Gary Becker - Discrimination

Discrimination

Discrimination as defined by Kenneth Arrow is "the valuation in the market place of personal characteristics of the worker that are unrelated to worker productivity." Personal characteristics can be physical features such as sex or race, or other characteristics such as a person's religion, caste, or national origin.

Becker often includes a variable of taste for discrimination in explaining behavior. He believes that people often mentally increase the cost of a transaction if it is with a minority against which they discriminate. His theory held that competition decreases discrimination. If firms were able to specialize in employing mainly minorities and offer a better product or service, such a firm could bypass discrepancy in wages between equally productive blacks and whites or equally productive females and males.

Becker's research found that when minorities are a very small percentage the cost of discrimination mainly falls on the minorities. However, when minorities represent a larger percentage of society, the cost of discrimination falls on both the minorities and the majority. He also pioneered research on the impact of self-fulfilling prophecies of teachers and employers on minorities. Such attitudes often lead to less investment in productive skills and education of minorities.

Gary Becker recognized that people (employers, customers, and employees) sometimes do not want to work with minorities because they have preference against the disadvantaged groups. He goes on to say that discrimination increases the cost of the firm because in discriminating against certain workers, the employer would have to pay more so that work can proceed without them. If the employer employs the minority, low wages can be provided, but more people can be employed, and productivity can be increased.

Read more about this topic:  Gary Becker

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