ny_times_chi_fire_mhsThanks to The Topaz Club this offensive NYTimes Freakonomics blog post (dated 8/12/08) was brought to my attention…

The Plight of Mixed-Race Children

What’s it like to grow up with one parent who is black and another who is white?

In a recent paper I co-authored with Roland FryerLisa Kahn, and Jorg Spenkuch, we look at data to try to answer that question. Here is what we find:

1) Mixed-race kids grow up in households that are similar along many dimensions to those in which black children grow up: similar incomes, the father is much less likely to be around than in white households, etc.

2) In terms of academic performance, mixed-race kids fall in between blacks and whites.

3) Mixed-race kids do have one advantage over white and black kids: the mixed-race kids are much more attractive on average.

The really interesting result, though, is the next one.

4) There are some bad adolescent behaviors that whites do more than blacks (like drinking and smoking), and there are other bad adolescent behaviors that blacks do more than whites (watching TV, fighting, getting sexually transmitted diseases). Mixed-race kids manage to be as bad as whites on the white behaviors and as bad as blacks on the black behaviors. Mixed-race kids act out in almost every way measured in the data set.

We try to use economic theory to explain this set of facts. I can’t say we are entirely successful. If we had to pick an explanation that best fits the facts, it would be the old sociology model of mixed-race individuals as the “marginal man”: not part of either racial group and therefore torn by inner conflict. One reason this model is largely consistent with our facts is because it makes so few strong predictions that it is hard to falsify, which isn’t really fair to the competing models.


My jaw dropped.

Then I wrote this…

Mr. Levitt,

I was deeply offended by your “Plight of Mixed-Race Children” blog post. Clearly the “tragic mulatto” was already a joke to you when you set out to determine how the young ones are doing.  First of all, the “more attractive” stereotype is becoming as irritating to me as the blacks and fried chicken thing.  If you took this seriously you would look beyond that to find out if those “attractive” children perceived themselves that way.  Or did they feel physically flawed somehow because they did not fit in easily with either their black or white counterparts. Did their peers regard them as attractive? I believe that this more attractive thing comes in to play after adolescence and should have had no place in your “study”.

You also seem to believe that all of these young black and white people have white mothers and black fathers.  Black fathers being absent and poor, generally leaving white mothers on their own to care for their children in lower class surroundings. That’s what I infer from this crappy post.  Come the f*** on! Many biracials have a white father and a black mother. Did the possibility of that even cross your mind? I am left to assume that this white man, Steven D. Levitt, wouldn’t dream of procreating with a black woman and that you judge the white men who would as somewhat less than yourself.

Where on Earth did you get your “data”? What questions exactly were you trying to answer? Why not interview biracial adults about their adolescent experience?  Why do you even care what it’s like to grow up black and white?  Clearly you do not.

I am 32. I have a black mother and a white father. I grew up in the wealthy suburbs of Detroit.  I excelled academically and artistically. I earned a full-ride to the University of Michigan without trying very hard.  During my adolescent years I did not have sex, a cigarette, a sip of alcohol, or get into a fight.  I did not come away from my adolescent experience thinking “That was kind of rough, but as least I am more attractive than all those ‘monoracial’ kids.” I have a vlog on youtube called “mulatto diaries”.  Should you someday find that you truly care to know what it is like to grow up in America with a black and a white parent, watch it. You will find the stories of many other biracial people there. You don’t have to take only my word for it.

fyi: I’ll be posting this on my blog

Tiffany Jones