remembered Wedding Crunchers , the corpus of all words in New York Times wedding announcements — sort of like Google nGrams but with a much narrower focus and far fewer filters for researchers. 

Unfortunately, the database goes back only to 1981, so we can’t kow when the name-keeping trend started. It was underway by the eighties. By 2000, more than 20% of Times brides announced that they were keeping their names, so many that several of those who were changing their names felt it necessary to proclaim their traditionalism in the announcement.

(Click for a larger view.)

I’m not sure what happened in 2015. Maybe that was the year that the Times instituted the current policy, which finesses the politically tinged proclamations of the keepers and the changers. Instead, the Times puts the maiden name in the headline and the married name in the text. Finding out who’s keeping and who’s changing requires a closer reading, but those who are interested will figure it out.
Here are two weddings from Sunday’s paper. (I edited out the photos to save space.)

(Click for a larger and clearer view.)

Adrienne is becoming Mrs. Adams. Elle will remain Ms. O’Sullivan.

There’s another change in the language, though you have to go back to the eighties to see it. Adrienne graduated from UNM, Elle from UCSB. In fact all brides and grooms these days “graduate from” their schools. But in the old days, a student “was graduated from” the school. The Times, and many of the people whose wedding announcements they accepted were traditionalists.


Even as late as 1980, nearly 60% of the wedding announcements included someone who “was graduated from” a school.*

The wedding announcements in the New York Times are hardly a representative sample of anything, But they do offer a glimpse into the world of the elite. For more on that, see Todd Schneider’s excellent post from 2013. As for those at the other end of the social spectrum, graduating from college is not so much an issue, and as marriage rates decline, neither are wedding announcements in the newspaper or the question of whose name to use.

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*Nowadays, you sometimes hear, “I graduated college in 2015,” much to the dismay of language prescriptivists, who insist that the correct expression is, “I graduated from college.” They don’t realize that their presciptivist counterparts of 150 years ago would have been just as appalled and in despair for the language because people were not saying, “I was graduated from college.”