“Race and Experimental Design: How Respondents may Read Context into a Neutrally Framed Scenario”
Abstract: In the field of Law and Economics, experiments using games intended to reveal the efficacy of deterrence structures have often used “neutral” language to avoid biasing respondents against unlawful or “anti-social” actions like stealing. Yet, draining the action of its moral character in this way may make it less indicative of real world behaviors. Furthermore, a “neutral” frame for one group may not be the same “neutral” for another. Given White and Black Americans report very different experiences with institutions such as the police, there is reason to believe that the reading of frames would be differently skewed for different racial groups. We test the effect of framing on a two-player ``stealing game`` and compare the effect across samples of Black and White Americans. Not only did Black respondents respond very differently to treatment compared to White respondents, but the choices of Black respondents in the control group aligned much closer to those taken in a “casino game” than in the “police game” where actions were explicitly mentioned as “stealing”. In contrast, White respondents had distinct reactions to all frames. This may mean that the “neutral language” used in these experiments may be tailored to fit one group more than others, and behavior exhibited in these experiments may not be equally indicative of real life preferences for all groups.
Abstract: One hypothesis for observed differences in how racial groups prioritize economic issues is that these groups have a social identity based on differing social norms. It has been theorized that the introduction of ethnically charged environmental primes may influence individuals to conform more strongly to these norms. In a highly cited paper, Benjamin et al. (2010) tested this through an experiment that assessed the effect of ethnically charged survey questions on the time and risk preferences of respondents. They found that primed Asian respondents were more patient than those in the control group with no effects observed for primed White respondents. Additionally, primed non-immigrant Black respondents displayed more patient preferences, with no effect on their immigrant Black counterparts. However, many recent replications of priming experiments have failed to obtain the results of original studies. We attempt to replicate the results of Benjamin et al. (2010) using a sample of the general US population that is over twice as large as the original study. We fail to replicate any of the original results and, in some cases, find the opposite results. Priming does not change any groups' time or risk preferences, though black men become more risk seeking. These results suggest that it may be improper to generalize the results found in the original paper or attribute them to the American public at large.
“Non-homogenous Force and Factors that can Obscure Racial Bias in its Application by Police” with Mike Shor
Abstract: A number of studies have suggested that strategic compliance can obscure racial bias as inferring racial bias directly from observed use-of-force data ignores the action (and agency) of the suspect. This is important for the contentious debate regarding whether the evidence of racial bias in use of “high-level” force such as officer weapons use is weaker than that of “lower-level'' uses of force that cause less bodily harm. Based on these insights, we develop a strategic interaction model where suspects invest in a level of compliance with police based on their expectation of race-specific use of force, which is itself separated into distinct levels of force. We not only develop a theoretical proof that shows the observed rate of force can obscure disparities in likelihood of force, but that the multi-level nature of force can itself affect the information that can be garnered about officer's sensitivity to race from empirical data. Ignoring strategic compliance may lead researchers to significantly understate evidence for racial bias, and our theoretical results caution against rejecting the hypothesis of racial bias without ensuring the examples of force observed are truly comparable.