12 February 2010

Sometimes I Wonder

why I bother (here and here).

This study is the poster child for bad reporting of social science. The reporting is that the authors found that the judge's race makes an "enormous" or "dramatic" difference in the outcome of discrimination cases. Leaving aside the fact that the study is completely unreliable and doesn't allow us to draw any conclusions at all (which I don't really blame a lay reporter for missing), the fact is that the authors' own results show that the judge's race makes little (R-squared under the best possible circumstance is only 0.03, meaning that judge's race explains only three percent of the variance in outcomes) or no (in the authors' best analysis, judge's race was not significant) difference.

That's actually an interesting result -- if we could rely on it -- since everyone assumes (look at the comments) that judge's race will make a difference. A finding that suggests that we're too cynical is an interesting finding.

P.S. The comment thread at the ABA Journal, which has now degenerated to "it's the JOOOOs," amply demonstrates the problem with bad reporting of bad studies.

1 comment:

Harry Eagar said...

Well, as far as the comments go, I am still trying to wrap my head around the contention that Justice Cardoza was 'not Hispanic' because he 'was Portuguese' or 'was Sephardic Jew'.

Must not be any entrance requirements to get on that thread.

More seriously, I think your point 1. in the ABA comment nails it: Plaintiffs would probably like to be in the 9th circuit.

I don't know the composition of the 9th, but it appears to have one-third (8 of 27) women, and (judging by names) 3 Jews, 2 Hispanics and 1 black (I may regret trying this, and no doubt this is inexact).

Aren't there 6 or 7 out of 9 Catholics on the US Supreme Court now? How could we expect justice there? (And how do you get so many 5-4 decisions if they vote their religion/race/sex?)