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2012 November 25 Sunday
Obama Administration To Push Disparate Impact Doctrine

The disparate impact doctrine holds that if institutions end up treating racial groups differently on average (e.g. say banks reject more loan applications from blacks) then this is racism and is not allowed. If the groups happen to differ on average in relevant ways (e.g. net worth, income, problems in credit history) then under disparate impact this does not matter. The institution has got to make decisions that cost it big money or else get sued by the federal government. This is nuts of course. But unsurprisingly, Barack Obama intends to hit businesses harder with disparate impact enforcement.

Other targets of the administration's "racial justice" juggernaut include: standardized academic testing, professional licensing examinations, employee background checks, voter ID requirements, student disciplinary codes, prison sentencing guidelines you name it.

The goal is to equalize outcomes based on race without regard for performance or merit.

According to Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, President Obama is committed to "aggressively pushing the 'disparate impact' approach to civil-rights enforcement" through which "the federal government insists that the numbers come out right even if it means that policemen and firefighters cannot be tested, that companies should hire criminals, that loans must be made to the uncreditworthy, and that I kid you not whether pollution is acceptable depends on whether dangerous chemicals are spread in a racially balanced way."

I expect more of this in the future. Some businesses that are on edge of whether US operations make sense will decide to shift more operations abroad. Others will just grow more slowly or not grow because disparate impact amounts to a tax on corporate operations. The US government is going to become more dysfunctional in its treatment of the private sector in decades to come unless the left becomes more realistic about human nature.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 November 25 09:59 PM 

Engineer-Poet said at November 25, 2012 11:07 PM:

Nothing could make a mockery of the very idea of "disparate impact" better than this.

Nothing could spell the end of "disparate impact" doctrine faster than turning it into a mockery of itself.

asdf said at November 26, 2012 5:18 AM:

Looking at Obama's background are you surprised?

All multi-cultural societies eventually descend into battles of "who...whom."

faffy said at November 26, 2012 7:32 AM:

Too bad people pushing this don't have the self-awareness to see how disparate impact policies cause disparate impact.

Check it Out said at November 26, 2012 2:53 PM:

America is a gathering of stumped people, who can be held together only on the base of either the financial constituent, or the desire to wage war somewhere.

Check it Out said at November 26, 2012 3:01 PM:

Tocqueville thinks that the American modern way of life (or death) is more destructive than any other. And he had not in mind the McDonald's, the highways, the desperate suburbs, the shopping malls and the amusement parks!

Mike M said at November 26, 2012 4:53 PM:

Randall - While I realize that you probably understand disparate impact doctrine, I believe your wording, "if institutions end up TREATING racial groups differently on average", may give some the wrong impression. Disparate impact is not the same as disparate treatment (which is purposeful discrimination). As you have phrased it, the implication is that the "offending" institution actually treated members of the racial groups differently while this is NOT the meaning of disparate impact. The doctrine of disparate impact holds that if an institution's employment practices result in an adverse outcome (impact) on a minority group, the institution must have been acting in a discriminatory fashion even if they treated all members of all groups in an identical manner, i.e. the institution must guarantee equality of outcomes rather than simply equal opportunity.

As an aside, laws aimed at outlawing purposeful discrimination (disparate treatment) are typically non- or counter-productive. They foster increased animosity between racial groups and encourage covert discrimination in hiring. They serve as an incentive for members of the minority group to underperform, knowing that part of their job security depends on color alone (rather than performance).

It's hard to imagine that people aware of these laws do not view with suspicion the credentials of any minority with whom they do business or look to hire and wonder, "did he get that degree/job/position because he was the best qualified - or qualified at all - or because of his color?"

Mark said at November 26, 2012 7:35 PM:

Think about disparate impact and health care. Health outcome (life expectancy) could be equalized by reallocating medical resources.

Randall Parker said at November 26, 2012 9:59 PM:


I do not know how grotesque the "disparate impact" doctrine has to become before the majority of white and Asian people rebel against it enough to put an end to it. My guess is that it can become very grotesque before that reaction sets in. It might never set in. As you can tell from reading me, I expect America to become more unfair and its labor markets to become more inefficient. One should aim to insulate oneself from the bad trends to the extent practical.

Mike M,

Adverse impact: What is key is how the term "adverse impact" gets defined. They assume that since all groups have equal levels of intelligence, grit, motivation, conscientiousness, etc that any average differences in how institutions treat different groups must be unfair. The key is that the assumptions underlying disparate impact are false. But liberals are in denial about that.

It is obvious that financial institutions are not unfairly discriminating against blacks. If they were unfairly discriminating then we'd expect blacks to have lower loan default rates than whites. But that's not the case.


Scary thought. Probably will happen though.

Abelard Lindsey said at November 26, 2012 10:33 PM:

Yet, still there are idiots who cannot understand why outsourcing is so popular today.

This will simply increase the outsourcing of business and manufacturing operations.

Good job, liberals!

ASPIRANT said at November 27, 2012 10:08 AM:

This is more about social dominance than anything else. Almost all of "disadvantaged" group politics isn't about social justice at all, but winning, installing a hegemony for your preferred class, civilization be damned.

They probably know that it's not exactly fair, but how fair is it to be "born this way"?

anti-waaciss said at November 27, 2012 8:52 PM:

Obama administration also to push for more skilled and maybe unskilled immigrants ...

I guess that they are going to cause a fair bit of disparate impact.

WJ said at November 30, 2012 2:10 PM:

Every year the IRS sends higher tax bills to whites than to blacks or Hispanics. Disparate impact, right? More blacks and Hispanics qualifying for food stamps, Section 8 vouchers, Obamaphones, and an immigration amnesty, and God-only-knows-what-else...disparate impact (you're not allowed to take incomes into account). And since B.O. controls the federal gubmint he can fix all of these post-haste.

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