2014-09-28

In favor of economic incentives for healthily-proportioned mixed-race neighborhoods

I was recently involved in a discussion about race and racism. It revolved around findings such as in the following Economist article:


Three-quarters of all victims and nearly 90% of perpetrators are male. Black Americans are only 13% of the population, but over 50% of murder victims. Among black men between 20 and 24, the murder rate is over 100 per 100,000 (see chart). [...]

Perpetrators in America tend to look like their prey: less than 20% of murder victims are killed by someone of another race.

The conversation also revolved around the contentious issue of race and average IQ. I reproduced some arguments I had recently written:

The main problem is the color itself, and its reliable correlation with IQ. This is unfair to exceptional individuals, who are judged superficially by their skin. Others notice the difference, and treat black people poorly and exclude them. This treatment causes them to bundle together and turn inward, producing hopeless, crime-ridden ghettos.

If we could break the correlation with color, yet still keep the same overall number of low IQ individuals, the race issue would be solved. Those who believe there aren't biological differences could find that they're right. Prejudice would dissipate over time, since no actual differences would exist to sustain it. But we don't know how to do that.

For the US, the only solution I can think of is to minimize the dynamic of concentrated black populations becoming ghettos by enforcing racial quotas. But that takes coercion, and is totally not workable within the constitution.

As-is, we really don't have a solution. In the absence of one, we resort to paying lip service to how there are no differences. We make superficial attempts to aid them - the kinds of efforts that should work if differences didn't exist. But that's not effective, so really, we're just letting them be, and escaping to gated communities.

Though my correspondent still disliked what they perceived as my insensitivity, they found this analysis insightful, and made a suggestion I didn't consider on my own. If the US race problem is made worse by the vicious cycle that takes place in inner-city ghettos, then coercion is not the only way to encourage healthy mixed-race neighborhoods.

An effective solution might be to offer economic incentives to people living in healthily-proportioned mixed-race communities. If black Americans are 13% of the population, then an ideal proportion of black Americans per city block might be between 7 and 20%. If the federal government offered a, for example, 5-percentage-point tax rebate to members of balanced communities, inner city ghettos would eventually disperse, and the vicious cycle they create with them.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of solution for which we have to understand race-IQ as a crucial contributing factor to the ghetto and crime dynamic - and yet not judge individuals on the basis of their skin color. This, unfortunately, is a difficult proposition. If we do not discuss race-IQ, people will argue that this proposal is itself prejudiced, and that race has nothing to do with the problem, other than white people being racist - which, they will say, this is an example of. Alternately, if we do discuss race-IQ, we risk people taking it as an excuse for bigotry and ideas of race superiority.

I'm talking about it now because, for the first time, I can see a solution.

2 comments:

Boris Kolar said...

Your general reasoning is sound, but this statistics suggests there's much more than race-IQ:
Deadliest cities

As you can see, there are some predominantly white cities with high crime rates (Tallinn, Estonia, etc.). The following statement is also true:
"... who are judged superficially by their IQ. Others notice the difference, and treat stupid people poorly and exclude them. This treatment causes them to bundle together and turn inward, producing hopeless, crime-ridden ghettos."

This is a much harder problem to solve. We can certainly look beyond skin color when judging people, but we can't (and shouldn't) ignore stupidity.

So there's certainly plenty of criteria for social exclusion and any kind of social exclusion can lead to crime. BTW: What is Ljubljana doing right?

denis bider said...

Hey Boris!

I used homicide statistics as a striking example in the US, but non-lethal crime also matters, and so do economic outcomes.

You mention Talinn, but the interactive map shows a homicide rate of 7.3 per 100,000 there, compared to 24 - 28 in Kingston, Port-au-Prince, or Nassau, or 122 per 100,000 in Caracas.

Each country has its own different set of circumstances and problems, which cannot be usefully discussed all at once. There are certainly interesting observations to be made about the world, but my interest is in figuring out the interactions between race and poverty in the US, where the poor outcomes for whole groups of people is interesting, given that in the same country, there are other groups of people (e.g. Asians) who are faring very well, even though they used to be discriminated against, too.

Boris: We can certainly look beyond skin color when judging people, but we can't (and shouldn't) ignore stupidity.

It is fair to treat people accordingly to meaningful characteristics they actually have. If a person lacks a certain ability, then they aren't suited for a job that requires that ability, but they might be suited for another job.

The problem arises when poor performance in some important area correlates with a trait visible from a distance. Then, people with the superficial trait are judged based on the superficial trait only, e.g. skin color, rather than given a chance to show their ability. This causes people with such superficial traits to clump together for perceived safety. So now, you have whole groups of people who perform poorly on average, bunched up in communities without positive guidance and role models. Given their starting out disadvantage, they need extra support, examples and structure to make the best of what they have - but what they are getting instead is the floor pulled from under them.