514. Roland Fryer Refuses to Lie to Black America

    en-usSeptember 01, 2022

    Podcast Summary

    • Roland Fryer's quest to improve Black America through research.Despite controversy, Fryer's data-driven approach highlights important issues and serves as a reminder to push boundaries for meaningful change.

      Roland Fryer, a young Harvard economist, aims to make Black America happier, wealthier, healthier, and more educated through his research. Despite controversy, he is committed to telling the data-driven truth about issues such as health, police, and education. Fryer was the youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard and won the MacArthur Fellowship and John Bates Clark Medal. However, allegations of sexual misconduct and violation of finance rules led to his suspension in 2019. His work reminds us of the importance of breaking glass ceilings and pushing boundaries to make meaningful change in our society.

    • Overcoming Adversity: Reflections of an Ivy League ProfessorRoland Fryer's journey shows that resilience and positive role models can help overcome challenging circumstances. It is necessary to acknowledge power dynamics and learn from mistakes to achieve success.

      Roland Fryer, an Ivy League economics professor, reflects on his unlikely path towards success, growing up with contradictory role models and a challenging childhood. Despite a difficult environment, Fryer excelled in academics and sports, but also engaged in petty crimes. He acknowledges the power dynamics in his interactions that led to his suspension, but has returned to teaching and research. Fryer's story highlights the importance of resilience and overcoming challenging circumstances, as well as the role that positive role models can play in shaping one's future.

    • Roland Fryer's Data-Driven Fight for EqualityFryer's challenging past motivated him to use data and research to improve outcomes in Black communities, with a specific focus on combatting discrimination and police use of force.

      Roland Fryer's challenging upbringing led him to have a determined attitude towards catching up and making a positive impact on Black communities through data-driven solutions. He believes that discrimination has significant negative effects on these communities and focuses solely on making them better. Fryer's extensive research on racial differences in police use of force, incorporating various data sets, highlights his commitment to using data to drive change.

    • Racial Disparities in Police Force UseRoland Fryer's research shows that Black people are more likely to experience police force, even when compliant. While there were no racial differences in lethal force, further investigation and accountability is needed.

      Black people are 50% more likely to have force used on them by police than white people in any given stop, even when perfectly compliant, according to Roland Fryer's research. This suggests that there is discrimination happening in police interactions, although Fryer does not use the term 'racist'. However, Fryer's research also found no racial differences in lethal uses of force, despite media reports suggesting otherwise. Fryer argues that comparing unarmed Black people shot by police to unarmed white people shot by police is an incomplete and misleading statistic. Fryer's research highlights the need for further investigation and accountability in policing practices.

    • The Importance of Understanding Police Officers' WorkBuilding relationships between police officers and communities increases understanding and decreases the likelihood of bias. Better training is necessary to improve interactions between police and the public, not just relying on available data.

      Roland Fryer, an economist, was motivated to study police shootings by an incident that made him realize his biased perception of police officers. To understand more, he embedded himself in different police departments and rode along with officers to see what their job entailed. Fryer found that when officers walked the beat and knew the community, they were more understanding of a person's behavior and less likely to view them as a threat. His experience highlighted the importance of unbiased understanding of police officers' work, not just the data available, and the need for better training to improve interactions between police and the public.

    • The truth about police shootings based on data analysis and Fryer's experience.80% of police shootings occur after 911 calls, with no racial differences in lethal force. Fryer's research was initially discouraged, but he refused to hide his results, which shed light on the complexity of a police officer's job. Investigation of lethal force is important, but young Black men's treatment by police is also a crucial issue.

      80% of police shootings in our data came from a 911 call. There were no racial differences in lethal use of force. This finding caused alarm and colleagues advised Fryer to not publish it. Ride-alongs with police officers gave Fryer a better understanding of how complicated the job is. Investigators scrutinize lethal use of force, but not how young Black men are treated. Fryer refused to hide results that colleagues didn't like, calling them cowards. The job of a police officer is difficult and lethal use of force is a life-changing event.

    • The Importance of Police Accountability and Data Collection in Improving CommunitiesTo improve relations between black communities and the police, we need to prioritize police accountability and data collection. While progress may be slow, focusing on lower-level uses of force and treating interactions with dignity can make a difference.

      Scholars may be withholding evidence or emphasis on the lack of racial bias in police shootings, which can lead to a lack of progress in improving communities. Lower-level uses of force provide optimism for improvement. Black dignity matters in interactions with the police and erosion of trust in American institutions can be addressed through data collection and police accountability reform.

    • Overcoming Discrimination to Address Gun Violence in AmericaDiscrimination can hinder progress towards solving important issues, such as gun violence in America. Efforts to promote diversity, such as Roland Fryer's E.O. Ventures, can help address these barriers, but may require collaboration with government officials for greater impact.

      Discrimination is a barrier in coming to a common understanding on gun violence in America. Eliminating discrimination will create room for progress in this regard. However, even though there were attempts made to bring about change facilitated by senior White House officials and the FBI, no changes were made. Roland Fryer tried different approaches to bring diversity in corporate America with his venture E.O. Ventures, which primarily invests in women and people of color-owned businesses. However, his earlier efforts in the form of academic papers didn't help much. He spent time with people in Washington and state governments to achieve his goal.

    • How Two Companies are Using Data to Improve ElderCare and Diversity-Equity-InclusionInvesting in data-driven solutions can help corporations improve eldercare and diversity, making it easier to implement proven methods that benefit employees and society as a whole.

      Investor Roland Fryer explains that capitalism can be part of the solution in increasing opportunity. He discusses two portfolio companies working towards data-driven elder care and science-driven diversity. Intus Care aims to improve eldercare by identifying high-risk individuals that require more attention and increasing their quality of care. Sigma Squared is helping corporations increase diversity by making data-driven decisions instead of relying on “value-signalling”. Fryer realized that corporations were not using proven methods for diversity and eldercare because C.E.O.s and H.R. personnel do not read economics papers. Fryer’s companies aim to make it easy for corporations to implement proven methods.

    • The Zero Impact of Corporate Diversity TrainingMandating diversity training can have a negative impact, and a data-first approach with evidence-based strategies is needed to address root causes of inequalities.

      Despite spending billions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.E.I.) initiatives, the impact of corporate D.E.I. training is zero on average, with some evidence suggesting that the impact can become negative if the training is mandated. Managers often resist strong-arming, causing mandatory training to fail. These programs vary across companies, with some making it mandatory, some providing it as a resource, and others using tactics like masking information on resumes. However, even with good intentions, these programs can have unintended consequences akin to giving antibiotics to every patient, regardless of need. To improve the effectiveness of D.E.I. initiatives, Roland Fryer suggests taking a data-first approach to identify the root causes of inequalities and adopting evidence-based strategies to address them.

    • Starting with Data Analysis to Address Disparities and Biases in CompaniesTo address disparities and biases in a company, start with data analysis to uncover information biases and structural biases that impact certain groups. Use data to diagnose the problem and find effective solutions to address these issues.

      To address disparities and biases in a company, it is crucial to start with data analysis. This involves looking beyond surface-level issues and examining information biases and structural biases that impact certain groups. The majority of disparities in companies are produced by information and structural biases. For example, relying on stereotypes when hiring or selecting interns, or having a recruiting process that unintentionally excludes diverse candidates. The solution is to use data to diagnose the problem and find effective solutions that work. This can be achieved through simple means, and it is crucial for companies to invest the time and resources to address these issues.

    • The Importance of Analyzing Demographics to Address Gender Pay GapsAnalyzing data based on basic demographics is important to understand true disparities in wages between genders. In a case study, a hospital network eliminated their gender pay gap by listening to their employees' needs and making a necessary schedule change.

      Analyzing data and accounting for basic demographics is crucial to understanding true disparities in wages and addressing gender pay gaps. Average disparities can be misleading and it's important to compare apples with apples. In a case study, a hospital network's reported 33 percent disparity in wages between men and women was reduced to 8.9 percent once overtime hours were accounted for. This disparity was caused by a structural barrier - the hospital's seven to seven shift schedule made it difficult for female employees to find childcare in the morning. By changing the schedule to 10 to 10, the disparity was eliminated. It's important to listen to employees and address their needs to foster a more inclusive workplace.

    • The Power of Data: A More Effective Approach to D.E.I.Analyzing data to identify and address disparities is a key component of effective diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. Avoid tokenism and focus on targeted solutions backed by evidence for real progress.

      Using data to identify and address disparities is a more effective approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (D.E.I.) than generic training programs. The key is to analyze the data to find empirical issues and then identify targeted solutions such as the Rooney Rule or training programs. However, it's important to avoid tokenism and actually implement these solutions. The scramble to do something in D.E.I. can lead to harmful guessing and mistakes. Instead, a data-driven approach with experimentation is needed to make real progress. It's not enough to simply show allyship or be on the right side of history. The focus must be on actual outcomes and solutions based on evidence.

    • Roland Fryer's approach to tackling issues of police bias, education, and DEI through small, gradual changes, market forces, and community support.Roland Fryer emphasizes the importance of committing to real change and utilizing market forces to close racial gaps, while also recognizing the need for Black communities to support and nurture each other in telling their own stories and seeing themselves differently.

      Roland Fryer believes in making small, gradual changes every day to tackle issues like police bias, education, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). He emphasizes the importance of not just checking boxes, but committing to real change, and using market forces to close racial gaps. Fryer's goal is to utilize the power of founders and technology companies to make positive changes in underprivileged neighborhoods and companies. He is also involved in the Reconstruction education project, which aims to offer Black students an unapologetically Black education through online classes. The project is not a substitute for school but is supplemental. Fryer emphasizes the importance of Black communities supporting and nurturing each other to tell their own stories and see themselves differently in life and in school.

    • Celebrating Black Culture and Overcoming Identity Limits.Celebrating and understanding Black culture is essential to overcoming limits and achieving success. Knowing one's history and role in promoting their culture positively can help individuals build a strong identity. It's important for Black communities to have institutions that support this.

      Roland Fryer doesn't think of Blackness as a problem and believes in celebrating Black culture, love, and excellence. The public discourse about race often treats Blackness as a problem, which sets expectations and limits what kids think they can achieve. Identity is one of the most important choices that an individual can make. Understanding one's history and role in promoting their own culture positively is essential. Other cultures have institutions or organizations that help them understand their history and role in promoting their own culture, and it's important for Black communities to have that as well.

    • Incentivizing Student Achievement as a Solution to the Achievement GapThe achievement gap is driven by differences in development, not discrimination, and incentivizing success can have a significant impact on closing this gap. Incentive programs can be an effective tool in motivating and encouraging student achievement.

      The achievement gap is still the biggest civil-rights concern and the issue is development. Differences in development drive the majority of disparities, not discrimination. Solving this problem can improve social ills and lead to productive jobs, helping to defund the police. Incentive programs can be an effective tool to motivate and encourage student achievement, as seen in Fryer's experience with ordering pizza for successful test takers. As the Chief Equity Officer in the New York City Schools, Fryer learned that starting small and focusing on incentivizing success can have a significant impact.

    • The Importance of Data and Strategy in Innovation ProgramsCollect data, be honest about results, and execute promising ideas to innovate education. Incentive programs can change the culture around education, but having an R&D unit is essential.

      Roland Fryer, former Chief Equity Officer in the New York City Department of Education, emphasizes the importance of data analysis and having a real strategy when trying innovative programs. He advocates collecting data, being honest about the results, and executing on promising ideas. Fryer's department ran various incentive programs to rebrand education for kids and communities, such as the Million Program, which gave kids cell phones and texted them daily messages to encourage trying hard in school. While some of these programs were successful and some were not, Fryer highlights the importance of trying new things and having an R&D unit within educational departments. Incentive programs are still controversial, but Fryer believes they can be effective in changing the culture around education.

    • The Controversial but Effective Use of Incentive Programs in SchoolsIncentive programs using non-monetary rewards can improve student test scores without damaging their passion for learning. Despite opposition, many schools use these programs in secret, and their success cannot be denied.

      Incentive programs in schools have been a controversial topic, but they can be an effective and relatively inexpensive way to improve student test scores without negatively impacting their love of learning. Despite pushback from some groups, many charter and public schools are implementing incentive programs in secret, using non-monetary rewards like school T-shirts and pizza parties. While some still argue that education should be driven by a love of learning alone, the success of incentive programs cannot be ignored. As economist and education innovator Roland Fryer notes, test score gains are a policy worth pursuing and can make a real difference for students.

    • The Problem with Low Expectations in SchoolsWhen schools set low expectations, students may achieve good grades but still perform poorly on standardized tests. It is important to communicate information clearly and have high expectations to help students reach their potential.

      Low expectations in schools can lead to students getting good grades despite poor performance on standardized tests. This can be confusing and misleading for parents. Researchers and educators need to communicate information in a way that all parents can understand, and schools need to have high expectations for their students in order to help them reach their full potential.

    • Identifying Factors That Make Charter Schools EffectiveEconomist Roland Fryer identified five key factors that lead to effective charter schools such as more time in school, data-driven instruction, small-group instruction, human capital in teacher selection and a culture of high expectations. Fryer also shared his personal experience regarding the impact of race.

      Five factors that explain 50% of the variance in what makes charter schools effective were identified by economist Roland Fryer. These factors are: more time in school, using data to drive instruction, small-group instruction, human capital in teacher selection and feedback, and a culture of high expectations. Fryer also reflected on the impact of his race on his professional and personal life, acknowledging that it has opened doors and closed windows. He believes that race likely played a role in his suspension from Harvard, but also acknowledges that he may have pushed boundaries in his research and advocacy work that rubbed people the wrong way.

    • Roland Fryer's Journey to Authenticity and GrowthGrowing from mistakes, Roland Fryer separates personal and professional life, learning to do cutting-edge work while being honest and true to himself.

      Roland Fryer regrets past actions that could be perceived as offensive and has worked hard to authentically be himself without causing harm. He now maintains a clear separation between his personal and professional life, allowing him to do cutting-edge work while still being honest and true to himself. Fryer acknowledges that he broke glass early on in his career due to impatience, which hindered his ability to help and do the right thing. By learning from his mistakes and growing more mature, Fryer has evolved into a stronger and better version of himself.

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