Why not reduce Black poverty instead?

I’m what you might call a political newb so this might be an obvious question: why is Obama talking about redistributionist policies like credit cards and health care when the real problem in America, on this front at least, is Black poverty? What political costs would he pay that outweigh the large benefits of fixing this problem? Wouldn’t these costs would be relatively small for him? Or is it not about politics at all…is the problem just intractable?

Being an economist, I just assume redistributionist policy is easy. Maybe I’m wrong.

(h/t DarwinCatholic)

6 thoughts on “Why not reduce Black poverty instead?”

  1. Well Obama may be gearing up to make an attempt to address this problem. I say this because there is speculation that he may be moving to implement affirmative action-esque programs on a wider scale. Theoretically this may result in blacks and other minorities investing in the human capital necessary rise out of poverty. However the empirics on this issue are (per usual) not so cut and dry.

  2. Thanks for the link to the Loury paper. It shows that because of social networks (peer effects, etc), policies geared toward equaling playing fields (e.g. anti-discrimination laws) might not be enough. Instead there needs to be more integration; more mixing of social networks. The authors claim that because forcing people to intermingle isn’t viable policy this means there’s a place for affirmative action, but I’m not sure if I buy it. If AA serves to increase segregation (white people yelling “reverse discrimination!” or if increases group identities causing people to stop affiliating with the Other), then its counterproductive.

  3. I have to say I really love the theory part of the Loury et al paper. But I think that you are dead on when it comes to the policy prescriptions. If other groups see the affirmative action programs as either illegitimate, or see through the policy and adjust their expectations then high quality members of a low investment group may be excluded. Thus resulting in lower investments for group members that would have made the high quality investment prior to the AA program. The program then backfires.

  4. Somehow I suspect that Obama’s (natch. The Obamas’) standing as role models and cultural symbols will do more for Black empowerment than any policy the president can sign into law. That one’s going to be tough to gather statistics on, unfortunately.

  5. I’m more curious about where that will be after 4 years. The election was only about 7 months ago. Prior to that, he was just an interesting candidate who happened to be Black.

    Also, as noted, small sample size, poor sample controls. I’m no statistician but I doubt the field is good enough to spot an Obama effect in that kind of noise.

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