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Research Roundup: Racially Mixed Juries; Affirmative Action and Black Enrollment; Immigrant Children’s School Performance

Racially Mixed Juries Deliberate More

A study from Tufts University shows that racially mixed juries deliberate more thoroughly than all-White juries in racially charged cases. The mere presence of Blacks on the jury is enough to trigger the effect, regardless of their contributions.

The study, “On Racial Diversity and Group Decision-Making: Identifying Multiple Effects of Racial Composition on Jury Deliberations,” was conducted by Dr. Samuel R. Sommers, an assistant professor of psychology. The study appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Sommers says very few studies have been done on the legal context of racial diversity.

“Juries need a diversity of information from people … and the study found that the mere presence of [Black] jurors has a diverse effect,” Sommers says.

In the experiment, 29 six-person mock juries — 14 of them all-White and 15 consisting of four Whites and two Blacks — were given a video presentation of an imaginary trial. The crime, a sexual assault, featured a Black defendant, a White victim and ambiguous evidence. When jurors were asked to deliberate, 16 (55 percent) of the juries voted to acquit, one jury voted to convict and 12 juries (41 percent) had not come to a unanimous decision. The only jury that voted to convict was all-White. Apart from that, verdicts did not break down by the juries’ racial composition.

The racially mixed groups deliberated longer, raised more questions and considered more of the facts presented in the video, the study found.

Sommers plans to follow up on these findings and apply it to other contexts, such as the classroom and boardroom.

Black Enrollment Will Decline if Affirmative Action Ends

Black enrollment would decline in 25 years if affirmative action measures were dropped even though the income and test scores gap between Blacks and Whites will narrow.

This is the conclusion from “Race, Income, and College in 25 Years: Evaluating Justice O’Connor’s Conjecture” by University of Virginia education professor Sarah E. Turner and Princeton economics professors Alan B. Krueger and Jesse Rothstein.

The authors examined the opinion of Justice Sandra O’Connor, who wrote in the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” 

The study calls O’Conner’s speculation “optimistic.”

“We are most confident in predicting that economic progress alone will not yield as much racial diversity as is generated with today’s race-sensitive admission policies,” the authors say.

The study shows that, under assumptions about changes in the income distribution of Black families in the next 25 years, the representation of Black students at selective colleges under race-blind admissions will be only 42 percent of the status quo. In other words, Black economic gains over the next quarter century can be expected to provide only about 17 percent of the incremental representation that is provided by affirmative action today, says the study.

The full article can be found in the American Law and Economics Review.

Immigrant Children Show Same, Better Level of Performance

Immigrant children perform as well or better than their same-race, American-born counterparts, according to a study published in Social Science Research.

This finding is true for immigrant youth of all races, ethnicities, and countries of origin.

According to the study’s author, Dr. Kathryn Harker Tillman, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, immigrant children are better at finding their way through the educational system than the public would suspect.

“Against the odds, these children are performing as well as or better than their same-race, third-generation peers,” Tillman says.

Tillman and co-authors Drs. Guang Guo and Kathleen M. Harris, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, chose to study English verbal ability (because of its usage during and after school) and evaluated 2,136 immigrant and non-immigrant children from four ethnic groups: White, Black, Mexican and Puerto Rican from 80 Chicago neighborhoods. White children — immigrant or non-immigrant — generally had high average English ability, but immigrants’ results were higher.

Black immigrant children had higher average scores than Black non-immigrant children. The trend switches for Hispanics, however, as non-immigrant Mexican and Puerto Rican children scored higher than their immigrant counterparts. The researchers attribute the difference to economic factors and the mother’s education and age.

In spite of having parents with low to no education, the results show that immigrant children are able to overcome many of the disadvantages associated with grade retention.

Tillman says factors such as high motivation, parental expectations, strong beliefs in the importance of education and/or community support in achievement may contribute to the success of the immigrant children.

“If we can gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that currently protect socioeconomically disadvantaged immigrant children from grade failure, we could incorporate that knowledge into the curriculum, policies and intervention strategies and enhance the academic success of all children,” Tillman says.

— By Shilpa Banerji


Reader comments on this story:

There is currently 1 reader comment on this story:

“diversity and scientific review teams”
I wrote a response to this article, posted at Basically I suggested that since these findings indicate that diversity aids in deliberation, objective perspectives, accuracy, etc. that the principle, i.e. increased diversity, should be applied to scientific review teams for grants, publications, etc. This is especially the case since the groups that do the reviews are most often NOT diverse. By doing this, inclusiveness would be promoted but, more importantly, the decisions made by these groups should be more fair, as they would be based on more informed deliberations. This would be one way to address the under representation of minorities in the sciences, with everyone winning! However, to do this, those in charge have to mandate that the groups must be diverse.
-Thomas Landefeld, PhD.

Dominguez Hills, CA

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