[Bloomberg] Students give worse reviews to professors with Asian names

March 9, 2015



Students give professors with last names that sound Asian lower ratings than those with American names, a new study shows.

The study, published in the journal Language in Society, looked at ratings of more than 2,000 mathematics professors on Ratemyprofessors.com, a website where students informally evaluate their instructors. It focused on U.S. institutions, zeroing in on ratings from 2010 to 2014, to capture the length it usually takes to complete an undergraduate degree. The analysis drew names from a list of the 40 most common names in the U.S., not including those who signaled Hispanic origin, and a separate list of 20 last names most frequent in South Korea and China, excluding Lee, which is also common among people with a European background.

Mathematics professors with common American last names earned scores that were 0.6 to 0.8 points higher, on a five point scale, than their colleagues with typical Chinese or Korean names on measures of clarity and 0.16 to 0.4 points higher on helpfulness. “There are racial others and national others who are present in these classrooms, and students are responding to that extra effort that they may have to put in to understand them,” said Nicholas Subtirelu, the study’s author and a graduate student at Georgia State University.”They seem to be doing so in a way that downgrades those instructors’ abilities.”