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June 16, 2007



Compelling argument but there is also the young black man who tries to rise above it by proving his value in a white man's game, e.g. Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice. Not black but a similar story - Michelle Malkin.


Robert Axelrod covered some if this in "The Evolution of Co-operation"


Levitt's evidence that crime doesn't pay is actually really quite weak - I wrote about this on D^2D a while ago. And even then it only applied to drug dealing in gangs, not sole-trader dealing or theft. I think it's a mistake to assume that the one gang that Venkatesh surveyed is representative of all crime everywhere.

Marcin Tustin

Interesting, but I'd like to know if there is a difference between ethnic groups, controlling for wealth or not. If there is a difference, then I'd like to find out why, because almost all of the factors mentioned could apply to anyone.

The first one that wouldn't apply to those of the ethnic majority is same race friendships. The factor not mentioned here is effects of race discrimination reducing the expected value of a professional career.

My suspicion is that there is likely to be little difference once we control for household wealth, because of institutional and individual class biases, and that any apparent greater propensity to such choices amongst young black men is because they disproportionately come from backgrounds other than the middle class. Thus, more of them, by proportion will suffer from this bias reducing the expected of a professional career. Similarly, as educational quality is rationed by wealth, rationally they would tend to expect low returns to a professional career.


Your nonlinearities are skewed. A million quid might be more than 20 times better than 50K, given the "fuck off" power that it produces and so on, but 50K buys you a decent place to live, a nice lifestyle and some financial security, whereas 20K won't get you anything much at all. 20K a year is almost the same as nothing at all.

Workshy Fop

re: point 3, I'll think you'll find that everyone in the music industry has at least one boss, if not more.

Not to mention Mammon.

dave heasman

"I'll think you'll find that everyone in the music industry has at least one boss, if not more. "

Totally true, but equally it's seriously career-limiting to admit it. Even at the "Pop Idol" level you seldom hear "I'd never heard this song before; Cowell chose it for me. I don't really like it. Likewise these shoes." but it's invariably true.
And at the other end, who insised Blur change their name from Seymour (after the Salinger character)? EMI. (The title of a Sex Pistols song.)

Mr Scargill


A few points:

Proximity / Peer Pressure.
If you grow up around peers who are involved in crime at whatever level ( drug taking / dealing, joy riding, mugging, etc. ) then it's easier to gain entry into this. Once you start making a few quid it's easy to get sucked in further.

Also (here comes another hot potato)
Paternal Influence.
Many black youngsters tend to grow up without a father / father figure around to guide them. I don't think this can be overlooked, I know you mentioned role models but some t**t you can't relate to in a suit telling you "I made millions from scratch..." doesn't really have the same influence due to the percieved chances of being this sucessful.

Regarding your points:

2. Regret aversion.
I disagree.
Surely one could turn to crime at any point. Getting a professional job with a criminal record on the other hand is going to be somewhat difficult, therefore regret aversion stops me mugging people, etc. as I really don't fancy a life long career in crime.

4. Non-pecuniary advantages.
Anyone who does well at school tends to be less popular - at least from my own vantage point (regardless of race).

I went to school in one of those lovely institutes Mr Cameron hates. :-)


Cut the bottom out of the market - legalise drugs. Watch those incentives melt away...

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