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Causation and Race

Holland, Paul W.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Race, Statistical Interaction, Causal Variables, Regression Analyses, Causation


Race is often viewed as a causal variable and "RACE effects" found from regression analyses are sometimes given causal interpretations. The author argues that this is a mistaken way to proceed. RACE is not a causal variable in a very important sense of the word, and yet it does have a significant role in causal studies. The key role that RACE can play is to help our understanding of the effects of causes or interventions through the statistical "interaction" of RACE with causal variables, rather than as the main effect of RACE. These ideas are briefly illustrated using data from a study of tests constructed to manipulate the distribution of scores of Black and White test takers.

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