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Albert Szymanski - Racial Discrimination and White Gain

Albert Szymanski - Racial Discrimination and White Gain

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Published by Che Brandes-Tuka
On the real interests of white workers
On the real interests of white workers

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Published by: Che Brandes-Tuka on Nov 26, 2013
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Racial Discrimination and White GainAuthor(s): Albert SzymanskiSource:
American Sociological Review,
Vol. 41, No. 3 (Jun., 1976), pp. 403-414Published by:
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Accessed: 26/11/2013 15:03
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Warren, Bruce L. 1966 A multiple variable approach to the assortative mating phenomenon. Eu- genics Quarterly 13:285-90. Warren, Ronald L. 1963 The Community in America. Chicago: Rand McNally. Whyte, William Foote 1943 Street Corner Society. Chicago: Uni- versity of Chicago Press. Young, Michael and Peter Willmott 1957 Family and Kinship in East London. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
ALBERT SZYMANSKI University of Oregon
American Sociological Review 1976, Vol. 41 (June): 403-414
The question of whether or not whites gain economically from economic discrimina- tion against third world people is examined with evidence from the 1970 U.S. census. The impact of racial discrimination is measured by the percentage of the population of third world origin in each state and by the ratio of black to white male earnings for those who work full time. White gain is measured by the level of white male earnings in each state and the Gini coefficient of earnings inequality among white males. If whites gain economically from racism, we would expect to find that the greater the percentage of the population of a state that is third world and the lower the ratio of black/white earnings then the higher the level of white earnings and the less the inequality in white earnings. The basic relationships were examined controlling for percentage of the population that is urban, percentage of the economically active population in manu- facturing, level of personal income, region and percentage of the population that is third world. It is found that whites do
gain from economic discrimination; on the contrary, white working people actually lose economically from such discrimination. It is argued that racism is a divisive force which undermines the economic and political strength of working people and acts to worsen the economic position of white workers in the most racist areas. In support of this interpretation, data on the strength of unions is examined.
There have been a number of studies on the question of whether or not white work- ing people actually gain economically rom economic discrimination gainst blacks and other national minorities in the United States. The most influential of these in- clude: Becker (1971), Glenn (1963;
1966), Thurow (1969) and Reich
All but the last of these essentially argue
Some other relevant studies include Blalock (1957), Cutright (1965), Dollard (1937:ch. 6) and Krueger (1963). The weight of all of these studies is the conclusion that white workers bene- fit from economic discrimination against blacks. On the other hand, a number of descriptive studies of American strikes, union organizing and labor struggles suggest the opposite, i.e., that racism is in fact used to keep whites as well as blacks impoverished. See for example: Brody (1960), Bracey et al. (1971) and Spero and Harris (1968). Others who make theoretical arguments that white workers gain from racial discrimination nclude Baron (1971) and Blauner (1972).
that the white working class benefits from economic discrimination nd therefore has a stake in its persistence. Reich, on the other hand, working within the Marxist paradigm, ttempts o demonstrate hat, on the contrary, he white working class suf- fers from economic discrimination gainst blacks and consequently has an interest n ending that discrimination. Becker (1971) has stated what is perhaps the most widely accepted theory of dis- crimination mong contemporary cademic economists. He argues that discrimination is a matter of personal aste on the part of employers who must forego a part of their potential income in order to realize their desire to avoid associating with blacks. Because white employers resist hiring blacks, even when doing so would produce greater profits or them, they are net losers from economic discrimination. n the other hand, white workers who get the jobs the white employers irrationally (from the
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404 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW point of view of profit maximization) re- fuse to give to blacks are net beneficiaries of discrimination. mplicit in the Becker formulation s that it is the attitudes of the employers hat are the cause of discrimina- tion (and hence that attitudes must change before discrimination an be eliminated) and that white workers have a rational stake in perpetuating discrimination and hence that'they will resist efforts to elimi- nate it). Thurow 1969) explicitly ejects Becker's formulation. He argues instead that em- ployers actually prefer to hire blacks, as long as they can be exploited to increase profit. He thus maintains that not only white workers, but also white employers, benefit economically from discrimination. Disagreeing with Becker, that it is primar- ily attitudes hat are the cause of discrim- ination, Thurow argues that it is the monopoly power of white employers that is the most important eterminant. Without such power, he argues, racial prejudice would have much less impact on black income. Unlike Becker (whose work is basically theoretical) Thurow brings sub- stantial evidence, consistent with his anal- ysis, to bear on his argument. His estimate that whites gain approximately 15 billion a year from discrimination gainst blacks, however, suffers from his failure to take into account the secondary effects of dis- crimination such as those suggested by Glenn and Reich (see below). The implica- tion of Thurow's nalysis s that discrimina- tion will be fairly hard to uproot since all segments of the white community ain from its practice. Glenn (1963; 1966) uses data from the 1950 and 1960 censuses to attempt to demonstrate is thesis that whites in gen- eral benefit economically rom discrimina- tion against blacks. He first ays out various hypothetical easons why whites might gain or lose from economic discrimination. Along with Thurow, he mentions he direct effect of blacks taking the low paying and unpleasant jobs, thereby allowing whites to escape such work and rise to fill the better paying and more satisfying obs. He then discusses ome of the possible ndirect effects of racial discrimination hat hypo- thetically might more than negate the gain in the first instance from economic dis- crimination. He mentions the possibility that low paid black labor might retard mechanization and prevent the most effi- cient utilization of labor, and thereby reduce the productivity nd growth of the entire economy, resulting n lower income for whites than would be the case if blacks did not receive low pay. He also mentions the possible draining ffect on white ncome of taxes for welfare payments and law enforcement expenses caused by discrimi- nation against blacks. He further suggests that the concentration f blacks n the worst jobs need not necessarily push whites up. It might result merely in increasing the proportion f low paying jobs or increasing the unemployment ate among whites. He also discusses the possibility hat if blacks didn't do the low paying obs, perhaps hey would be done by machine. Going on to examine the empirical evi- dence, Glenn correlates he percentage of the population f SMSAs (Standard Metro- politan Statistical Areas) that are black with a number of indicators, he most im- portant of which are the proportion of white families making more than $10,000 a year and his index of occupation status (which is used as a measure of the over- representation f whites n the better obs). Glenn finds that the higher the proportion of blacks in an SMSA, the greater the overrepresentation f whites in the better paying jobs. However, in spite of his ex- pectations, he could not find a relationship between the proportion of blacks and the measure of white income. Nevertheless, he concludes hat all things considered, whites in general benefit economically rom eco- nomic discrimination against blacks and that Negro-white ntagonism n the United States is, and will long remain, partly a matter of realistic conflict. Negroes cannot advance without the loss of traditional white benefits, and it is unlikely that most of the whites who benefit rom the inferior status of the Negroes will willingly allow Negro advancement Glenn, 1966:178). Reich (1971) after developing an argu- ment within the Marxist heoretical rame- work uses data from the 1960 census to demonstrate that white workers suffer rather han benefit economically rom eco-
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