Holy Cr*p!

via Mark Perry

click to enlarge


Four things I would do to help African Americans

  • Legalize drugs.  This would reduce the rents that attract the poor into dealing, would keep people out of jail, and reduce a lot of violent crime associated with narcotics traffic that kills investment and business creation in black neighborhoods.  No its not a good thing to have people addicted to strong narcotics but it is worse to be putting them in jail and having them shooting at each other.
  • Bring real accountability to police forces.  When I see stories of folks absurdly abused by police forces, I can almost always guess the race of the victim in advance
  • Eliminate the minimum wage   (compromise: eliminate the minimum wage before 25).  Originally passed for racist reasons, it still (if unintentionally) keeps young blacks from entering the work force.  Dropping out of high school does not hurt employment because kids learn job skills in high school (they don't); it hurts because finishing high school is a marker of responsibility and other desirable job traits.  Kids who drop out can overcome this, but only if they get a job where they can demonstrate these traits.  No one is going to take that chance at $10 or $15 an hour**
  • Voucherize education.  It's not the middle class that is primarily the victim of awful public schools, it is poor blacks.  Middle and upper class parents have the political pull to get accountability.   It is no coincidence the best public schools are generally in middle and upper class neighborhoods.  Programs such as the one in DC that used to allow urban poor to escape failing schools need to be promoted.

** This might not be enough.  One of the main reasons we do not hire inexperienced youth, regardless of wage rates, is that the legal system has put the entire liability for any boneheaded thing an employee does on the employer.  Even if the employee is wildly breaking clear rules and is terminated immediately for his or her actions, the employer can be liable.  The cost of a bad hire is skyrocketing (at the same time various groups are trying to reign in employers' ability to do due diligence on prospective employees).  I am not positive that in today's legal environment I would take free labor from an untried high school dropout, but I certainly am not going to do it at $10 an hour when there are thousands of experienced people who will work for that.  Some sort of legal safe harbor for the actions of untried workers might be necessary.


  1. ErikEssig:

    Agree with your take. Wow, I think your ideas all make sense. Unfortunately, politicians don't think that way.
    OT, I really like Mark Perry's blog. One thing I like, not shown here, is that he'll show good news when it's available.

  2. Maximum Liberty:

    This graph seems divided into three sections. At the far right, birth years 1975+ appear to be experiencing declines in both employment and incarceration. At least half that story is good. In the middle are birth years 1955-75. In this section, employment declined by about the same amount as incarceration went up. It's difficult to figure out the mess of causality, since both are probably caused by the other and by completely external factors. But it looks one-for-one. To me, the most interesting part was in birth years 1935-55, at the far left. Half of the change occurs during that time period! The 1935 cohort were young men coming of age in the fifties, and found work readily, but that seems to have declined steadily and dramatically into the 60's and 70's (birth years 1945-55), from 68.0% to 45.3% according to the underlying paper. That paper shows that this pattern was not confined to young men first entering the workforce; it is consistent for older men who had been in the workforce longer.
    I wish we had data from earlier birth cohorts, to see if the 1935 cohort was really a high point. It is possible that post-war cohorts African Americans had greater success that prior cohorts due to a greater willingness to move to where (non- or less racist) employers were. Put another way, maybe the 1955 cohort is more representative of past African American employment, so we can ignore the upwards blip of the 1935-45 cohorts and safely focus on the huge dysfunction after that. But if the 1935-45 cohorts are more representative, then we have problems that precede the incarceration surge. It might, for example, be one of the effects of greater unionization and rising minimum wages. Or it might not.
    Max L.

  3. Rick C:

    "Programs such as the one in DC that used to allow urban poor to escape failing schools need to be promoted."

    It's too bad that Democrats, captured by school unions, are generally opposed to this, going right up the President himself, who killed off a voucher system that was helping poor black kids in DC.

  4. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Eliminate the minimum wage (compromise: eliminate the minimum wage before 25). Originally passed for racist reasons"

    Actually, it was originally passed as part of the child labor laws.

  5. brandonberg:

    I’m fairly certain that self-selection explains much if not most of this. In 2013, less than 13% of black men aged 25-29 (couldn’t find data for 20-24) lacked a high school diploma. So basically we’re looking at a group drawn heavily from the bottom 15% of the black population in terms of intelligence and/or noncognitive skills. Many of them may have failed to complete high school precisely because of trouble with the law or decided to drop out because of involvement in illegal activity.

    Back in the 50s, when black high school graduation rates were much lower, high school dropouts were a much broader cross-section of the black population. There were plenty of perfectly normal, high-functioning young black men who dropped out to work, or just because it was the norm in their communities.

    Moreover, employers’ expectations have changed. In the 50s, being a high school dropout wasn’t the huge red flag that it is today.

    Ideally this would go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: The War on Drugs is almost certainly part of the story here, and we should end it. But this chart doesn’t tell us that, because the composition of the group “Black males age 20-24 with less than high school” has changed so dramatically over the past half century that this is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

  6. Elam Bend:

    You could easily make the case that large scale immigration of unskilled laborers had some input into the joblessness as well. I know you favor fairly open borders, but in many of the places I've lived, jobs that once were done by unskilled black labor are now done by unskilled Hispanic labor.

  7. morgan.c.frank:

    i think we need to be VERY careful about what we are measuring here.

    this data is salted to create a far worse looking result because it fails to control for a key variable: what % of black students drop out of high school.

    consider: if there are 100 black students and 60% gradutae, then we are looking at 40% of the population. there is a high likelihood that those disinclined to finish school are also less inclined to work and more inclined toward crime. it's the same traits that drive both: lack of responsibility, inability to withhold immediate gratification, etc etc.

    so, let's say that of those 40, 10 go to jail. we have a 25% rate of incarceration.

    now, let's say that over time the dropout rate falls to 20%, and the number going to jail falls to 8%. but the % of HS or less rises to 40%. so, it looks like a crisis, but, really, fewer people are going to jail.

    for this reason, you cannot prove a trend with this data.


    as can be readily seen here, HS enrollment and graduation rates are way up from 1975 among black students.

    they rose from 49% to 69%.

    that's going to have a HUGE effect on just who is left in the sample of "no HS or GED" and, as inasmuch as ability to graduate correlates with ability to find work, entitlement, work ethic, responsibility, etc, you're basically boiling down the sample and concentrating it. this will result in a trend that may not be representative of the welfare of a whole segment, but rather, just demonstrates a salted sample.

  8. Sch:

    Re the legalization of drugs: early reports from Colorado/Washington are that illegal marijuana still has a significant market, as the price undercuts the legal price by
    significant margins due in part to the taxes. MJ has been going down in price for some time, but taxing at the level it is taxed at, even 'medical sales', which are less costly
    than non medical sales can be undercut by black market suppliers.

  9. Not Sure:

    Just a WAG, but isn't it possible this is so because up until just recently, anybody who wanted marijuana had to go to the black market to get it and therefore, it's a familiar way to buy? Ten years from now, after people get used to being able to buy from legal outlets, do you suppose that buying on the black market will be more or less popular than it is today?

  10. sch:

    I think that a look at cigarette sales in states with extremely high taxes might answer that: NY, New Mexico, Az all have untaxed cigarettes of close to 50% of cigarette consumption and 12 high
    tax cigarette states have over 25% of cigarette consumption untaxed.