Sociological Perspectives on Racial Discrimination

Please click here (Links to an external site.) for Mario L. Small and Devah Pager’s article “Sociological Perspectives on Racial Discrimination”. For our three required reading responses this semester, I’ve selected articles in the Journal of Economic Perspectives by people who are, to some degree or another, not “economists”! The goal is to further our learning goal to critically analyze economic models rather than just accepting them as they are: each reading response will hopefully let us engage in some comparative study of the “economic approach” versus the approaches taken in other disciplines to similar questions.

In this case, Small and Pager are sociologists. A companion article in the same issue of the journal (click here (Links to an external site.) if you are interested, although not required for this assignment!) talked about the economic approach to studying racial discrimination, but this one is written to highlight the key ways in which the authors think that economics could benefit by incorporating ideas from sociology.

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The JEP is a great resource for you as a student (and me as an economist!) because it’s a place where economists write about current research in a non-technical way. It’s supposed to be accessible and understandable to all, whereas some original research papers are tough to digest without a little more technical training. I encourage you to explore this resource (and another sister journal, the Journal of Economic Literature) in the future if you’re looking for high-quality sources for research papers or anything like that!

Please write 300-500 words on your reflections on the article (for comparison, this whole prompt is 420ish words). Please don’t just summarize the article—we’d like to get your reaction and what you took from it! You can write about whatever ideas or connections came to you on reading, but here are some suggestions for things you could consider if you need some help to get started:

  • What surprised you, particularly interested you, or confused you about the reading?
  • What did the reading suggest to you about the ways that the “economic approach” might differ from other disciplines?
  • What did the reading suggest to you about how the things that economists “know” about racial discrimination might differ from what sociologists “know”?
  • How does this all relate, if at all, to what we’ve been studying in the first couple of topics in our course?