Drew vs. Damarcus

Teachers expect less from students with unusual or oddly punctuated names such as Da’Quan and LaQuisha, concludes economist David Figlio, a University of Florida professor. From the Washington Post:

Figlio said these kids also pay a price for their names when teachers and administrators make decisions about who gets promoted to the next grade level or selected to participate in “gifted” student programs: “Drews” are slightly more likely to be recommended for enrichment classes while “Damarcuses” are rejected, even when they have identical test scores.

Low expectations for children with names associated with low socio-economic status may become a “self-fulfilling prophesy,” Figlio writes. (Here’s the paper in pdf form.)

He used birth certificate data “to identify first names that had a high probability of being associated with a mother who was unmarried or a teenager at the time when her child was born, was a high school dropout and came from an impoverished family, independent of the mother’s race.” While blacks are most likely to pick these names, low-income whites and Hispanics also go for names like “Jazzmyn” and “Chlo’e.”

Figlio compared school data on exotically named children with their conventionally named siblings.

Figlio determined that children with names associated with low socioeconomic status scored lower on their reading and mathematics tests than their siblings with less race or class-identifiable names.

. . . Students with identifiable “Asian” first names were more likely to be recommended for special enrichment programs than siblings with more stereotypically American first names and similar test scores.

Thanks to Jeff Boulier of eChickens for the tip.

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Comments

  1. I don’t know if this is the final version, but you can download Professor Figlio’s paper from here:

    http://bear.cba.ufl.edu/figlio/blacknames1.pdf

    Sincerely yours,
    Jeffrey Boulier

  2. How did the name “Condoleezza” score in the study?

  3. Flamebait says:

    My rule has always been that you should never give your child a name that you couldn’t imagine the president having.

  4. So if parents name their son Albert Einstein Hernandez, he’s soaring to the top.

  5. Stephen D says:

    Several years ago Albert Mehrabian had a great book in which he listed names and surveyed peoples reactions to the names, then gave scores to different qualites for each name. As to Albert Einstein, I don’t think Albert scored the highest, though I think it would score much higher than Pedro or Pepe.

  6. Mike in Texas says:

    Does Figlio read any other studies on low achieving kids?

    Apparently he’s missed the ones who low SES kids tending to do poorly in school.

  7. Mike, he was comparing oddly named students to their own siblings, so the SES should wash out.

  8. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Apparently he’s missed the ones who low SES kids tending to do poorly in school.

    You mean like those kids, those low SES high school kids, in the Wired story who beat the well-funded MIT college kids in the underwater robotics competition?

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen,

    The La Vida Robot story is a great one but sadly it is the exception to the rule. The kids in this study are exactly the kind of kids who are being hurt by the so called “education reforms” being implemented.

    This story perfectly illustrates why education issues are not always simply black or white. All 4 of the young men in this story could do great things with their life given the chance to further their educations, and it is not their fault they are in this country illegally. However, I can also understand the thoughts of people who don’t think its right for the taxpayers to pay for the education of illegal immigrants while American students cannot afford to go.

    Its a great story but it doesn’t change the facts; low SES kids do poorly in schools compared to middle class students.

  10. Mike in Texas says:

    BTW Allen,

    As an elementary school teacher no one would consider publishing a paper by me on economics, but here is an economist being published as if he’s some kind of expert on education. His startling conclusion? Teachers are racist. This is soooooo last year. He needs to visit the Business Roundtable and get current on what he’s supposed to be bashing

  11. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Its a great story but it doesn’t change the facts; low SES kids do poorly in schools compared to middle class students.

    Actually, it does change the facts.

    It’s what’s known as an “exception”. You know, different then the run of the mill.

    As someone who’s laregly satisfied with the status quo, this exception holds little interest for you. Things, in education, are generally the way they ought to be except that you aren’t being paid nearly enough and way too many people seem to think they know enough about education to judge your performance.

    The kids show up, it’s the law. The money shows up, it’s the law as well. The parents shut up, they’d better or you’ll call the cops. Your paycheck shows up regardless of how much or how little you’ve done to earn it. Within the tight confines of your world you have the power to disappoint, frighten, cow and uplift people depending on your mood, skill and your sense of responsibility. Life is, if not good, at least predictable and acceptable.

    So anything that intrudes on your little world is an exception. A blemish on an otherwise perfect enough apple. Something to be ignored.

    But not everyone views exeptions in that light. Some people see an exception and wonder if it implies something not so obviously in evidence.

    A little pile of sawdust that didn’t mean a thing to you might mean a great deal to a termite inspector.

    Similarly, when a team of low SES high school kids kicks the ass of a well-funded team of college students form MIT, that’s an exception to the rule of low SES kids doing poorly. While you obviously couldn’t care less why, not everyone shares your lack of interest. I’d like to know why this particular batch of kids shattered their own and everyone else’s preconceptions.

    Was it the kids? Some borderline cosmic confluence of intellects, personalities and backgrounds? Or maybe the potential is much more widely distributed and simply suppressed. It sure would be nice to know.

    Or was it the teachers? If so, would it be possible to quantify those qualities to make it happen more often?

    Are some teachers simply better then others and thus capable of drawing exceptional performance from their students?

    Since that seems likely, shouldn’t we see if we can identify those qualities and find a means of measuring them in prospective, and current 🙂 , teachers?

    Don’t we owe it to all students to identify the best teachers? Don’t we especially owe that to low SES students who are most likely to need the sort of education that’ll let them escape their impoverished circumstances?

  12. Mike in Texas wrote:

    As an elementary school teacher no one would consider publishing a paper by me on economics

    Shows how much you know.

    In a reputable journal the quality of the paper will, sooner or later, trump the lack of credentials of the writer. I’m not going to say that some nameless patent office clerk will get published in the first journal to which he submits his ground-breaking paper but if it’s good enough it’ll eventually see the light of day. So, if you’ve got some blinding insight into economics, something that the world needs to know, write it up and submit it.

    but here is an economist being published as if he’s some kind of expert on education

    Does this economist have a name?

    His startling conclusion? Teachers are racist.

    You’ll excuse me for not taking your word for it. Got a link?

    This is soooooo last year. He needs to visit the Business Roundtable and get current on what he’s supposed to be bashing

    Business Roundtable. Got it.