Pee-ew!

Dave Killion — July 26, 2011

This chart has popped up in my reader a number of times today, accompanied by headlines that were mostly variations of “Racial Wealth Gap Widens, Whites on Top“. I immediately began doing what I always do whenever I come across a discussion on racial disparities; I looked for the Asians.

I look for the Asians because they tend to monkey-wrench the narrative that attempts to blame poor outcomes on race.  And what do I find when I look at the chart? No Asians. And I didn’t find them when I looked for them in Google news. In fact, I had to go right to the source to locate them -

“In 2005 median Asian household wealth had been greater than the median for white households, but by 2009 Asians lost their place at the top of the wealth hierarchy. Their net worth fell from $168,103 in 2005 to $78,066 in 2009, a drop of 54%.”

So whites and Asians switched places, but the disparity is roughly the same in both 2005 and 2009. And where are the Arab-Americans? No mention of them whatsoever. It appears that if you want to sell newspapers or get some attention for your think tank, there are some things you just don’t talk about.

Comments

JL says

Arab Americans are considered to be white. If you only look at American-born Asians, they’re still ahead of whites.

— July 28, 2011

Kyle says

I’m not sure why including more economically successful “model minorities” like asians and arab-americans “monkey wrenches” the narrative that blames poor outcomes on race (or racism)… It’s quite possible that racial discrimination negatively impacts different minority groups unequally. Given the significant differences in the historical uses of state and social power for and against the economic development of different groups, it would be surprising if that were not the case. That aside, I’d be curious to hear alternate theories for the income distributions above.

— July 31, 2011

JL says

Kyle, the chart above is not about income but about household net worth. Aside from income differences, which are mainly explained by ethnic/racial differences in skills and abilities, the net worth “gap” also due to such things as differences in the prevalence of single parenthood (households with only one wage earner are less wealthy), immigration status (first-gen immigrants are generally less wealthy), and differences in having wealthy parents and other relatives (who may give/bequeth money to you; similarly, poor relatives may cost you money if you must lend them). More immediately, the subprime meltdown hit non-Asian minorities particularly hard, because it was caused to a large extent by a bipartisan effort to debauch credit standards so as to increase non-Asian minority home ownership.

I think only an anti-white bigot would first think about racism when seeing the chart.

— August 2, 2011

Kyle says

Hi JL,

Point taken re: income v. net worth – that was an obvious mistake on my part, though not one that really alters any of the arguments in play, since both are metrics of individual wealth. That said, I think the rest of your argument is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees – you point out a few proximate causes of poverty such as single-parenthood, immigration status and poor relations, and yet don’t really establish why these factors could not coincide with or be reinforced by racial discrimination. Given the obvious historical facts, I think that might be necessary. I won’t get into the subprime stuff, because that’s just too much more argument for this space, and you’re boring.

Except for your suggestion that “only an anti-white bigot would first think about racism when seeing the chart” – that’s not boring at all! To this I can only say – you caught me. I fucking hate white people!
Including my mother!
…And my girlfriend!
…And half of my extended family!
…And at least 3 quarters of my friends!
…And most of my colleagues at work!

I recognize that this is just a sarcastic variant of the “black friend” defense, but I don’t think you deserve my honest and polite explanation of why you’re being fucking ridiculous. Figure it out on your own. Please note that I also got through my entire last comment without suggesting anyone was a racist or a bigot, but since it seems that’s allowed…

I will humbly submit that suggesting that income differences are mainly explained by “ethnic/racial differences in skills in abilities” is a pretty fucking obvious way to compliment yourself.

Sorry Dave – I tried. Some other time, maybe, in meat space. Thanks for replying to my comment without ad hominem! Maybe teach JL some latin.

— August 5, 2011

JL says

“I won’t get into the subprime stuff, because that’s just too much more argument for this space, and you’re boring”

Boring? That’s an original way to say that you don’t have an argument. Or do you seriously deny that blacks and Hispanics disproportionately received and defaulted on subprime loans?

“yet don’t really establish why these factors could not coincide with or be reinforced by racial discrimination”

If you have evidence for “racial discrimination” having a substantial effect on socioeconomic outcomes in contemporary America, please show it. Otherwise, it’s just a conspiracy theory.

“Except for your suggestion that “only an anti-white bigot would first think about racism when seeing the chart” – that’s not boring”

You think that racial discrimination is involved here because you have been trained to think that way. You think that way because you do not know the facts, and perhaps don’t even want to know the facts.

“I will humbly submit that suggesting that income differences are mainly explained by “ethnic/racial differences in skills in abilities” is a pretty fucking obvious way to compliment yourself.”

Nope. It’s just a pretty fucking obvious way to interpret the available data. Read, for example, this paper by James Heckman: ftp://repec.iza.org/RePEc/Discussionpaper/dp5495.pdf. He points out that “In contemporary America, racial gaps in achievement are primarily due to gaps in skills. Skill gaps emerge early before children enter school.” He shows, for example, that controlling for IQ more or less eliminates or even reverses the income gap between whites and blacks/Hispanics.

Moreover, we know that blacks and Hispanics receive preferential treatment in the job market, while whites are discriminated against. We know that whites are, on average, better employees than blacks and Hispanics: ftp://repec.iza.org/RePEc/Discussionpaper/dp5495.pdf. If the job market was more of a meritocracy, whites would on average have somewhat more prestigious jobs and a lower unemployment rate than they currently do, while Hispanics and especially blacks would on average have less prestigious jobs and a higher unemployment rate.

— August 8, 2011

JL says

The second link should have been this one: http://faculty.washington.edu/mdj3/MGMT580/Readings/Week%201/Roth.pdf

— August 8, 2011

Kyle says

Sorry JL – I don’t keep wrestling with pigs after I’ve gotten in my punches, especially when 10 minutes on Google Scholar would answer your arguments for me (here’s a hint – stop relying on such a narrow time index). If you want to have an informed argument, try bringing in the references first, before the ad hominem. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hate on some white folks.

— August 9, 2011

JL says

Gotten in your punches?? All you did was expose your total ignorance about this topic. I understand that your ego does not allow you to admit that, but if you read the articles I mentioned and perhaps follow up on some of the sources therein, I think you’ll understand that racial discrimination against blacks or Hispanics cannot be an important explanation of things like the difference in median household net worth.

— August 11, 2011

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