10th Annual Arrow Lecture – Persistent Racial Inequality in the U.S.: An Economic Theorist's Account

December 4, 2017 - 5:00pm - 7:00pm
International Affairs Building, 420 W. 118 St., New York, NY 10027 Room 1501 New York, NY 10027
United States

You are cordially invited to attend the "10th Annual Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture – Persistent Racial Inequality in the U.S.: An Economic Theorist's Account" delivered by Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University. 

Professor Loury previously taught at Boston, Harvard and Northwestern Universities, and the University of Michigan. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics (Northwestern University) and a Ph.D. in Economics (MIT, 1976). Full bio.

Open to Columbia University affiliates. Please register with your Columbia University UNI.

This lecture is part of a Special Symposium in Memory of Kenneth J. Arrow. Learn more | Register here.


Professor Glenn C. Loury argues that the phenomena of collective reputations and selective associations along racial lines go a long way toward accounting for ongoing social disadvantages experienced by African Americans as a group. One aspect of the argument explores the combined effects -- on the incentive to invest in market-rewarded skills, and on the resulting dynamics of inequality between social groups -- of the extent of segregation in social networks, the strength of peer effects, the character of production technology and the racial demographics of historically disadvantaged groups. Conditions are identified under which group inequality persists, even in the absence of differences in ability, credit constraints, or labor market discrimination. Another aspect of this argument will examine the evolution through time of negative racial stereotypes -- beliefs about members of an identifiable population subgroup that can be self-confirming." It is shown that, under some conditions, the stigma of historical disadvantage for a racially identifiable and systematically disadvantaged group can be overcome when new cohorts are sufficiently optimistic about their future prospects. Finally, Professor Loury considers the problem of efficiently designing interventions aimed at enhancing the representation of a disadvantaged racial group in selective arenas of education and employment.

Background materials published by Professor Loury:

(1) A non-technical lecture given at Oxford last year, with a somewhat personal perspective.

(2) A technical paper on the persistence of racial inequality published in 2013.

(3) A technical paper on how to remedy racial inequality via "affirmative action"

(4) A technical paper on why "equal opportunity" will generally not be sufficient to deal with the problem of persisting racial inequality.

(5) A non-technical paper on the relationship of Barack Obama's presidency to the traditions of African American protest.


About Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series
Kenneth J. Arrow’s work was formative in shaping the field of economics over the past sixty years and his ideas, style of research, and breadth of vision were a model for generations of the boldest and most creative economists.

Kenneth J. Arrow received his Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University in 1951, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university in 1973. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in Stockholm in 1972. The Lecture Series is an academic tribute to Kenneth J. Arrow, celebrating his pioneering scholarship and innovative spirit.


Lecture Agenda

5:00pm-7:00pm – 10th Annual Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture – Persistent Racial Inequality in the U.S.: An Economic Theorist's Account

  • Delivered by Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics, Brown University

  • Discussants: Steven N. Durlauf, Professor of Economics, Harris School of Public Policy, The University of Chicago

  • Rajiv Sethi, Professor of Economics, Barnard College and Columbia University

  • Joseph E. Stiglitz, University Professor and 2001 Nobel Laureate, Columbia University


Program for Economic Research, Center on Global Economic Governance, Columbia University Press, Finance Division at the Columbia Business School

Organizer of 10th Annual Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture – Persistent Racial Inequality in the U.S.: An Economic Theorist’s Account

The Program for Economic Research (PER): Our mission is to ensure that economics faculty and students have access to the resources necessary to support research activities at the highest possible level and to help disseminate the resulting achievements. PER supports outreach activities to inform understanding of economic issues.

The Center on Global Economic Governance was created with the recognition that without adequate global economic governance there is a greater possibility of major crises and a tendency toward protectionism and political upheaval. It is our mission to develop, promote and implement new theories, studies and policy initiatives that cut across nation-state boundaries and address this new reality.

Columbia University Press is a leading publisher of scholarly and trade books in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

The Finance Division at Columbia Business School: Recruiters consistently rank Columbia among the top schools in the country for finance, and more than half of the School's graduating MBAs take finance-related jobs.