Glenn C. Loury Merton P. Stoltz Professor of Social Sciences

Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences at Brown University, is an academic economist who has made scholarly contributions to the fields of welfare economics, income distribution, game theory, industrial organization, and natural resource economics. He is also a prominent social critic and public intellectual, having published over 200 articles in journals of public affairs in the U.S. and abroad on the issues of racial inequality and social policy. A Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a past Vice President of the American Economics Association, Prof. Loury has been a visiting scholar at Oxford, Tel Aviv University, the University of Stockholm, the Delhi School of Economics, the Institute for the Human Sciences in Vienna, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was for many years a contributing editor at The New Republic magazine.

Brown Affiliations

research overview

I am an economic theorist working on inequality between individuals and social groups. This work involves developing rigorous models of the social interactions which produce and sustain such disparities, and of the policies designed to mitigate them. Among the issues I study are: racial affirmative action; dysfunctional social identity; status transmission across generations; and cognitive theories of racial stigma. I also write popular essays on social and political themes as a public intellectual.

research statement

Over the past three years I have worked on five topics: (Papers numbered in brackets identify my publications relevant to that topic. See the list at the end of this description.)

a) Affirmative action [1, 2, 5, 7, 15, 17]: Several theoretical papers explore the efficiency, incentive and reputation effects of preferential selection policies. We distinguish race-neutral from race-conscious affirmative action; and, we contrast preferential selection with preferential access to developmental resources. An applied paper estimates efficiency consequences of imposing a "color-blindness" constraint on affirmative admissions policies at selective universities. This work inspired a legal brief that was considered by the Supreme Court in the 2003 University of Michigan litigation. I have a contract with Princeton University Press to write a small book tentatively entitled, What Price Diversity? The Economics and the Ethics of Affirmative Action Policies. A draft should be ready by fall 2006.

b) Identity [8, 9]: Two papers explore a mathematical model aimed at capturing in a rigorous way some of the connections between identity, culture and social performance. A novel definition of identity is proposed; the sense in which a group's collective identity can be dysfunctional is made precise; and, mechanisms of social interaction are described through which rational actors nevertheless may come to define themselves in a way that inhibits their economic functioning.

c) Racial stigma [4, 6, 14, 16, 18]: In chap. 3 of my 2002 book, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality , and in several subsequent essays, I develop a theory of "racial stigma" – in contrast to the classical notion of "racial discrimination." My main idea is to distinguish the formal economic transactions of markets from the informal social interactions of neighborhoods, families, and friendship networks. Citing a broad array of evidence, I argue that racial inequality in contemporary American society derives more from disparate treatment in the latter than the former domains, and I speculate on the implications of this conclusion.

d) Racial justice [3, 11, 13, 18]: In chap. 4 of my 2002 book, and in subsequent essays, I develop a principled approach to questions of racial justice in the U.S. context. Through this work in social philosophy, I formulate the axiom that any concept of intergenerational justice must be "closed to moral deviation." I contribute to the debate over slavery reparations for American blacks by applying this axiom to the dynamic social choice problem which this debate implicitly poses.

e) Wage inequality [12]: A theoretical paper models how the distribution of ability gets mapped onto a distribution of earnings in a hierarchical job assignment model. How better information about individual workers' abilities affects the level and distribution of earnings is explored.

Finally, I am currently starting work on a new book entitled, Social Analytics: Race, Inequality and the Promise of Economic Theory. This would be a book on the practice of social science and social criticism, drawing on my own past writings. The central premise of the book is that my style of "public intellectual" work is noteworthy in the extent to which it connects social scientific insights with writing on popular themes. With this book, I hope to present a model for how technically adept social scientists can engage in the larger, national conversation on issues of policy significance. The concluding chapter will be an essay describing my political journey as an economist and public intellectual, from my early career as a traditional liberal, to my national prominence as a "black conservative" intellectual during the Reagan era, to my current position as a left-of-center critic of conservatism. The narrative will relate this political odyssey to the intellectual positions illustrated by the technical and discursive essays collected in this volume.

Publications List:
1. "Color-Blind Affirmative Action," (with Roland Fryer and Tolga Yuret), revise and resubmit at Journal of Law, Economics and Organization
2. "Categorical Handicapping," (with Roland Fryer), revise and resubmit at the Journal of Political Economy
3. "Trans-Generational Justice: Compensatory vs. Interpretative Approaches," Chap. xx in Reparations , Jon Miller (ed.), Oxford University Press (forthcoming Spring 2006)
4. "Racial Stigma: Toward a New Paradigm for Discrimination Theory," Chap. 27 in Understanding Poverty , A. Banerjee, R. Benabou and D. Mookherjee (eds.), Oxford University Press (forthcoming Fall 2005)
5. "Affirmative Action and Its Mythology" (with Roland Fryer), Journal of Economic Perspectives (Summer 2005)
6. "The Anatomy of Racial Inequality: The Author's Account," The Review of Black Political Economy , 32 (2): 75-89 (forthcoming Summer 2005)
7. "Affirmative Action in Winner-Take-All Markets," (with Roland Fryer) Journal of Economic Inequality (forthcoming Fall 2005)
8. "'Dysfunctional Identities' Can Be Rational," (with Hanming Fang) American Economic Review Proceedings , 95(2):104-111 (May 2005)
9. "Toward an Economic Theory of Dysfunctional Identity," (with Hanming Fang), Chap. 2 in Chris Barrett (ed.), The Social Economics of Poverty: On Identity, Communities, Groups and Networks , Routledge (Spring 2005)
10. Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (co-editor with Tariq Modood and Steven Teles), Cambridge University Press (Spring 2005)
11. "Race, Inequality and Justice in the United States: Some Social-Philosophic Reflections," Chap. 20 in Loury, Teles and Modood (eds.), Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy , Cambridge University Press (2005)
12. "Distribution of Ability and Earnings in a Hierarchical Job Assignment Model," Journal of Political Economy , 112(6):1322-64 (with Robert Costrell) (December 2004)
13. "Racial Justice: The Superficial Morality of Colour-Blindness in the United States." Identity, Conflict and Cohesion Programme Paper, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva, Switzerland (Spring 2004)
14. "Relations before Transactions," first Moffett '29 Lecture on Ethics, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, November 6, 2003
15. "What Price Diversity?" second Moffett '29 Lecture on Ethics, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, Nov. 7, 2003
16. "Racial Stigma: Towards a New Paradigm for Discrimination Theory," American Economic Review Proceedings , 93(2):334-37, May 2003
17. "Passing Strict Scrutiny: Using Social Science to Design Affirmative Action Programs," (with Clark Cunningham and John Skrentny), Georgetown Law Journal , 90:4 (April 2002), pp 835-882
18. The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (The W.E.B. DuBois Lectures at Harvard University), Harvard University Press, 2002

funded research

My research is supported by the Mellon Foundation, most recently in a two year grant of $240,000, to support work on "Race, Inequality and Economic Theory," expiring summer 2006. This was preceded by a three-year, $650,000 grant to the Institute on Race and Social Division at Boston University to support research and conferences on "Affirmative Action in Higher Education."