'Discrimination and Disparities' by Thomas Sowell, a Book Review

Updated on November 13, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.

Introduction

“Discrimination and Disparities” is a 2018 book by Thomas Sowell. While it addresses racism and class bias, it delves into many other disparities and forms of discrimination. It discusses the literal social and economic costs of disparities and actual discrimination while explaining how most disparities are not due to actual discrimination. What are the points in favor and against this Thomas Sowell book? What can you learn from this book that hasn’t been addressed in his many other works?

The Cover of 'Discrimination and Disparities' by Thomas Sowell
The Cover of 'Discrimination and Disparities' by Thomas Sowell | Source

Points in Favor of “Discrimination and Disparities” by Sowell

This is one of the shortest books by Thomas Sowell I’ve seen. Yet it is as well researched and referenced as his older, longer tomes. The notes are nearly a third the length of the actual text.

Thomas Sowell was past 80 when he wrote this book, yet it remains as relevant and timeless as his other works. He pulls from sources over a century old and modern ones, while his classic examples are irrefutable. For example, his approach to debunking the nature versus nature argument is to introduce a mass of data on siblings. They share the same genes and the same environment – the major difference is parental attention and resources. And he shows how birth order makes a huge difference in life outcomes.

As an engineer, I am quite familiar with root cause analysis. If you want to solve the problem, you have to identify the main root causes and address the greatest contributors to the problem. Many modern policies fail because we go after the wrong root causes, so the “solutions” don’t solve anything.

The book shares many explanations of where we mistake discrepancies for discrimination, whether classism, racial, sexism or other “isms”. When groups have higher illegitimacy rates or a younger average population, crime rates by that group are higher than others. Morally neutral factors like geography, crop failures, age distributions, birth order and cultural differences that affect things like literacy rates and malnutrition don’t get attention because they don’t fit the left’s default explanation of "oppression".

This book has excellent paradigms that overturn many common assumptions. For example, London had only 12 armed robberies in 1954 when there was no gun control, but they had 1600 in 1991 when it was very difficult to get a gun. Obviously, then, availability of guns was unrelated to crime.

The Weaknesses of “Discrimination and Disparities” by Sowell

Thomas Sowell remains eminently quotable in this book. However, you’d be better off going to his Twitter feed or the many memes featuring his quotes if you want the best short quips. In every other regard, this is an excellent book.

Observations about “Discrimination and Disparities”

There is an old axiom not to mistake correlation with causation. Just because A happens before B, it doesn’t mean A causes B. A modern corollary is that discrepancies shouldn’t be mistaken for discrimination. That is the likely source of the title for this book.

Related Reading

Stephen Pinker’s book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” is actually cited in Mr. Sowell’s book several times.

Thomas Sowell brings up the fact that there wasn’t segregation on the Pacific Coast or the North before the mass migration of Southern blacks to these areas following World War 2 job opportunities. He discusses the resentment the existing black population had against the generally less well-educated blacks from the Deep South. Many of the negative stereotypes of blacks today stem not from racism but the Southern culture these people brought with them to the “hood”. For more on this subject, I’d suggest reading Thomas Sowell’s book “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”.

Mr. Sowell’s book discusses how culture and sub-culture affect values and behavior, and that relocating people to new areas (whether home country to new country or urban poor to the suburbs) doesn’t magically solve problems caused by culture. For a racially neutral book on this, I’d suggest “Hillbilly Elegy”.

Summary

“Discrimination and Disparities” by Thomas Sowell is an excellent book for understanding the many factors other than actual systemic discrimination that lead to disparate outcomes for individuals, groups and societies. Whether you want to understand why most national prize winners are firstborns or why some countries and groups suddenly surged ahead at various points in time, this is book is a must-read.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Tamara Wilhite

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)