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Yo Han(John) Ahn

The article "Some Economics for Martin Luther King Jr. Day," by Timothy Taylor addresses the case for racial equality upon principles of economics. One of the primary thoughts Taylor shares is the economic costs that are imposed on society as a result of racial and gender discrimination. Considering that a consequence of discrimination is its detrimental effect in allowing people to develop their talents, Taylor uses data to acknowledge the ways in which white men dominated high-skilled occupations. He concludes the argument by claiming that diminishing these discriminatory barriers aren't only a matter of justice and fairness, but are crucial for the betterment of the U.S. economy. On the table Taylor uses, there's a drastic increase from 1960 to 2008 in the percentage of minority groups such as black men and women working in high-skilled occupations. However, the writer doesn't address what accounts for this jump in numbers. He assumes that all the groups have similar abilities and therefore discrimination is the cause of the varying percentages. But if he included the efforts and reasons why the occupational gap is closing, I believe it would strengthen the article by providing the reader with an explanation of solutions to discrimination.


"Some Economics for Martin Luther King Jr. Day" by Timothy Taylor is a collection of thoughts and analyses on racial inequality as it relates to economics. His first idea pulls from a 2012 article in which he discusses how gender and racial discrimination is detrimental to society as it prevents each individual from achieving their optimal personal level by assuming that women or non-white men are inherently less skilled than white men. He presents data illustrating that potentially over 48 years, that assumption is shifting slowly, as women and non-white men step into more roles at high-skill occupations. I think his point that economic growth depends on allowing all individuals to reach their full potential plays really well into our discussions this week of the microeconomics concepts of advantages. We would never condone a firm or country allocating resources to an inefficient task (hiring a less efficient white male over a more efficient woman or non-white man), so it makes sense in more than just a socially justified sense that everyone should have the chance to reach their potential. Taylor's second point is extremely haunting as it discussing the implication that, on average, African American children are noticeably behind their caucasian counterparts in a school context.

Taylor's third point is one that should be discussed more frequently. He and Glenn Loury discuss how typical discrimination studies are conducted in economics. When it comes to determining the disparity from an economic standpoint, how does it make sense to hold the group under question accountable for their disparity. While the world and life are not fair, it is important to look at these groups and realize that their situation necessitates the courses of action in some cases. In many ways, they have no choice to "prepare themselves of the labor market" as they are stuck combatting the situations in which they find themselves. The fourth point I found particularly ironic as just last week, the MLK concert on our campus was cancelled because they could not secure the rights to the music and speeches to perform them for what has previously been an annual concert. Overall, these four points were quite varied, but they held a singular unique theme relating back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's work to propel us into a more equal and better future.

Davis Alliger

The analysis "Some Economics for Martin Luther King Jr. Day" was extremely interesting. I think one of the most fascinating facts that was brought up was the economic growth that was lost due to discrimination. This analysis naturally makes sense, if theoretically all people have an equal chance of being good at providing a good or service then removing a large portion of those people due to racist tendencies hurts primarily the firm, but also the overall economy. This doesn't always hold 100% true, because as the author mentioned many African Americans kids begin to fall behind at a very early age. This is likely due to poor schooling, family structure, and other socioeconomic disparities. As the author points out, many African American students enrolled in charter school from an early age preform on par or superior to their classmates.
The question then becomes how to close the gap. Obviously, the gap in education starts from a very young age. Change in the public education system (which account for the majority of the education of minorities) should be a priority. Improving the education is much easier said than done, one of the primary issues is apparent in the gap between whites and minorities in public school. Additionally, job prospects after high school need to improve upon graduation for those who cannot afford or get into college. Discrimination can pose an extreme barrier for blacks and other minorities when looking for a job. Often minorities when competing with whites for the same job face discrimination and often have less of a chance of attaining the job, decreasing minority employment and preventing them from gaining necessary skills. The lack of ability to attain a job and improve their skills perpetuate the wage gap.

Caroline Birdrow

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I attended a student-led discussion entitled "In His Own Words: Lessons from Dr. King for Today" which included conversation surrounding Washington and Lee’s current campus climate and similar issues. One question that came up was about why Caucasians or others with privilege in our society often feel threatened by African Americans, etc. who ask for the same rights and privileges. Would the Caucasians lose as much as they think they would? This article seemed to provide both an answer to that question but also a possible explanation for why it is better for everyone in the long run to have equal rights and opportunities, aside from humanitarian arguments.
Timothy Taylor quoted Pete Klenow who claimed that “White men arguably lost around 5% of their earnings… But their losses were swamped by the income gains reaped by women and blacks.” Thus, white men did suffer a loss, as there were less high skilled positions available to them, and therefore lower wages for them to earn. While this may be true, the white men could have invested in their human capital even more so as to remain competitive with newcomers to the labor market. Whatever the case, there is evidence that white men lost something individually, but Taylor presents the idea that everyone is better off due to widespread growth. According to Taylor, “1/6 or 1/5 of total U.S. growth in income per worker may be due to greater economic opportunity.” Thus, Taylor subtly seems to recognize what some Caucasians are feeling in the face of others accessing equal rights but provides evidence that, in the long run, they are wrong. We all gain from equality of economic opportunity.

Julia Wilson

Taylor’s “Some Economics for Martin Luther King Jr. Day” makes some interesting ties between racial equality, economics, and mathematical models. In particular, I found Taylor’s third point interesting as it demonstrates the importance of creating useful, unbiased models, which can sometimes be a difficult task due to lurking variables. In both math and science classes, students are taught the importance of accounting for control variables. In order for two factors to be compared together, all other factors must be held constant. Otherwise, it would be difficult to determine any correlation between the two variables being studied. However, as Taylor points out, perhaps, while attempting to understand racial inequality and pay gay, we are choosing the wrong control variables or stratifying data incorrectly. Taylor explains that Glenn Lowry argues that “many of the observable factors are themselves the outcome of a history of discriminatory practices.” The differences in schooling, work experience, and family structure are “a consequence of the same structure of social relations” that led to discrimination in the first place. If this is true, then why is the data being stratified in terms of these factors? The models are misleading because of the way in which they were created. As a result, the models of the labor market were not demonstrating the reality of racial and economic discrimination. In a more general sense, this illustrates how important for us to think critically about what our models, which serve as a tool to simplify and analyze reality, are telling us and if these models are an accurate reflection of the world.

Katherine Dau

The blog post, “Some Economics for Martin Luther King Jr. Day” by Timothy Taylor outlines the economic discrimination still faced my many in four points. He describes the common misinterpretations about the wage gap and other principles. This ties in directly to our discussions on models. Models can never be perfect or completely accurate; however, as Taylor states, some of the models pertaining to education and pay gaps need reworking.
I found his comments on copy-right laws most interesting. It is shocking to me that Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is not available to public consumption. This seems to be almost the opposite of what King himself would want. Education has been proven to be the best way to move forward, but today we cannot hear King’s words or see the reaction of the crowds. Taylor comments on the early age at which an education gap begins. Although access to King’s work would not come close to closing this gap, it is sad to think that those already losing out on education are being robbed even further.

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