Linguists have documented many differences between Standard American English (SAE) and African American English (AAE), a dialect spoken by many African Americans. Social psychologists have shown that AAE speech patterns influence listeners'attitudes toward the speaker. Sociologists have shown that landlords are less likely to show apartments to prospective renters whose speech exhibits distinctively African American features. Economists, however, have yet to analyze the link between speech and racial labor market inequality, despite ample theoretical reasons to expect one. A major barrier is a lack of data connecting speech to labor market behavior. This application seeks to remedy that problem. Its goals are to transcribe and code audio speech samples taken from respondents to the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97);to add qualitative and quantitative measures of those audio samples to NLSY97 public use files;to analyze those data;and to use them to test alternative explanations of racial labor market inequality. Labor market inequality is one dimension of the broader problem of racial inequality, which manifests itself in the form of racial differences in education, health, and child well-being, among others. Furthermore, differences in speech patterns have an important developmental component, since many aspects of speech are largely determined by the time the speaker reaches puberty. The speech data which we propose to produce would be the first quantitative measures of speech patterns to be available with any major social science data set. The analyses we propose to conduct would provide much deeper insights into the links between speech, race, and the labor market than those from the small sample that was available for our preliminary work. By adding public-use speech measures to the NLSY97, which includes measures of respondent education, health, and other measures of socioeconomic well-being, the project will enable future researchers to analyze the role that speech plays across numerous dimensions of racial inequality.
Recent research suggests that racial differences in speech may mediate racial labor market inequality. Labor market inequality is one dimension of the broader problem of racial inequality, which manifests itself in the form of racial differences in education, health, and child well-being, among others. The proposed project will add quantitative and qualitative measures of speech to a large, nationally representative survey of young adults, which in turn will permit researchers to analyze the links between speech and racial inequality not only in the labor market, but also in health and numerous other aspects of socioeconomic well-being.