There’s a story on NPR news about college advertising brochures.
Pippert and his researchers looked at more than 10,000 images from college brochures, comparing the racial breakdown of students in the pictures to the colleges’ actual demographics. They found that, overall, the whiter the school, the more diversity depicted in the brochures, especially for certain groups.
When you look at the research paper it turns out that’s not quite right. The main data table (Table 3) is
What it shows is that the proportion of African-American students in photos in the brochure is actually pretty much constant, regardless of the proportion at the university. It’s the exaggeration that increases for whiter campuses. It would have been nice to see this in a graph (and also perhaps see White+Asian pooled), but sociology doesn’t routinely do graphs (Kieran Healy has a paper trying to get them to)
Interestingly, the 15% or so proportion of African-American students in photos is above the proportion in the population as a whole (12.4%), but is very close to the proportion in the 16-19 age band, which includes the target audience for these brochures. That may well be just a coincidence, since there’s enough geographical variation that basically no-one is exposed to what the US population proportion looks like.
Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »