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Affluent Christian Investor | February 25, 2024

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What Kind of ‘Scholar of Color’ I Am

(Photo by John Walker) (CC BY) (Resized/Cropped)

(Photo by John Walker) (CC BY) (Resized/Cropped)

Here is your answer: A summary of the scholarly contributions of Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Brown University

Over the course of my academic career I have published dozens of scholarly articles in economics journals, scores of essays and reviews in the leading venues for commentary on American politics and culture, an edited volume on race, ethnicity, and inequality in the US and the UK, and two well-received monographs based on distinguished lectures series that I have presented at Harvard (DuBois Lectures in African American Studies) and Stanford (Tanner Lectures on Human Values). A major focus of this work has been to address the root causes and ongoing consequences of racial inequality in American society. (I have published in other areas of economics as well, but will focus here on that part of my corpus most relevant to the question, “just what kind of ‘scholar of color’ is Glenn Loury?”)

An early contribution was my 1977 essay, which appeared in a conference volume, entitled “A Dynamic Theory of Racial Income Differences.” This work, still being cited, explained how, even in the very long run, “equality of opportunity” would generally not be sufficient to generate “equality of results” between racial groups, given a history of discrimination and the ongoing segregation of important social networks.

This was followed by “Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings,” which appeared in Econometrica in 1981. There I advanced our understanding of the theory of income inequality via a novel application of stochastic dynamic programming techniques, and of mathematical results on the asymptotic behavior of continuous-state/discrete-time Markov chains. That paper, too, continues to be cited now, more than three decades after it first appeared.

My 1993 article in The American Economic Review, “Will Affirmative Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?” (with Stephen Coate of Cornell) was a path-setting game-theoretic analysis of the phenomenon of “self-confirming racial stereotypes.” It has become a foundational reference in labor economics textbooks. My 2013 Journal of Political Economy article, “Valuing Diversity” (with Roland Fryer of Harvard), provides a pioneering, rigorous analysis of the relative efficiency of different approaches to the problem of implementing affirmative action programs. My 2004 Journal of Political Economy article “The Distribution of Ability and Earnings in a Hierarchical Job-Assignment Model” (with Robert Costrell of the University of Arkansas) likewise breaks new ground by showing how inequality of abilities is translated via the market into inequality of wages under alternative structures of production. These technical contributions, based on over four decades of my ‘colored scholarship’ have exerted a profound influence on my field. These theoretical papers are read and cited by scholars, of various colors, in Hungary, Argentina, Korea, Nigeria, Indonesia, India…

I have also written insightful analyses of racial inequality issues in the US that are accessible to a general audience. My 2002 monograph The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (Harvard University Press) deploys the concepts of “racial stigma” and “racial stereotypes” to develop an original account of the persistently disadvantaged status of African Americans in the post‐civil‐rights era. Drawing on my 1976 MIT PhD thesis, this work stresses the role in the reproduction of racial inequality of what I referred to in as “social capital.” (I was the first social scientist (of any color) since Jane Jacobs to use that term, and have been credited by the late James S. Coleman, and by Robert D. Putnam, as an early progenitor of the concept.) My emphasis on the concept of social capital was motivated by the fact that conventional “human capital” investments to enhance an individual’s productive capacities differ from other kinds of economic investments in the extent to which the opportunity to make them and the returns from having done so depend on an individual’s location within many networks of social affiliation – families, residential communities, peer groups and “imagined communities.” My 2008 monograph Race, Incarceration and American Values was far ahead of the curve (appearing years before Michelle Alexander’s text) in describing and denouncing the injustice of mass incarceration in the US…

I have thus helped through my scientific work to modify and enrich the standard story economists tell about inequality among individuals and between groups. At the same time, in my public intellectual work, I have used this conceptual framework as the basis for constructing critical, anti-racist policy arguments over the future directions that advocacy for justice and equality in America might most fruitfully take. My work on these varied aspects of the problem of persisting racial inequality in the U.S. is noteworthy for combining intellectual rigor (it has advanced with the support of formal mathematical models), with a broad interdisciplinary reach (it draws on research in sociology, social psychology, history and politics), and with artful and incisive writing (my popular essays collected in my 1995 book, “One by One from the Inside Out” won both the American Book Award and the Christianity Today book award in that year.)

Finally, over the course of 10 years of teaching at Brown, I have influenced many graduate students of all colors and from every continent on the planet (excepting Antarctica!) I have found the university to be an extremely warm, welcoming, supportive and open environment to undertake my work. I know well the people who run this institution, and the notion that they are racially insensitive is a shameful slander with no basis in fact. My colleagues, in the economics department and elsewhere at Brown, have shown themselves to be open-minded, decent and on the whole politically progressive scholars. The administration has lavished resources on me, and has enthusiastically supported any number of initiatives that contribute to promoting a just and decent society, both within the United States and throughout the world.

The notion that Brown needs a revolutionary reshaping in order to become hospitable to “students of color”, that idea that “anti-black pedagogy” at Brown needs to be countered with some mandatory indoctrination of faculty, the proposal that external student committees should review purportedly “racist” departmental appointment processes, the initiative of creating “specialty positions” in academic departments to ensure their openness to hiring “faculty of color” — these are all mischievous intrusions on the academic prerogatives of a distinguished faculty which no self-respecting scholar of any color should welcome. They are a step onto a slippery slope that slides down into intellectual mediocrity, and I will have nothing to do with them.

Is that clear and explicit enough…?


Reprinted from Glenn Loury’s Facebook postings.

Glenn Loury’s homepage and videoblog.


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