File Name: discrimination and disparities thomas sowell .zip
Discrimination is a word that very common to describe disparities that exist between groups. What is discrimination? Did you realize the word can be used in two very different ways? It is ever possible for it to be a good thing?
Log In Sign Up. Download Free PDF. Songyos Pongrojphaw. Download PDF. A short summary of this paper. At one end of a spectrum of explanations offered is the belief that those who have been less fortunate in their outcomes are genetically less capable.
At the other end of the spectrum is the belief that those less fortunate are victims of other people who are more fortunate. In between, there are many other explanations offered. But, whatever the particular explanation offered, there seems to be general agreement that the disparities found in the real world differ greatly from what might be expected by random chance.
Yet the great disparities in outcomes found in economic and other endeavors need not be due to either comparable disparities in innate capabilities or comparable disparities in the way people are treated by other people. The disparities can also reflect the plain fact that success in many kinds of endeavors depends on prerequisites peculiar to each endeavor-and a relatively small difference in meeting those prerequisites can mean a very large difference in outcomes.
Even if none of these prerequisites is rare-for example, if these prerequisites are all so common that chances are two out of three that any given person has any one of those five prerequisites -nevertheless the odds are against having all five of the prerequisites for success in that endeavor.
When the chances of having any one of the five prerequisites are two out of three, as in this example, the chance of having all five is two-thirds multiplied by itself five times. In other words, the chances of failure are about seven out of eight. This is obviously a very skewed distribution of success, and nothing like a normal bell curve of distribution of outcomes that we might expect otherwise. What does this little exercise in arithmetic mean in the real world?
One conclusion is that we should not expect success to be evenly or randomly distributed among individuals, groups, institutions or nations in endeavors with multiple prerequisites-which is to say, most meaningful endeavors. And if these are indeed prerequisites, then having four out of five prerequisites means nothing, as far as successful outcomes are concerned.
In other words, people with most of the prerequisites for success may nevertheless be utter failures. Whether a prerequisite that is missing is complex or simple, its absence can negate the effect of all the other prerequisites that are present. If you are illiterate, for example, all the other good qualities that you may have in abundance count for nothing in many, if not most, careers today.
As late as , more than 40 percent of the world's adult population were still illiterate. That included more than half the adults in Asia and Africa. Not all the prerequisites are necessarily within the sole control of the individual who has them or does not have them. Even extraordinary capacities in one or some of the prerequisites can mean nothing in the ultimate outcome in some endeavors. Back in the early twentieth century, for example, Professor Lewis M. Terman of Stanford University launched a research project that followed 1, people with IQs of and above for more than half a century.
Some of these men had highly successful careers, others had more modest achievements, and about 20 percent were clearly disappointments. Of men in this less successful category, only 8 received a graduate degree, and dozens of them received only a high school diploma. A similar number of the most successful men in Terman's group received 98 graduate degrees 2 -more than a tenfold disparity among men who were all in the top one percent in IQ. Meanwhile, two men who were tested in childhood, and who failed to make the IQ cutoff level, later earned Nobel Prizes-as none of the men with IQs of and above did.
And, equally clearly, there must have been other prerequisites that hundreds of these men with IQs in the top one percent did not have. As for factors behind differences in educational and career outcomes within Terman's group, the biggest differentiating factor was in family backgrounds. Men with the most outstanding achievements came from middle-class and upper-class families, and were raised in homes where there were many books.
Half of their fathers were college graduates, at a time when that was far more rare than today. Sometimes what is missing may be simply someone to point an individual with great potential in the right direction. An internationally renowned scholar once mentioned, at a social gathering, that when he was a young man he had not thought about going to collegeuntil someone else urged him to do so. Nor was he the only person of exceptional ability of whom that was true. But without that one person who urged him to seek higher education, this particular internationally renowned scholar might well have become a fine automobile mechanic or a worker in some other manual occupation, but not a world-class scholar.
There may be more or less of an approximation of a normal bell curve, as far as how many people have any particular prerequisite, and yet a very skewed distribution of success, based on having all the prerequisites simultaneously.
This is not only true in theory, empirical evidence suggests that it is true also in practice. In golf, for example, there is something of an approximation of a bell curve when it comes to the distribution of such examples of individual skills as the number of putts per round of golf, or driving distances off the tee.
And yet there is a grossly skewed distribution of outcomes requiring a whole range of golf skillsnamely, winning Professional Golfers Association PGA tournaments. Nor should we be surprised if the laggards in one century forge ahead in some later century, or if world leaders in one era become laggards in another era. When the gain or loss of just one prerequisite can turn failure into success or turn success into failure, it should not be surprising, in a changing world, if the leaders and laggards of one century or millennium exchange places in some later century or millennium.
If the prerequisites themselves change over time, with the development of new kinds of endeavors, or if advances in human knowledge revolutionize existing endeavors, the chance of a particular pattern of success and failure becoming permanent may be greatly reduced. Perhaps the most revolutionary change in the evolution of human societies was the development of agriculture-within the last 10 percent of the existence of the human species.
Agriculture made possible the feeding of concentrated populations in cities, which in turn have been and remain the sources of most of the landmark scientific, technological and other advances of the human race that we call civilization. These include river valleys subject to annual floodings, whether in ancient Mesopotamia, in the valley of the Indus River on the Indian subcontinent in ancient times, along the Nile in ancient Egypt, or in the Yellow River valley in ancient China.
Genetic characteristics peculiar to the races in these particular locations hardly seem likely to be the key factor, since the populations of these areas are by no means in the forefront of human achievements today.
Patterns of very skewed distributions of success have long been common in the real world-and such skewed outcomes contradict some fundamental assumptions on both the political left and right. People on opposite sides of many issues may both assume a background level of probabilities that is not realistic. Yet that flawed perception of probabilities-and the failure of the real world to match expectations derived from that flawed perception-can drive ideological movements, political crusades and judicial decisions, up to and including decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States, where "disparate impact" statistics, showing different outcomes for different groups, have been enough to create a presumption of discrimination.
In the past, similar statistical disparities were enough to promote genetic determinism, from which came eugenics, laws forbidding inter-racial marriages and, where there were other prerequisites for monumental catastrophe, the Holocaust.
In short, gross disparities among peoples in their economic outcomes, scientific discoveries, technological advances and other achievements have inspired efforts at explanation that span the ideological spectrum. To subject these explanations to the test of facts, it may be useful to begin by examining some empirical evidence about disparities among individuals, social groups, institutions and nations.
These disparities exist both among individuals and among aggregations of people organized into institutions of various sorts, ranging from families to businesses to whole nations. Skewed distributions of outcomes are also common in nature, in outcomes over which humans have no control, ranging from lightning to earthquakes and tornadoes.
PeopleWhile it might seem plausible that equal, or at least comparable, outcomes would exist among people in various social groups, in the absence of some biased human intervention, or some genetic differences affecting those people's outcomes, neither belief survives the test of empirical evidence.
A study of National Merit Scholarship finalists, for example, found that, among finalists from five-child families, the first-born was the finalist more often than the other four siblings combined. First-borns were also a majority of the finalists in two-child, threechild, and four-child families. Moreover, the average IQ of second-born children as a group was higher than the average IQ of third-born children.
The first-born averaged higher mental test scores than their siblings, and the other siblings likewise averaged higher scores than those born after them. Data on male medical students at the University of Michigan, class of , showed that the proportion of first-born men in that class was more than double the proportion of later-born men as a group, and more than ten times the proportion among men who were fourth-born or later.
But, whatever the proportion in a given country, the first-born tend to go on to higher education more often than do later siblings. A study of Britons in showed that 22 percent of those who were the eldest child went on to receive a degree, compared to 11 percent of those who were the fourth child and 3 percent of those who were the tenth child. Among females the disparity was slightly larger. Twenty-three percent who were an only child completed four years of college, compared to 19 percent who were first-born, and just 5 percent of those who were fifth-born or later.
A study of about 4, Americans concluded that "The decline in average earnings is even more pronounced" than the decline in education between those born earlier and those born later. Whatever the general advantages or disadvantages the children in a particular family may have, the only obvious advantage that applies only to the first-born, or to an only child, is the undivided attention of the parents during early childhood development.
The fact that twins tend to average several points lower IQs than people born singly 27 reinforces this inference. Conceivably, the lower average IQs of twins might have originated in the womb but, when one of the twins is stillborn or dies early, the surviving twin averages an IQ closer to that of people born singly. In addition to quantitatively different amounts of parental attention available to children born earlier and later than their siblings, there are also qualitative differences in parental attention to children in general, from one social class to another.
Children of parents with professional occupations have been found to hear 2, words per hour, while children from working-class families hear 1, words per hour, and children from families on welfare hear words per hour. Nor can different outcomes in schools, colleges or employment be automatically attributed to those who teach, grade or hire them, when empirical evidence shows that how people were raised can affect how they turn out as adults.
It is not simply that they may have different levels of ability as adults. People from different social backgrounds may also have different goals and priorities -a possibility paid little or no attention in many studies that measure how much opportunity there is by how much upward movement takes place, 31 as if everyone is equally striving to move up. Most notable achievements involve multiple factorsbeginning with a desire to succeed in the particular endeavor, and a willingness to do what it takes, without which all the native ability in an individual and all the opportunity in a society mean nothing, just as the desire and the opportunity mean nothing without the ability.
What this suggests, among other things, is that an individual, a people, or a nation may have some, many or most of the prerequisites for a given achievement without having any real success in producing that achievement.
And yet that individual, that people or that nation may suddenly burst upon the scene with spectacular success when whatever the missing factor or factors are finally get added to the mix.
Poor and backward nations that suddenly moved to the forefront of human achievements include Scotland, beginning in the eighteenth century, and Japan beginning in the nineteenth century. Both had rapid rises, as time is measured in history. Scotland was for centuries one of the poorest, most economically and educationally lagging nations on the outer fringes of European civilization.
There was said to be no fourteenth-century Scottish baron who could write his own name. Among the changes that had occurred among the Scots was their Protestant churches' crusade promoting the idea that everyone should learn to read, so as to be able to read the Bible personally, rather than have priests tell them what it says and means. Another change was a more secular, but still fervent, crusade to learn the English language, which replaced their native Gaelic among the Scottish lowlanders, and thereby opened up far more fields of written knowledge to the Scots.
In some of those fields, including medicine and engineering, the Scots eventually excelled the English, and became renowned internationally. These were mostly Scottish lowlanders, rather than highlanders, who continued to speak Gaelic for generations longer. Japan was likewise a poor, poorly educated and technologically backward nation, as late as the middle of the nineteenth century.
The Japanese were astonished to see a train for the first time, that train being presented to them by American Commodore Matthew Perry, whose ships visited Japan in Among other things, Japan produced a bullet train that exceeded anything produced in the United States.
Other extraordinary advances have been made by a particular people, rather than by a nation state. We have become so used to seeing numerous world-class performances by Jewish intellectual figures in the arts and sciences that it is necessary to note that this has been an achievement that burst upon the world as a widespread social phenomenon in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, even though there had been isolated Jewish intellectual figures of international stature in some earlier centuries.
As a distinguished economic historian put it: "Despite their vast advantage in literacy and human capital for many centuries, Jews played an almost negligible role in the history of science and technology before and during the early Industrial Revolution" and "the great advances in science and mathematics between and do not include work associated with Jewish names. Jews were not admitted to most universities in Europe prior to the nineteenth century.
Upon returning to the United States, Sowell enrolled at Harvard University , graduating magna cum laude  in He received a master's degree from Columbia University in , and earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago in Sowell has served on the faculties of several universities, including Cornell University and University of California, Los Angeles. He has also worked at think tanks such as the Urban Institute. Sowell writes from a libertarian conservative perspective. Sowell has written more than thirty books, and his work has been widely anthologized.
Few things today are in such a state of intellectual disarray as discussions about the relationship between discrimination and social-process outcomes. Deliberation and debate on this issue has been warped by demagoguery to such a degree that basic terms are commonly used to indicate their complete opposite. That little exchange, and the broader legal case, roughly captures the neo-Marxist thinking that prevails in the Western world right now: depending on whose ox is to be gored, discrimination can be inferred solely from disparities in outcome, or it can be denied flat-out, even while juxtaposed with an explicit admission of calculated disparity of treatment. On this topic, clarification of basic principles is urgently needed, and this new book by renowned economist Thomas Sowell is a valuable addition to this field. Sowell is the preeminent social theorist writing on the topic of race and discrimination today.
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The disparities can also reflect the plain fact that success in many kinds of endeavors depends on prerequisites peculiar to each endeavor-and a relatively small.Collipal M. 17.12.2020 at 21:32