Racism vs low Social Mobility


I am exactly suggesting that it be fixed in the so-called counterproductive so-called anti-meritocratic so-called non-starter way. I’m suggesting that what you’re calling “counterproductive” may look counterproductive to you but is just what’s needed. I do basically just mean that (metaphorically) handing poor people wads of cash, while not ideal, is socially necessary, and economically is more effective than how things are done now. (Note: I don’t think actual wads of cash ought to change hands - I think it just needs to be “No Child Left Poor - And No Adult Either”.) I believe that “irresponsibly throwing money at the problem” is precisely what will get the job done.

Why not just link “History of Earth”?
We were talking about the economic distribution of Asian immigrants vs the african american population. A retort needs to respond to that directly.

I’m not saying that all, or even most, Asians that came to the US were from privileged backgrounds. In fact, I said exactly that in the post you are responding to.

I’m prepared to say that it is unwise to put all of your eggs into one basket.

I’ll also say that to the extent that African Americans are performing poorly in modern day America, we can either blame it on racism, genetics, and/or culture.

I don’t discount racism, but there are three reasons to doubt its strength - particularly if we exclude the South.

  1. Fundamentally, women have seen more pushback on their freedom and economic success than black men through the last 150 years. They were given the vote later. They got into politics later. They still haven’t gotten the presidency. Hell, in all practical senses, women only stopped being property around 1895 (when all of the states had given women the right to separate economy and the ability to engage in a profession), 32 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. If you look at various “firsts”, it’s pretty consistent that either black men did it first or women are neck and neck with them. From that, we should expect that - for example - African American men would have better college attendance rates than women.

  2. Similarly, while the rise from slavery has been a longer road to slog through, I get the sense that by the early 1900s, the social and economic position of Chinese in the West (e.g. California) and the racism that was being thrown against them was pretty equivalent to African Americans. We would expect both groups to be in equivalent positions today since they were in equivalent positions at the time. They are not.

  3. While not completely conclusive yet, early indications are that African immigrants are performing at an equivalent rate as native-born Americans of similar educational levels.

Alabama, yes, maybe racism is a huge issue. I don’t know that we have enough of a “control group” to compare to. But with California, from what I know of history and of the world - and I grant that I am not perfect nor all-knowing - I am leary of putting all of the eggs into the racism basket. I think that relying on that to be the one and only answer is a high risk proposition with the potential that if that’s all you work on, then you’re completely screwing over a large segment of the population.

Certainly, if you look at policing data and reports by people, it certainly seems to be the case that the police can be quite racist and pull over African Americans unjustly, shoot them without provocation, etc. Racism exists, even in California and all the rest of the country. I’m not disputing the existence of racism.

But there’s good evidence that if a community decides to work for higher education and to climb the social and economic ladder, that they can beat racism and sexism. You only have to look back at every group of immigrants who ever entered the country en masse, and the continuing success of women today.

And there’s good evidence that cultures can affect the success of a group over time. Jewish people have held a stunningly consistent record of educational attainment, economic attainment, and scientific achievement for a few centuries now. And there have been massive movements to cut them off at the knees and hinder that success. You can’t just say that they’ve always had money and kept the money. The money has been taken away a bunch of times and they’ve been dropped to the bottom of the heap and held under for a few generations and come right back.

Genetics isn’t the answer. Humans are all humans, regardless of skin color.

We should fight and continue to fight racism. And if that’s all that it takes to help bring African Americans up to having the same financial and social success as everyone else, then good. I have no complaint with whatever works.

But I do personally doubt that that’s the full answer.

Bluntly, yes, but I’m talking about over here, in the UK, not over there.

No, because those are accents, not an argot.

A comparison to women doesn’t seem like a good fit to me, half of the children of rich, well educated people are going to be female, so women as a group aren’t concentrated in lower social classes

Gregory Clark has shown that outside of social groups with higher endogamy, social mobility is similarly low across countries.

Agreed. And if you had said you thought culture plays a factor then I would have trivially agreed with you.
I live in China; I see the difference that high (educational) aspiration makes.

Debatable, and Delicious makes a good point that half of all people born to a wealthy family, at a high social level are female. So once they are allowed to climb the ladder, women will start higher on average than blacks did.

No, I wouldn’t expect that. Because a high proportion of Chinese immigrants to the US are first to third generation. And like I say, I live in China, so I see the kind of person who (now) has the desire and means to emigrate to the US; they are not a representative group of all Chinese.

And that’s if we go with the premise that their treatment was the same. I would dispute that too.
While both groups were treated like shit, and utterly disposable around that time in history, I wouldn’t assume their treatment has been approximately the same thereafter.
Black people are often considered physically intimidating. Black people were a significant enough minority to be put away in separate communities.

I would expect immigrants to do better on average than native-born americans. Because, like I say, you’re talking about a population with the means and will to move to another country, thousands of miles away. They can’t be compared to a native population while ignoring that.
(Yes, obviously some immigrants are refugees or whatever. We’re just talking about proportions).

Did anyone?

He did? Got a cite?

It’s fine that’s your opinion, but I was referring to the efficacy of various policies to increase social mobility, as in the thread title. Giving people money by definition gives them money. Whether it gives them and moreover their descendants social mobility is back to your correct initial analysis: we don’t know what makes some families or identified groups within society more upwardly mobile than others. And it’s very hard to construction meaningful experiments. Therefore hard to come up with solutions.

It is in fact a non-starter to give people, for example the status of leading innovators in technical fields. But a lot of the angst is about that, the fact that the top 20%, say, in incomes doesn’t look like the general population in terms of background (whether along racial or other, like geographic or parents’ status). Preventing poverty isn’t the same issue as social mobility. You can reasonably assert that giving wads of money would eliminate poverty. That’s more or less self evident, though the political feasibility depends on defining ‘wads’ and ‘poverty’. But to assert that giving wads of money would even out representation by all groups at all levels of society, IOW give loads of social mobility, is an altogether more aggressive (read ‘far fetched’) claim. That again gets right back to the correct part of your previous post. We don’t know comprehensively to begin with what causes social stratification.

  • The Son Also Rises*

I think culture is certainly an aspect of this discussion, and I agree African Americans haven’t been the only victims of racism.

But in the United States at least, black people generally were considered ideally for the purposes of race-based slavery, and were thus singled out. Concurrent to the practice of slavery, there was the palpable fear among whites that blacks would seek vengeance against them. This inspired a set of laws that specifically and uniquely targeted African Americans in the post-slavery era.

Racism against blacks wasn’t confined to the South either. Some of the worst race riots in American history occurred during the period when black Americans migrated away from the south in search of economic opportunity. Willing to work for lower wages, competition for industrial jobs eventually led to race riots in places like East St. Louis, Chicago, and other places.

On an individual basis, yes, a lot of African American individuals make poor decisions that hinder their ability to succeed later in life. And yes, a lot of African American parents have handicapped their own children with decisions they’ve made. But we see even today that the black man is perpetually viewed as a threat to be neutralized and controlled. People who are viewed as threats are inherently at a disadvantage when it comes to getting fair treatment from a police officer, a judge, a loan officer, a real estate agent, an employer, or even his own white neighbors who call the police on him or worse, follow him around the neighborhood and shoot him dead. So while the law might say equal protection under the law, the reality that the individual experiences is something altogether different.

You want me to read a book to find some support for a point you’re trying to make?

Yeah…no. The US is a country with comparatively low social mobility (cite cite). If you want to dispute that, or even add nuance to it, please bring evidence or a concrete argument.


Well, over here some dialects get descriptors like “charming”, “quaint”, or “down home”, while other dialects get marked as “uneducated” and “lazy”.

Tom Joyner is a famous radio personality. He’s educated and makes a gazillion dollars. Like many black Americans, he speaks blaccented Standard American English with occasional notes of AAVE. I had a white coworker who told me he can’t stand listening to Tom Joyner because he doesn’t speak proper English. BULLSHIT. The man speaks perfectly serviceable, “proper” English. He just doesn’t sound like Tom Brokaw when he speaks. His speech is no more deviant than someone from, say, Lon Guyland (Long Island). But black speech is always marked as low class, while Lon Guyland speech will frequently get a “charming” or “interesting” pass.


I agree that this is the situation here in the US. Take the example in post 7 of Yiddish word order. I think the first impression many people would have of someone speaking like that would be that they are imitating Yoda. People speaking AAVE are less likely to be judged in a similar way as having a “charming” speech pattern and more likely to be thought of as ghetto.

I don’t want *you *to do anything anything in particular. Lot’s of people read this board, so someone is bound to benefit even if you choose not to. Some people are drawn to this board out of a desire to fight ignorance – often their own. Some jump at the opportunity to get the research straight from the researchers. That way they can learn something about a topic before posting. They’ll benefit. Others would rather…read a summary in a magazine. Which are you? Your post is revelatory. Your post is also funny, because in objecting to Clark’s book you…cite Clark’s book!

This methodology, which you’ve already vetted (assuming you read your own cite), which leads to an intergenerational correlation of ~0.75 in the US also tells us that every other country* measured is also between 0.7 and 0.9.

That same magazine article is almost entirely about mobility in the US. The one reference where other countries is mentioned is from Corak, who measures income mobility. They’re related, but income mobility is not wealth mobility is not social mobility. Even *if *income mobility is lower in a place like Sweden, that’s not surprising when they have much flatter income overall. There’s only a ~€20k difference between the lowest and highest income quintiles there (Eurostats). And of course he relies on data like PSID, which only covers about two generations. whereas Clark looks at much longer trends.

And the second magazine article doesn’t even attempt to address other countries. No “comparatively” to speak of.

*He looks at Sweden, Japan, South Korea, UK, USA, Chile, India, China.

This article is relevant to the OP and has gotten some recent press: http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/race_paper.pdf

Wapo summary: Same family income, same street, but the black boy still grows up to earn less

I’m just giving you advice that just posting “Read this book” is maybe not the best approach in a Great Debate.
Even if I were inclined to read a book based on someone’s say so on the Internet, what happens to the debate? Do we pause it for a few days while I go read the book?

I didn’t object to Clark’s book. And the article mentions Clark’s study alongside others presenting different views and points out that Clark is making the distinction between wealth and income.
If you’re saying that wealth elasticity may be higher than income elasticity then sure, that may be the case.
But we were talking about social mobility, overall, and the claim that the US has relatively low SM.

Well I thought that was implicit but OK, here’s another: https://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/

EPI doesn’t conduct their own research in this area. That’s just Corak again. And old Corak at that. This is what often gets plotted against Gini coefficient in the “Great Gatsby Curve”, using his methodology from IIRC 2003. Note where the US, Canada, and Sweden fall on that plot. Let’s see what he says about them in 2014:

Why the change?

I’m just giving you advice that coming into a thread and posting unsupported claims without first familiarizing yourself with the research literature is not the best approach in a Great Debate.