Posts

A Gaddis Illustration depicting three students.

Are millennials really as ‘post-racial’ as we think?

A Gaddis Illustration depicting three students.

Gaddis Illustration (Photo Credit: Febris Martono)

-Researchers sent 4,000 responses to real “roommate wanted” ads posted by millennials in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.

-They used names that signaled the race of the room seekers; all other information, including job and college-degree status, was the same.

-White-sounding names received the most responses, while those that signaled Black, Asian or Hispanic potential roommates got fewer responses.

-Emails with names that combined ‘Americanized’ first names with Asian or Hispanic last names got more attention than those with more typically ethnic first names.


In attitude, millennials might be the least racially biased demographic in America, according to existing data about this this group. But a new study led by UCLA professor of sociology S. Michael Gaddis reveals that when it comes to actions — like judging who would make a good roommate — millennials still show strong racial bias and anti-Blackness.

American millennials — those between the ages of 24 and 39 — are more racially and ethnically diverse than any other demographic and have higher levels of education. Multiple surveys have found that these individuals typically respond to questions about their beliefs, hypothetical actions and attitudes about race in ways that have been deemed “post-racial,” or more accepting and progressive than previous generations.

Gaddis and co-author Raj Ghoshal of Elon University decided to test whether that body of evidence translated into how millennials behaved when making real-world decisions, like who to accept as a roommate.

For this experimental study, published today in the open-access journal Socius, researchers responded to real Craigslist ads posted by millennials looking for roommates in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. The team used specific names that signaled the racial background of the room seeker, whether Asian, Black, Hispanic or white, and tracked responses to 4,000 email inquiries about the ads.

They found likely discrimination — in the form of fewer responses to their queries — against Asian, Hispanic and Black room seekers, even though each query about the open room included the same information on job and college-degree status. The only variable was the name of the applicants.

While queries from white-sounding names got the most responses, emails from Black-sounding names received the fewest.

“Essentially, when it comes to many racial issues, we cannot just ask people what they think and trust that their response is truthful,” Gaddis said. “Researchers must use a specific type of field experiment that requires us to engage in deception by pretending to be someone we’re not — for example, a Black room seeker — and examine how people react when they don’t know they are being watched.”

The Craigslist ads themselves provided a lot of information on the age, gender and socioeconomic status of the posters, though not definitive details on each poster’s race. Although Gaddis and his team presume many of these posters were white, it’s likely that other racial or ethnic groups were engaging in discrimination as well.

Rates of response to people with Asian or Hispanic names showed the most variation, depending on the first names that were used, the researchers found.

“Queries that used more ‘Americanized’ versions of first names, paired with a last name that implied Hispanic or Asian background got more responses than those with more typical-sounding Hispanic or Asian first names,” Gaddis said. “We think that probably comes across as a signal of assimilation.”

To select names for the made-up room seekers, Gaddis relied on a data-driven approach that uses names and information on race from real birth records and tests individuals’ perceptions of race from those names. He has previously explored how names that give a clue to race have an impact on the success of job seekers and college applicants.

► Related: Gaddis’ research on the connections between names and race

There’s an evolving science around choosing names for experimental research like this, Gaddis said, because names can also bear intersecting signals of social, economic and generational status.

“I’ve done a lot of work to investigate how people read these signals from the names,” he said. People do see names differently, and not everyone will recognize a certain name as white or Black or whatever you intended to signal. It’s also difficult because the vast majority of African Americans in the United States do not have racially distinguished names.”

For every last name of Washington, for example, which is a common Black last name, there are a handful of Mark Smiths who are Black men, Gaddis noted. And someone looking at an application or email from a Mark Smith, might not assume that person is Black. That is why, for this study, Gaddis used names his previous research had shown were most widely recognized as Black-sounding.

The disconnect between attitude and actions when it comes to survey responses about race can be chalked up to what’s called “social desirability bias,” and it’s something to which Gaddis and other sociologists are always keenly alert. People hesitate to respond to questions in ways they think might make them come across as racist. Whether that hesitation is explicit or implicit doesn’t change the reality of the bias itself, he said.

Gaddis is also working on two related reports. One is a survey that asks millennials to respond to a series of questions about whether they would discriminate based on race and what characteristics they value when looking for a roommate. So far, those findings are telling, he said. The way people respond to such questions in a theoretical setting is far removed from the behavior this real-life example shows.

Another study will look at the kinds of neighborhoods that made-up roommate seekers are able to get responses from. Do people with Black-sounding names get fewer responses from potential roommates in more affluent or “nicer” areas, even though the information about their job and college attainment is the same as presumably white room seekers? The short answer: yes.

This research has far-reaching implications, Gaddis said, because as millennials age, they will be the leaders and decision makers that drive our culture.

“Our study suggests that as millennials continue to gain access to positions of power, they are likely to perpetuate racial inequality rather than enact a post-racial system,” the researchers write.

This article, written by Jessica Wolf, originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

Darnell Hunt appointed dean of social sciences in the UCLA College

Darnell Hunt, a renowned scholar of race, media and culture, chair of sociology and longtime leader of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, has been selected as the new dean of social sciences in the UCLA College, effective July 1.

Oscar contenders are more diverse, but UCLA report urges Hollywood to address ongoing equity issues

After years of being largely shut out of the Academy Award nominations — a trend that prompted the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign in 2016 — actors, writers, directors and even a cinematographer of color are among the nominees for the 2017 Oscars, which will be held Feb. 26.

Where Are They Now: Hetty Chang

On June 1, 2016, UCLA alumna and NBC4 Southern California reporter Hetty Chang returned to campus to cover the dramatic events of the murder-suicide on campus at UCLA.

As a sociology graduate of the Class of 2000, Chang said covering the story at UCLA hit especially close to home. But the incident also gave Chang an opportunity to reconnect with the campus. She spoke with the UCLA College to discuss her trajectory since graduation and some of the defining moments of her broadcasting career to date.

As a child, Hetty Chang rarely missed the evening news, especially Asian American newscasters whom she saw as role models.

“The reporters I saw were pretty, confident, poised and smart,” Chang said. “And they were Asian, which made me believe I could someday be like them.”

Today, the UCLA alumna has her own television role as a reporter for NBC4 Southern California, where she can be seen weekdays during the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, breaking the big stories of the day. Chang covers much of Southern California and, in particular, Long Beach, the South Bay and Orange County.

hetty-chang_nup_174284_0992_headshot

Hetty Chang ’00

She has also covered national stories such as the hunt for ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner and the O.J. Simpson robbery case. She has received an Emmy Award, and is the first recipient of the Asian American Journalist Association New Media Fellowship as part of a pilot program with NBC4.

Before she set her sights on journalism, Chang dreamed of attending UCLA; however, after graduating from Whitney High School, one of the top public high schools in the country, the Cerritos native did not get into UCLA the first time around. She was undeterred and after two years of tenacious study at UC Irvine, she was accepted to UCLA in 1998 as a transfer student majoring in sociology and Asian American Studies.

“When people hear UCLA, it’s a tremendous honor,” Chang said. “So I kept my eye on the prize.”

After graduation, she had a brief stint as an intern with Channel 35 News, L.A.’s cable station. She soon realized that she would need to move to a smaller city to get her big break.

“Journalism is a unique field in the sense that you have to move to a smaller market to gain experience,” she said. “Very few reporters actually start out in a large city.”

Chang worked at KRNV, an NBC affiliate in Reno, for nearly four years before landing a job at the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. There, she covered one of her most memorable stories, an interview with then-Senator Barak Obama—10 days before he won the 2008 presidential election.

“That was an unforgettable experience, to have a precious few minutes with the future president,” Chang said. “It was getting a front row to history being made.”

After covering several major stories in Las Vegas, Chang earned sufficient recognition to be a competitive candidate as a reporter in Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the country. She was hired by NBC4 in 2013.

Getting to meet individuals from all walks of life is Chang’s favorite part of the job at NBC4. In addition to breaking news, she often tells inspiring stories through NBC4’s Life Connected series that airs every Sunday during the NBC4 News at 11 p.m., where she reports on the many unique ways people and communities come together.

Chang recently covered a 94-year-old Torrance, California resident who holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for most Olympics attended, with the Rio Olympics being his 19th.

“I get to meet all these interesting and inspiring people I would never cross paths with in any other industry,” Chang said. “I also feel a great responsibility for telling their stories.”

Chang said her studies at UCLA prepared her to approach every story with sensitivity and authenticity.

“I cover a very large swath of Southern California, which is so tremendously diverse, as is UCLA,” she said. “UCLA really gave me a great foundation from which to approach the news stories that I come across every day.”

She said UCLA’s competitive academic environment also helped her learn to face every challenge head-on and never to take ‘no’ for an answer.

“There were a lot of people who told me, ‘This is a very competitive field; you’ll never make it back to L.A.,’” Chang said. “But if I’d listened to them I wouldn’t be here. You have to be persistent.”

Even in the most challenging moments, Chang said she always remembers where she came from to keep her moving forward.

“I want to make my alma mater proud, much like I want to make my hometown proud and my family proud,” Chang said. “I think it really comes down to that great sense of pride.”

After kicking addiction, graduating UCLA student reboots life

This week, Hale, 53, will graduate with a degree in sociology and celebrate his transition to a new life at the campus’s Native-American graduation celebration on Friday at 4:30 p.m. with 18 other graduates.

UCLA sociologist approaches modern Iran from ‘best of both worlds’

Perhaps Kevan Harris’ greatest good fortune was to arrive in Iran as a sociologist with no preconceptions about its culture or values. An Iranian American, Harris grew up in Kentucky and then Chicago, where he earned a B.A. in economics and political science at Northwestern University.