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Discrimination and Disparities

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,902 ratings  ·  284 reviews
A searching re-examination of the assumptions, and the evidence for and against, current approaches to issues of economic and other disparities

Discrimination and Disparities challenges believers in such one-factor explanations of economic outcome differences as discrimination, exploitation or genetics. It is readable enough for people with no prior knowledge of economi
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Basic Books
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Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disparity does not equal discrimination the same way correlation does not equal causation. Too often do activists look at disparities and immediately assume discrimination is the reason behind it. Economist Thomas Sowell shows the reader how disparities, often large, can manifest without any malicious intervention and can be explained for reasons other than discrimination. Sowell also goes into detail how many of the proposals offered to close disparities have large consequences when put into ...more
Douglas Wilson
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture-studies
Sowell is just magnificent. A combination of horse sense, clear writing, and a passionate commitment to the truth.
Cindy Rollins
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, audiobooks
I love anything Sowell writes. This was published in 2018 when Sowell was in his mid-eighties. His towering intellect and clear communication shine in dark corners and bring hope and common sense to some very hard things.
Guy Mendt
May 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
A rehash of the tired and weak arguments from Thomas Sowell that basically say let the market solve the problems of poverty and racism, and if that doesn't work, then blacks just need to act more like white people to fit in economically. The author cherry picks examples that back his premise but offers very little in terms of research and real evidence. You can get the same viewpoint by watching Fox News.
Gary Moreau
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Throughout his long and distinguished career Thomas Sowell has been a consistent stickler for truth. In this book he takes empirical aim at the truth about outcomes. In short, social scholars and economists inevitably over-simplify cause and effect and fail to accept that “grossly unequal distributions of outcomes are common, both in nature and among people, in circumstances where neither genes nor discrimination are involved.”

The book is short, to the point, and very clearly written. You don’t
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is amazing to see Thomas Sowell still writing books at 87, an age when most will have long since retired. Much of this will be familiar to those who have read Sowell’s other works. He offers a fact based explanation for differences in disparities that is at odds with the prevailing social vision.
Gordon E. Castanza
Empirical evidence debunks emotional assertions

Sowell has done it again! His scholarship and insistence on hard-evidence debunks the mythology of the Progressives and Postmodernists. Unfortunately those who would gain the most from this book will never read it.
Matthew Horsfield
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this book with an open mind as it was recommended to me by my right-leaning nephew in law. I appreciated his logical explanation of disparities but feel he failed in explaining discrimination, or why it might continue to persist. He himself seems to feel the poor and people of color, especially blacks are practically worthy of discrimination with the way he sets up examples and the biased language he uses (‘lazy’ ‘hoodlums’ ‘hooligans’). These descriptions seem more like social commentary ...more
Ian Hammond
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell challenges the basic assumption that equal outcomes between groups would be the norm in society in the absence of discrimination. He illustrates the way figures propagate errors by omitting certain variables or committing certain fallacies so as to support a particular vision of society. The big takeaway for me was that public intellectuals are reductionistic, either intentionally or unintentionally, in their advocacy for causes. The result of this is that a distorted view of reali ...more
Jake Peterson
Oct 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
I would not recommend this book.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
From the preface to the book:

"The goal of Discrimination and Disparities will be met if it can provide clarification on some major social issues that are too often mired in dogmas and obfuscations. Individuals can then decide what policies suit their own values and goals. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: 'You are entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts.'"

This is a brilliant book by one of the preeminent economists and scholars of our times. It is a must read
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
His logic, reasoning, economic actuary skills, and writing are 5 star level. As is his common sense. Others have said it better in their reviews. Read the 5 star descriptions and equivalencies. All are accurate that I have read here. Thomas Sowell is a treasure and a genius. I hope he is with us for some time yet.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
I found myself having very mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand it's Sowell's usual very thoughtful and detailed take-down of liberal arguments on a variety of topics. He is exacting and rigorous in his examples and effective in showing why they make no sense (e.g. his discussion of different rates of police speeding tickets on highways benchmarked against cameras that tracked differences in the likelihood of speeding against different groups was a critique I hadn't considered before,
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another masterpiece from Sowell. This one is quite short and focused and in some ways it represents a summary of much of the work he has already done in the past.

What's striking is how TAME his claims are. Ultimately it all feels so obvious. It's truly mind-boggling how astray so many thinkers have gone in this area. One of the best things about Sowell's writing and this book in particular, is his clarity. This book does an excellent job of approaching the phenomenon of disparities thoroughly an
Jun 22, 2020 marked it as to-read
Economics are not my thing, but this author is amazing and to have a working knowledge of these issues is important these days.
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recently, in a discussion regarding my review for So You Want To Talk About Race, someone made the following comment:

"This is as much as to note the obvious fact that white people remain quite dominant in nearly every social respect. What answer to this is there other than racism?"

This wishfully simplistic thinking, and gross misunderstanding of statistics is standing in the way of much-needed, solution-focused conversations about racism, sexism and inequality. If a large group of people cannot
Katie Karnehm-Esh
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I didn't know Thomas Sowell or his writings when I started listening to this book, so I came into the book without any preconceived ideas. I liked how he made some of his points at the beginning, so I didn't realize until halfway through that he was setting me up for CHARTER SCHOOLS! BLACK HOOLIGANS! MASS MEDIA! THE GHETTO THE GHETTO THE GHETTO! and other talking points that I would have dismissed immediately had I heard a Fox News broadcaster talking about then. I feel like I got bait-and-switc ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At 87 years old, Sowell is a national treasure. He hit this one out of the park.

This is a dispassionate and carefully analytical look at discrimination and disparities in society.

Carefully researched and brilliantly logical, he highlights why much of today's conventional wisdom is simply wrong.

One of the more fascinating aspects of his analysis is that early on in this book, he analyzes and defines discrimination. "So what," you might say. "That's pretty basic and of course everyone understan
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It has become almost "common knowledge" that those who are doing not so well are doing that way because society has wronged them.

If holding on to that notion is fundamental to your worldview, this book may turn out to be very inconvenient for you.

I have read and listened to the leading experts on the topic of systemic racism and racial inequality, as well as Sowell's takes on the same topic, and, having originally come from a point of view supporting the concept of systemic and institutional r
Laila Kanon
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Reading this book would more or less help you decipher when the so-called experts and/or politicians argue their case with stats to back their claims particularly on the issues of discrimination, disparities and few others that fit under the umbrella of social justice. While it may sounds plausible at a glance, but is it really? Indeed, we value facts and figures, unfortunately for the shrewd even facts and figures could be easily manipulated out of context by pretty words and numbers to suit ce ...more
Dec 27, 2019 added it
An interesting quick read. Many of the points are worth deeper considerations and thinking through.
Thomas Achord
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Clear, refreshing, factual reasoning. Sowell’s perspicacious grasp of group Disparities all over the world is a corrective to many skewed, short-sighted beliefs in our society.

Fo instance:

“People tend to sort themselves out, not only in their residential patterns but also in their social interactions. Twentieth-century Japanese immigrants to Brazil not only settled in Japanese enclaves, most Okinawan immigrants in Brazil married other Okinawans, rather than marrying Japanese from other parts of
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Discrimination and Disparities is a surprisingly fascinating and informative read, with a refreshingly politically-neutral, empirical approach. This book is very clearly written, and provides a wealth of information and examples without becoming overwhelming or unintelligible.

This book investigates and explains that, while bigotry-based discrimination is definitely a problem that can't be ignored, it's not accurate to attribute every single difference or disparity between people and groups as ca
My feelings about this book can be summed up in two sentences:

1) Yes, discrimination is not the sole cause behind disparity (as current "social vision" might suggest) and it's important to understand data, but the impact of discrimination is not zero.
2) Yes, accurate interpretation of statistics and other empirical evidence is incredibly important in building society and policy; however, the way people feel about and the way people perceive society is not unimportant.

One of the most important ta
Greg Mathis
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Compelling. Enlightened. Powerful.
Read this book.
Aditya Shevade
3.5 but not quite 4.

This book makes me want to read both 'How to lie with statistics' and 'Butterfly effect'. Most of the arguments against whatever victim mentality is out there today are well made. There are numbers and statistics provided, some of which are quite obvious to me since being a non-american in US I see it too. Some, on the other hand, are not so obvious until you find the political reasons behind them (I am being cryptic here on purpose).

What I did not like here, and I say this a
Hannah Peacock
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
A quick, easy-ish read about discriminations both man-made and natural and the outcomes. The irony is that historically, well-intended government intervention often made things worse for low-income and minority groups. I give it four stars because if you’ve read his other stuff, the information Sowell presents here isn’t necessarily new to the reader. Sowell does a wonderful job addressing common talking points among both major American political parties and how intentions do not guarantee outco ...more
Geoffrey Fong
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing review on trying to differentiate between groups deviation (economic, race, gender, geographical, etc) as natural disparities rather than discrimination with ill intent. We attain these misconceptions by coming to conclusions too quickly. Professor Thomas Sowell is able to analyze and counter a lot of these misconceptions with data and studies from a variety of sources. Data that too often get swept under the rug because it does not follow the narrative.
Nathan Albright
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2019
This was a particularly interesting book to read for several reasons.  For one, this book was by far the last of the books by the author that my library had that I was able to read, so there was a bit of a gap between this book and the rest of the books by the author that I was able to find, which probably made this book more fresh given that it has the same approach and perspective of the author's book in general.  For another, this book mentions several times the hillbilly problem spoken of in ...more
Brett Jeter
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand inequality. Inequalities are far more complicated than current narratives portray. Sowell is astute and insights are very helpful in understanding our world.
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more

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8 likes · 3 comments
“The crucial question is not whether evils exist but whether the evils of the past or present are automatically the cause of major economic, educational and other social disparities today. The bedrock assumption underlying many political or ideological crusades is that socioeconomic disparities are automatically somebody's fault, so that our choices are either to blame society or to 'blame the victim.' Yet whose fault are demographic differences, geographic differences, birth order differences or cultural differences that evolved over the centuries before any of us were born?” 4 likes
“Wrongs abound in times and places around the world - inflicted on, and perpetrated by, people of virtually every race, creed and color. But what can any society today hope to gain by having newborn babies in that society enter the word as heirs to prepackaged grievances against other babies born into that same society on the same day.” 2 likes
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