From Diversifying Economic Quality: A Wiki for Instructors and Departments
Be aware of a third theory of discrimination.
Most of us are fully aware of two economic theories of discrimination, animus-based discrimination and statistical discrimination. Be on the lookout for institutional discrimination which we want to add to our teaching and remove from our classrooms.
Definition: Institutional Discrimination is the adverse treatment of, and impact on, members of minority groups due to the explicit and implicit rules that regulate behavior (including rules set and enforced by firms, schools, government, markets, and society). Institutional discrimination occurs when the rules, practices, or “nonconscious understandings of appropriate conduct” (Haney Lopez) systematically advantage or disadvantage members of particular groups.
Institutional discrimination may result in equilibrium allocations that are unfair and inefficient. Government intervention may be necessary to address the imperfection.
- Last-hired-first-fired practices
- Firms identifying job applicants through referrals from existing workers
- An interviewer’s ease of communication with people who are of the same race/gender/ethnicity/class …
- Licensing rules for beauty parlor operators and pin curls
- Accessibility on college campuses
In the classroom, institutional discrimination can occur when an instructor
- uses slang or examples that are unknown to students from certain socioeconomic or cultural backgrounds
- holds office hours, or otherwise schedules significant learning opportunities, during times commonly used for work-study jobs or athletic practices
- writes exam questions that require students to have prior knowledge of a situation or phenomenon
- assumes the students most comfortable in speaking about economics with the instructor are those who have the best understanding of, or most interest in, the material.
Inequalities are embedded in the structure of the economy, and in the structure of the classroom. The institutionalized inequalities tend to work against, rather than for, members of historically disadvantaged groups.