Economics of Discrimination and the Growth of Justice – from Marginal Revolution

What are the economics of discrimination ? Alex Tabarrock from Marginal Revolution put up the following thought-provoking post, and it’s repasted here for further dissemination. Law and economics – they go hand in glove.

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"The Growth of Justice

Posted: 09 May 2012 04:32 AM PDT

Justice is a key ingredient for economic growth. People will not invest if they fear that their life, liberty and property may be subject to arbitrary seizure and destruction. The rule of law and limited government provide a sphere of liberty within which individuals can make decisions with confidence that the fruits of their labor will not taken by the more powerful.

Justice is not just about legislation, however. Public and private discrimination diminish a person’s ability to individuate and develop, an ability that drives innovation and growth in the artistic, economic and scientific realms. In India the caste system binds many people to the lives of their ancestors regardless of desire, talent or will. In parts of the world half the population is subjugated and bound to a limited vision of their life, a vision which is not of their own making. Similar if less extreme forces have limited women and blacks in the United States.

In a pathbreaking paper, The Allocation of Talent and U.S. Economic Growth, Jones, Hsieh, Hurst, and Klenow connect a micro allocation model to a macro growth model to estimate that the lifting of much discrimination in the United States since 1960 has had a large effect on economic growth:

In 1960, 94 percent of doctors were white men, as were 96 percent of lawyers and 86 percent of managers. By 2008, these numbers had fallen to 63, 61, and 57 percent, respectively. Given that innate talent for these professions is unlikely to differ between men and women or between blacks and whites, the allocation of talent in 1960 suggests that a substantial pool of innately talented black men, black women, and white women were not pursuing their comparative advantage. This paper estimates the contribution to U.S. economic growth from the changing occupational allocation of white women, black men, and black women between 1960 and 2008. We find that the contribution is significant: 17 to 20 percent of growth over this period might be explained simply by the improved allocation of talent within the United States.

In other words, the United States has benefited greatly from the growth of justice."

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Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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