Disparate impact not a measure of disparate treatment

Are disparate outcomes always the result of discrimination against protected groups? Many on the left claim claim that, but are they factually correct? They seem to want to deny all evidence that discrimination is not a significant cause, and to attack anyone trying to present such evidence of differences in merit as "racist", "sexist", "homophobic", or "xenophobic" to shame them into withdrawing their evidence. But do such attacks have any merit themselves? Are differences in hiring, lending, or congressional district drawing the result of "institutional racism" or whatever is the latest popular target for scorn?

It is the thesis of this article that while there are cases of what might be called "institutional racism" at play, for the most part it is now almost insignificant, and attacks on it more often an attempt to deny selection for merit in ways the accuser doesn't like or doesn't want to accept.

The touchy issue centers on IQ, used as an estimate of general intelligence g. Despite ages of attempts to measure it in an unbiased manner, too many measures appear which attempt to measure it that tend to agree, which tend to estimate the average IQ of white Americans as 100, of Black Americans as 85, of Hispanic Americans and Native Americans as 90-95, of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans, and Scots, as 105. and Ashkenazi Jews as 115. Those numbers tend to predict the success of those groups in school and in the workplace.

Those who attack those who make these points generally commit an error in logic and statistics, They try to cast them as asserting that everyone in one of these groups Has the average IQ of that group. They way to use the statistics is to compare the performance of persons of about the same IQ from any group. If those performances are about the same, and they are, then that can be taken as compelling evidence of the absence of discrimination of one group by another, contrary to the doctrine of some that there is pervasive systematic discrimination operating. The evidence is clear. There might be a little discrimination at work, and that is troublesome, but the amount is so little that it doesn't make any difference to average performance. It may then be seen as not just the best predictor of performance, but the only one that matters. That is not the result that satisfies the narrative of "social justice warriors".

A perverse effect of such disparate outcome jurisprudence is that it tends to validate the proclivity of "social justice warriors" to find bigotry everywhere, even where none exists. That enables them to shame virtuous people into irrational, and ultimately harmful, behaviors.


1. Disparate impact was established United States Supreme Court as Ricci v. DeStefano. At the heart of the Ricci case was the doctrine of disparate-impact discrimination, which the Supreme Court first articulated in its 1971 decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Company. At issue in Griggs was the requirement that employees hired into service jobs at the power company's facilities had to possess a high-school diploma and achieve a minimum score on an IQ test. The plaintiffs argued that these rules disqualified too many black job applicants, thereby violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that job criteria with an adverse or exclusionary effect on minorities — even if those criteria were "neutral on their face, and even neutral in terms of intent" — could violate the Title VII ban on race discrimination in hiring. The Court further stipulated that employers could escape liability for "disparate impact" only if they demonstrated that their adverse selection practices had "a manifest relationship to the employment in question" or that they were justified by "business necessity."

In the Ricci case, a 5-4 majority of the Court read the facts narrowly to conclude that New Haven's civil-service exam was sufficiently related to the jobs in question to survive scrutiny and ultimately sided with the firefighters who had sued to have their scores reinstated.

2. The Dead End of “Disparate Impact”, Amy L. Wax, National Affairs, Summer 2012

"In the sphere of employment, the key questions are: "Why do some people compete more effectively than others for jobs and social rewards?" and "What can be done about it?" These questions are complicated and pressing, and the law of disparate impact does nothing to address them. It in fact only distracts us from finding urgently needed answers."

3.  Why Cognitive Inequality Matters, Stefan Molyneux.

4. Heterodox Academy. Challenge political correctness.


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