An economic analysis of "Acting White"

David Austen-Smith, Roland G. Fryer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Scopus citations


This paper formalizes a widely discussed peer effect titled "acting White." "Acting White" is modeled as a two-audience signaling quandary: signals that induce high wages can be signals that induce peer group rejection. Without peer effects, equilibria involve all ability types choosing different levels of education. "Acting White" alters the equilibrium dramatically: the (possibly empty) set of lowest ability individuals and the set of highest ability individuals continue to reveal their type through investments in education; ability types in the middle interval pool on a common education level. Only those in the lower intervals are accepted by the group. The model's predictions fit many stylized facts in the anthropology and sociology literatures regarding social interactions among minority group members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-583
Number of pages33
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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