Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Am I Discriminating Against Minorities?

Let's say that you own a building with ten apartments in a city where 20% of the population is "minority", and that none of your apartments are rented to minorities. Does that make you a "racist"?

In fact, if you were to randomly select tenants for your building, there is an 11% chance of that outcome. And, for that matter, there is a 36% chance that your building would be under-represented with minorities; i.e., a situation where they occupy either none (0%), or only one (10%), apartment. This is not conclusive evidence of discrimination.

[If you like probabilities, then you are probably aware that this is a result of a binomial calculation. There's a simple calculator that does the work for you here.]

Now, let's say that 50% of landlords in this city have no minority tenants; the probability of that happening by chance is about zero. Now, since the expected frequency of such an outcome is only 11%, than means that something is "wrong" with about 80% of the landlords. And all you have to do is figure out which 80% might be discriminating -- or, as is typically the case:

A) Punish 100% of landlords, innocent or guilty, and then,

B) Compel all landlords to have renting quotas.

And it is at that point when you will be discriminating -- against the majority. Is there any reason why that is better than discriminating against the minority?

And worse, the above example assumes that the lack of minority tenants is due to active discrimination. But would active discrimination also explain the lack of male kindergarten teachers? Or young people in hospitals?

If you want to see whether you are discriminating, look at the neighbors you chose to live near and look at the spouse you selected -- and then look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are guilty.

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