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What Has Economics to Say about Racial Discrimination?

  • Kenneth J. Arrow

Racial discrimination pervades every aspect of a society in which it is found. It is found above all in attitudes of both races, but also in social relations, in intermarriage, in residential location, and, frequently, in legal barriers. It is also found in levels of economic accomplishment; that is, income, wages, prices paid, and credit extended. It is natural to suppose that economic analysis can cast light on the economic effects of racial discrimination. But the pervasiveness of the phenomenon must give us pause. Can a phenomenon manifest everywhere in the social world really be understood, even in only one aspect, by the tools of a single discipline? I want to explore here the scope and limits of ordinary economic analysis for understanding racial discrimination even in markets.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 12 (1998)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 91-100

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:12:y:1998:i:2:p:91-100
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.12.2.91
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  1. Schelling, Thomas C, 1969. "Models of Segregation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 488-93, May.
  2. Lawrence Blume, 1996. "Population Games," Game Theory and Information 9607001, EconWPA.
  3. Steven N. Durlauf, 1997. "The Memberships Theory of Inequality: Ideas and Implications," Research in Economics 97-05-047e, Santa Fe Institute.
  4. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & José A. Scheinkman, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-548.
  6. Shelly Lundberg & Richard Startz, 1998. "Race, Information, and Segregation," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 0047, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  7. George J. Borjas, 1992. "Ethnic Capital and Intergenerational Mobility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 123-150.
  8. Frank Hahn & Robert Solow, 1997. "A Critical Essay on Modern Macroeconomic Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026258154x, December.
  9. T. de Scitovszky, 1943. "A Note on Profit Maximisation and its Implications," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 57-60.
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