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Half Full or Half Empty?


The Washington Post’s “Unconventional Wisdom” column today features a study that purports to show-according to the column’s dramatic opening sentence-that “Americans are more willing to provide extended government assistance to white victims of Hurricane Katrina than to African Americans and other minorities-particularly blacks with darker skin.”  Accepting for the sake of argument the study’s methodology and results, this does not seem to me to be a fair interpretation. Those participating in the study “could give [victims] from $200 to $1,200 per month, and from a minimum of three months to a maximum of 18 months.” The survey found that the average of the former figure “was nearly the same,” regardless of the victim’s race; the average of the latter figure was 12 months if the victim shown was white and 11 months if the victim shown was black. (If the comparison was between light-skinned white victims and dark-skinned blacks, there was also a $100 a month difference for the average in the former’s favor.) So, there could have been as much as a 15-month difference, and there was only a 1-month difference; there could have been as much as a $1000-a-month difference, and there was only, at most, a $100-a-month difference. Doesn’t sound like proof of a racist society to me.


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