You're Better Off Being Considered 'African-American' than 'Black'

A new study finds that people have higher expectations of individuals described as “African-American” as opposed to “black.”


The latter phrase, even when used in the name of an association or group on a resume, caused respondents in the study to assume a lower level of education and income.

Here’s more, by way of The Atlantic:

The study’s most striking findings shed light on the racial biases undergirding the professional world. Even seemingly innocuous details on a resume, it appears, can tap into recruiters’ biases. A job application might mention affiliations with groups such as the “Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers” or the “National Black Employees Association,” the names of which apparently have consequences—and are also beyond their members’ control.

In one of the study’s experiments, subjects were given a brief description of a man from Chicago with the last name Williams. To one group, he was identified as “African-American,” and another was told he was “Black.” With little else to go on, they were asked to estimate Mr. Williams’s salary, professional standing, and educational background.

The “African-American” group estimated that he earned about $37,000 a year and had a two-year college degree. The “Black” group, on the other hand, put his salary at about $29,000, and guessed that he had only “some” college experience. Nearly three-quarters of the first group guessed that Mr. Williams worked at a managerial level, while 38.5 percent of the second group thought so.

The Atlantic credits Jesse Jackson with launching the term African-American at a 1988 news conference.

We don’t always have control over our biases. Social scientists long ago concluded that attractive people receive unfair rewards for their beauty and many people insist they are unaffected by advertising, though the contrary is true. This is but one study, yet it’s not so difficult to believe people take so much meaning from the etymology of racial identity.

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