The Corner

More on Kevin Hassett and the Racial Recession

In a recent issue of NR, Kevin Hassett comments on the unemployment differential between black workers and white workers that persists after controlling for a number of variables. Hassett suggests that the simplest explanation for the differential is racial discrimination, and further suggests that conservatives need to admit that there is discrimination.

I would add the following to the responses of various scholars in NRO’s symposium on Hassett’s piece.

First, I know of no widespread conservative disavowal that discrimination exists. However, acknowledging the incontrovertible evidence of racial discrimination and necessarily concluding that it’s the reason for the unemployment differential are two different things.

Hassett is surely correct that discrimination is the simplest explanation for the differential. But it doesn’t mean that it’s the correct one or that all plausible variables have been taken into consideration.

For example, one factor that I haven’t seen taken into consideration in unemployment-rate studies is the echo effect on black workers resulting from seniority-driven recall and layoff provisions in public-employment collective-bargaining agreements (a greater percentage of black workers are public employees than white workers). These same workers are less able to matriculate into private-sector employment because their skills don’t translate into the private sector and they’re priced out of the private-sector labor market.

Another important variable is the displacement of low-wage black workers by even lower-wage illegal immigrants. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will be issuing a report on this matter shortly.

Second, Hassett and the symposium participants are correct that conservative solutions can redress the problem. Plainly, nearly 50 years of liberal solutions have not.

Third, racial discrimination in employment today is neither a rampant nor an insuperable phenomenon. The racial discrimination that does exist is subject to a multi-billion-dollar apparatus to protect the rights of minority employees: the EEOC; OFCCP; the various state civil-rights commissions; the innumerable local civil-rights commissions; and the tens of the thousands of, in effect, private attorneys general who pursue actions under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, state and local anti-discrimination statutes, etc. America remains dedicated to eradicating racial discrimination in employment.

Conservatives don’t dispute that discrimination exists. We can, however, do a better job of presenting conservative solutions to employment disparities to the black community.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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