Are criminal risk assessments racist?

Good idea– using data and well-validated models to predict potential for future criminal behavior and responding accordingly with criminal justice procedures.  Bad idea– using data and poorly-validated, racially-biased models to do the same.  I bet which one of these we’ve been using.

Amazingly, those who looked at these models found that the error rates were pretty similar for Black and white defendants.  Alas, they did not look at the direction of the error.  This chart pretty much says it all:

Prediction Fails Differently for Black Defendants

Labeled Higher Risk, But Didn’t Re-Offend 23.5% 44.9%
Labeled Lower Risk, Yet Did Re-Offend 47.7% 28.0%

Overall, Northpointe’s assessment tool correctly predicts recidivism 61 percent of the time. But blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be labeled a higher risk but not actually re-offend. It makes the opposite mistake among whites: They are much more likely than blacks to be labeled lower risk but go on to commit other crimes. (Source: ProPublica analysis of data from Broward County, Fla.)

So, yeah, roughly equivalent number of mistakes, but the mistakes systematically benefit whites and harm Blacks.  Lovely.  So, now that we know there’s a problem, let’s see what we manage to do about it.

Great article from Pro Publica.  Short version via NPR.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s animal photos of the week.  Somebody got a hell of a surprise when heading to the bathroom.  And notice the British toilet humor in the caption:

A resident of San Diego, California, was bowled over when she found this bedraggled baby opossum in her lavatory. The little creature was taken to the San Diego Humane Society's Project Wildlife for a check up and will be let loo-se when it can fend for itself.

Why are young voters feeling the Bern anyway?

Is it just that they, like Bernie, favor liberal policies?  Of course not.  Politics is far more about group identity than issue positions.  And while, yes, Bernie does get support for his liberal positions, renowned political scientists Chris Achen and Larry Bartels (easily one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be around), explain the identity bases of Sanders’ youth support in the NYT:

The notion that elections are decided by voters’ carefully weighing competing candidates’ stands on major issues reflects a strong faith in American political culture that citizens can control their government from the voting booth. We call it the “folk theory” of democracy.

When candidates surpass expectations, observers caught up in the folk theory believe that they have tapped some newly potent political issue or ideology. Thus, many analysts have argued that Mr. Sanders’s surprising support signals a momentous shift to the left among Democrats.

But wishing does not make it so. Decades of social-scientific evidence show that voting behavior is primarily a product of inherited partisan loyalties, social identities and symbolic attachments. Over time, engaged citizens may construct policy preferences and ideologies that rationalize their choices, but those issues are seldom fundamental…  emphases mine]

The most powerful social identities and symbolic attachments in this year’s Democratic race have favored Mrs. Clinton, not Mr. Sanders. She has been a leading figure in the Democratic Party for decades, a role model for many women and a longtime ally of African-Americans and other minority groups. For many primary voters, that history constitutes a powerful bond, and their loyalties are propelling Mrs. Clinton to the nomination despite her limitations as a candidate.

Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, is a sort of anti-Clinton — a political maverick from lily-white Vermont whose main claim to fame has been his insistence on calling himself an independent, a socialist, anything but a Democrat. That history has made him a convenient vessel for antipathy to Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic establishment and some of the party’s key constituencies. But it is a mistake to assume that voters who support Mr. Sanders because he is not Mrs. Clinton necessarily favor his left-leaning policy views…

It is very hard to point to differences between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders’s proposed policies that could plausibly account for such substantial cleavages. They are reflections of social identities, symbolic commitments and partisan loyalties…

Mr. Sanders has drawn enthusiastic support from young people, a common pattern for outsider candidates. But here, too, the impression of ideological commitment is mostly illusory. While young Democrats in the January survey were more likely than those over age 35 to call themselves liberals, their ideological self-designations seem to have been much more lightly held, varying significantly when they were reinterviewed.

Moreover, warm views of Mr. Sanders increased the liberalism of young Democrats by as much as 1.5 points on the seven-point ideological scale. For many of them, liberal ideology seems to have been a short-term byproduct of enthusiasm for Mr. Sanders rather than a stable political conviction.

Very liberal or not, these young voters would seem to have pretty much no reason to head to Trump in November.  But if they sit out, rather than supporting Clinton, that definitely makes things more interesting.  I still believe that the repulsive power of Trump– especially his racism, xenophobia, and sexism– will end up making a difference in Clinton’s favor with younger voters.

Why is Hillary do disliked?

Enjoyed this column from David Brooks.  At first I was ready to dismiss this point of his out-of-hand, but, I do think there’s probably something to it:

The second paradox is that, agree with her or not, she’s dedicated herself to public service. From advocate for children to senator, she has pursued her vocation tirelessly. It’s not the “what” that explains her unpopularity, it’s the “how” — the manner in which she has done it.

But what exactly do so many have against her?

I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun — golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun…

People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief…

At least in her public persona, Clinton gives off an exclusively professional vibe: industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful. It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role.

This formal, career-oriented persona puts her in direct contrast with the mores of the social media age, which is intimate, personalist, revealing, trusting and vulnerable. It puts her in conflict with most people’s lived experience. Most Americans feel more vivid and alive outside the work experience than within. So of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.

Now, I like Hillary Clinton and think she’s a good person, but, truly, I have little sense of her as a human other than her political motivations.  Of course, I’m voting for a president, not a best friend, but in terms of making her “likable” versus “unlikeable” the fact that she comes across as an almost purely political person surely does not help her case.  Of course, I think part of the person she genuinely is is the type of person who is guarded and not wanting to really let her metaphorical hair down in public.  That’s a real thing.  Alas, it’s not a real thing that’s going to get the public to like you.

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