Gene Expression

Are blacks exceptionally homophobic?

Ta-Nehisi Coates asks:

…I don’t want to scapegoat my brown bothers–my sense is that ethnicity is a really bad filter here–for blacks, whites and Latinos. For instance, is homophobia tied to wealth? Is it tied to education? Is it tied to region? What is the best predictor of homophobia? Is it really race? Or is it something like poverty or even church attendance?

The charmingly named “HOMOSEX” variable in the GSS has large sample sizes, so I decided to look into the various relationships. The question is: “What about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex?” The responses are always wrong, almost always wrong, sometimes not wrong at all and not wrong at all. The numeric code goes from 1 to 4, with the lower codes denoting less tolerance of homosexual relations. Because the GSS is just a snapshot I wouldn’t focus too closely on the proportions as we’re in a time of social change, but the differences between demographics are likely robust (all the trends below are ones I am familiar with from years of polling data). For those of you who don’t like the garish frequency tables, I’ve checked the grayscale option. Finally, the abbreviations and spellings are generated by the GSS application; I don’t have control over them.

i-e1f62e5a43b16b24a4121435852b6524-homosexsex.jpg

i-f6ef81f5cf49a7ae1bbef29eb6c481eb-homosexrace.jpg

i-a35338aa3d6ff236a254589579a81cae-homosexwordsum.jpg

i-f275b57af582df5889fd67aa483911a0-homosexed.jpg

i-083b51640edeb80931a1289956ef173c-homosexage.jpg

No surprises, right? Here are intolerant:tolerant dyads:

Male:Female
Black:White
Stupid:Smart
Uneducated:Educated
Old:Young

But obviously I’m not controlling for other background variables. After all, the average number correct on the vocabulary test for whites was 6.22 vs. 4.79 for whites. And blacks are more likely to be religiously fundamentalist, etc. So the race difference might be accounted for by these variables. But let’s look at some trends broken down by race first.

For clarity, this is # correct on a vocab test on the X axis:
i-de0213cf4b453451a99a437606d9dae9-homosexcompwordsum.jpg

i-3e4460105023a12bd09c0cada20644e8-homosexcomped.jpg

i-654b1ae785a62e6664c08a3a92df01e0-homosexcompreligmod.jpg

i-989d3919831c6470f36090b5475870f3-homosexcompbible.jpg

i-7c51105629ab44623656ff95a1fe0466-homosexcomppol.jpg

Just by inspection here one might assume that controlling for variables can’t explain away the whole race difference. Smart, educated and very liberal blacks are less tolerant of homosexuals than similar whites. In fact, among downscale sectors there isn’t much of a difference between whites and blacks, the difference shows up among the upscale. There isn’t that much of a difference between fundamentalist blacks and whites. There is a big difference between blacks and whites who consider themselves religious liberals; the former are far less homophobic than black fundamentalists, but note that they’re about as gay friendly as white religious moderates.

All that being said, I play around with a multiple regression model by treating some of these categorical but ordinal variables as existing along a numerical interval. That is, HOMOSEX was a dependent variable on a 1-4 interval. The religious variables and age were powerful predictors of the variation in attitudes toward homosexuality, but race not so much (not even statistically significant). I wanted to post the charts above because I don’t necessarily trust these sorts of slap-dash regressions, but my quick & dirty checks imply that race is a less powerful predictor than religion and age.

Update: A few more charts….

i-cb92b7f940da18968ce9aebff882dceb-homosexhispanic.jpg

i-caf66d43f1548928eccad73fbd1e7479-homosexregion.jpg

i-3e3281644b7daa142088ea1116441dea-homosexincome.jpg

i-7b6008c8c1ba4f52c0891b33ad5c6224-homosexSEI.jpg

Update II: Plotted vs. socioeconomic index for whites, and then blacks.

i-93eddc5d9f0b75cc378d04a6a7c1957b-homosexseiwhite.jpg

i-e441423d1c0d812174974f8c1575e9e5-homosexseiblack.jpg

Comments

  1. #1 Lester Spence
    October 2, 2008

    When you ran a regression with a racial dummy variable what did you find?

  2. #2 razib
    October 2, 2008

    When you ran a regression with a racial dummy variable what did you find?

    this:
    The religious variables and age were powerful predictors of the variation in attitudes toward homosexuality, but race not so much (not even statistically significant).

    most of the black-white difference is due to religion and stuff.

  3. #3 Tod
    October 3, 2008

    “most of the black -white difference is due to religion and stuff”

    Religion does have an strong influence on such “moral” issues. However in my opinion the underlying and most important factor for the statistically significant differences in the attitudes of black people to gays is a result of the tight sexual selection of men in Africa,( a corollary of poligamy). Men tend to be less accepting of gays than women and thus the most masculine men are generally the least approving of all. A community where more masculine men are relatively common may, it can be predicted, be unlikely to approve of or, even accept gays than one where men are less masculine on average.

    Black men have significantly higher, 15% higher in fact, testosterone levels than white men after SES and lifestyle factors are allowed for (L. Ellis & H. Nyborg, racial or ethnic variation in male testosterone. HealthSteroids57:72-5)

    Denmark is more accepting of homosexuality than any other state, even in liberal Scandinavia.

    In Denmark homosexuality was legalised in 1933, the age of consent is 15, and it was the first country to legalize same sex unions

    What is the average level of masculinity in Danish men?
    Danish men may be feminized by comparison with other countries a study found them to have a higher 2D:4D finger ratio than men from other countries,(High digit ratio in danish men, M. Vorasek & M.Dressler. University of Vienna) Although the evidence so far is not conclusive this is suported by indications of reduced fertility in Danish men. This may be an indication that the unusually white skin of Danes is the result of intensive sexual selection for women in northern Europe which had the collorary of loosening the sexual selection of north Eurpean men and reducing the average level of masculinity, especially in Danes.

  4. #4 razib
    October 3, 2008

    1) as i said, religiously fundamentalist whites are just as homophobic as religiously fundamentalist blacks. do you then presuppose that religiously fundamentalist white males have 15% higher testosterone than non-religiously fundamentalist white males?

    2) what are the data for other european countries? i am not familiar with the digit ratio literature. you could try and run a regression of some sort with it….

    3) selection for white skin in europe is probably not sexual selection in my opinion.

  5. #5 Tod
    October 3, 2008

    If you want to assess the proclivities of black people the best way is to look at a black society.

    To answer (1) I am making a connection between black people, defined as prodominantly sub-Saharan agriculturist ancestry (which i argue results in high testosterone with masculine attitudes) AND the level of homophobic attitudes distributed across that same black population.

    I then compare the worlds least homophobic country’s average level of masculinity to that of other european countries and find that there is evidence of the worlds lowest level of masculinity in the least homophobic country in the world.

    I do not think in putting forward this working hypothesis I postulate any connection between the masculinity/testostosterone level, YOUR putative corrolate for homophobia (the religious based one), and the black- white difference of 15 % in testosterone.

    But I will venture to suggest that men who do not attend church will have higher testosterone levels AOTBE. my rationale for saying this is that is that women are all other things being equal more likely to go to church.

    The most homophobic thing to do is physically assault a gay man. To take a hypothetical case all other things being equal would the beating or killing of a gay man be more likely to be the work of a religiously fundamentalist black male than a religiously fundamentalist white male? Yes I think it would. I think blacks are more masculinised in their attitudes and thus more homophobic acts will tend , all other things being equal, be more likely to be perpetrated by a black person or a black society than a white person or a white society.

    If a white male did do this all other things being equal would he tend to have an unusually high testosterone level? Yes.

    Jamaica is a society where, until foreign white people forced them to accept white standards, you could be a very successful artist with songs about doing this as Beany Man and half dozen others did in Jamaica (one of many examples goes “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the Gays”) I confess that I presuppose the fan base of these dancehall “slackness” advocates were never much on religion. (unless you count Rastafarians)
    Jamaica is a dangerous place for gays because of actual violent acts, do the perpetrators of these beatings and killings Christian fundamentalists ? Would any kind of homophobic thinking against gays in the USA be more likely to be the work of work of black fundamentalists than white fundamentalists all other things being equal. Yes, I think It would.
    White skin is said to have been the result of sexual selection for women, this has the corollary of relaxed sellection for men.
    Relaxed selection for men would reduce masculinity, the Danes are the whitest skinned country in the world and they have the highest finger ratio in the world.

    Sorry, I don’t know how to do regression and stuff.

  6. #6 razib
    October 3, 2008

    White skin is said to have been the result of sexual selection for women, this has the corollary of relaxed sellection for men.

    by peter frost. i doubt peter is right, though he might be. this isn’t an area of science like newtonian mechanics, very few people have widely accepted models. IOW, unless you’re are peter frost or someone else studying this particular field you p-value should be VERY low. so putting a speculative hypothesis as opposed to a well supported theory as a major hinge in any argument reduces the plausibility of the whole argument from anyone you’re making the argument to.

  7. #7 Vladmir Putin
    October 3, 2008

    Mr Tod, I’d just like to point out that tolerance of homosexuality is NOT always consistent over time, even within a single, homogeneous population.

    The best example of this, at least that I am aware of, is Japan. It is the least ethnically, linguistically, culturally, and religiously diverse country in the world apart from perhaps the Vatican, so it serves as an effective control for these other factors.

    Homosexuality in Japanese society was neither prized nor taboo through about the 12th or 13th century; records of it occurring existed and it is characterized as being mildly abnormal, but not condemned.

    From the 13th to the 18th centuries, homosexuality (which practically speaking means having bivalent sexuality, as heterosexual intercourse was necessary for perpetuating the family) became a bigger and bigger factor in Japanese society. Actors became synonymous with prostitutes, young male performers caused riots among spectators trying to curry favor, erotic depictions of homosexual interaction, including explicit images of anal sex, were produced and sold freely to the public, and more than a few powerful lords wrote that love between a man and a boy was a far deeper and more spiritual thing than between a man and woman, since heterosexual intercourse was seen as merely a biological need. Many authorities on Buddhism and Shinto argued that their religion strongly endorsed male homosexual activity.

    In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, official approval of homosexuality slowly declined, and after the process of Westernization and modernization began in earnest around 1860, homosexuality was completely outlawed and condemned by order of the emperor. This strong disfavor remained the case until the last three decades or so, when societal attitudes towards other aspects of sexuality and family (divorce, sex before marriage, miscegenation) also liberalized; this allowed a gay subculture to develop in major cities, even if it was neither open nor flamboyant as elsewhere, since public opinion was still, on the whole, against it. Since that time, opinions have liberalized somewhat, and being gay no longer attracts the same social stigma it used to, although stereotypes still abound and discrimination is not unheard of. There is also a great deal of homosexual pornography aimed primarily at straight audiences of the opposite sex.

    Therefore, I suggest that ethnicity and religion alone do not and cannot account for attitudes towards homosexuality. In America, they MUST be tracking a hidden variable.

  8. #8 Luke
    October 3, 2008

    Tod, I suggest you read Stephen Jay Gould before you begin touting physical/racial connotations as causation for intolerance. While Gould’s work focuses on intelligence testing, the concepts are very applicable here.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mismeasure_of_Man

  9. #9 Amused
    October 3, 2008

    Why is Tod rambling on about genetics? Razib found that once you control for religion and age, there is no statistically significant difference in homophobia by race. Plus, he also found that there is apparently little or no differences in level of homophobia between blacks and whites who are religious fundamentals, less educated, less “smart,” and ideologically conservative. The differences between blacks and whites are found in those who are less religious, more educated, smarter, and more liberal. From this Tod comes to the amazing conclusion that the differences in overall levels of homophobia between blacks and whites may be rooted in racial differences in testosterone levels? Give me a break.

  10. #10 windy
    October 3, 2008

    the Danes are the whitest skinned country in the world

    What’s your evidence?

    This may be an indication that the unusually white skin of Danes is the result of intensive sexual selection for women in northern Europe which had the collorary of loosening the sexual selection of north Eurpean men and reducing the average level of masculinity, especially in Danes.

    This is contradicted by your own source (the Voradeck and Dressler letter: )

    As for evidence from countries in proximity to Denmark, male mean 2D : 4D levels are 0.93 in Finland (Manning et al., 2000), 0.95 in Sweden (Sanders et al., 2005Go), 0.95 in Lithuania (Manning, 2002), 0.955 in Belgium (Millet and Dewitte, in press), 0.96 in Germany (Manning et al., 2000; Kempel et al., 2005) and 0.99 in Poland (Manning et al., 2000).
    From the existing data, it appears that Northern European males of Scandinavian descent have comparatively low 2D : 4D. A typical male 2D : 4D level of 1.02, as reported by Bang et al. for Denmark, must be considered as exceptionally high.

    You are off your rocker if you read this and think “must be sexual selection for lowered masculinity”. Like your recent argument for Ice age selection for Swedish liberal attitudes, it’s just cherry picking evidence.

    razib:

    …unless you’re are peter frost or someone else studying this particular field you p-value should be VERY low. so putting a speculative hypothesis as opposed to a well supported theory as a major hinge in any argument reduces the plausibility of the whole argument from anyone you’re making the argument to.

    you’re being unusually patient. if he was arguing about anything else, would you have called him a tard already? ;)

    The Mismeasure of Man

    groan

  11. #11 Half Sigma
    October 3, 2008

    Tolerance for homosexuals is part of the white-liberal-guilt complex which causes such people to always root for the underdog.

    Black people don’t feel any racial guilt.

  12. #12 razib
    October 3, 2008

    you’re being unusually patient. if he was arguing about anything else, would you have called him a tard already? ;)

    fair enough. tod seems sincere enough so i’ve probably given him more slack than i would an anonymous troll. let’s get back to talking social science here. a time series analysis of attitudes toward homosexuals would show that there’s a crap load of social change going on, so those are the primary dynamics which are likely to explain the differences.

  13. #13 prof bill
    October 3, 2008

    You mislabeled the U.S. Census Bureau regions in your chart “Homosexual Sex Relations By Region Of Interview”. Any chance you could modify your chart?

    Region 4 should be West North Central.
    Region 5 should be South Atlantic.

    I am aware that these should be called divisions instead of regions. I just wanted to be consistent with your terminology.

    [fixed -razib]

  14. #14 Foo
    October 4, 2008

    It seems from your description that all you’re doing in the multiple regression is controlling for confounding by simple variables.

    But consider that there may well be interactions (effect measure modification) here: is there a synergy between being white (or black) and being religious (or not)? In fact, some of the graphs appear to show this, via different slopes for blacks and whites on some charts, though I may be misinterpreting.