"My Mercatus Center colleague Jayme Lemke (who earned her PhD in economics from George Mason University) published last year in the journal Public Choice a very nice piece of research titled “Interjurisdictional competition and the Married Women’s Property Acts.” (This article won the 2017 Gordon Tullock Prize.)
In this article, Jayme explains the timing during the 19th century of U.S. states modernizing their property law – specifically, modernizing this law to enable married women to own, use, and alienate property no differently than could men and unmarried women. This timing, Jayme shows, is explained by the intensity with which state leaders wished to increase their states’ populations. A state whose leaders could personally enjoy some significant gains if that state’s population increased was more likely to modernize its property law than a state whose leaders stood to gain less from a population increase. (My summary here of Jayme’s thesis and of her principal finding do not do justice to her paper. Do read it yourself. It’s excellent.)
One of the passages in Jayme’s paper that I found to be especially interesting and germane is the following on pages 302-303:
[O]ne of the practices first implemented by [Massachusetts textile-mill owner Francis Cabot] Lowell and later copied by other industrialists was the active recruitment of young women. Lowell would pay recruiters to go out into the rural areas of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont to find female workers…. The model developed by Lowell came to be copied by aspiring industrialists across the Northeast, and beyond.More than 150 years ago – when transportation and communication were primitive by the standards of the early 21st century – competition nevertheless drove industrialists to spend significant resources to recruit, from distant places, low-skilled workers. If profit-hungry industrialists went to such lengths in mid-19th-century America to locate and hire workers from jobs (then, mostly on farms) that paid those workers less than they could earn working for the recruiting industrialists, what sound reason is there to suppose that employers of low-skilled workers in America today generally possess anything that can, without laughing, be called “monopsony power” of such workers? Answer: none.
Those who assert the existence of such monopsony power do so either because they mistakenly believe that such power exists whenever any employer faces a supply of labor that is less than perfectly elastic (that is, whenever an employer would quickly lose all of his workers of a given sort if that employer cut the pay of those workers by as little as one cent per hour), or because they ignore the active efforts of employers to find and recruit low-skilled workers. Low-skilled worker Jones currently in job X need not himself have much gumption or stomach for actively searching out new and better employment if employers offering better-paying jobs Y and Z take steps actively to recruit Jones and other such workers. And employers have every incentive to do such recruiting if and when there are pools of workers who are currently paid less than the value of those workers’ marginal products were those workers instead employed by the recruiting employers."
"When those in power make blatantly false claims that could lead to less freedom for the least advantaged members of society, it is imperative that they are corrected. The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, gave a speech last month where she stated that school “vouchers increase racial and economic segregation.”What Does the Evidence Say?
As I pointed out last month in a Cato Policy Forum on School Choice and Democracy, out of the eight rigorous empirical studies existing on the subject, seven of them show that school voucher programs increase racial integration within the United States. As shown in table 1 below, none of these studies indicate that vouchers lead to racial segregation. Why is this the case?
When school choice programs give disadvantaged children the opportunity to exit their already-segregated neighborhood schools, their transitions unsurprisingly result in a more racially and socioeconomically integrated society.
Table 1: Impacts of Voucher Programs on Racial IntegrationNote: A box highlighted in green indicates that the study found a statistically significant improvement in racial integration. A box highlighted in yellow indicates that the study did not find any significant differences in racial integration across sectors.For some reason, school choice skeptics ignore all of the compelling U.S. evidence, and instead point to international studies from countries like Sweden and Chile. However, these studies are methodologically unable to show that vouchers actually led to segregation.
For example, the Sweden study correlates the changes in the degree of school choice and racial segregation across two time periods, 1993 and 2009. Notably, the authors did not control for overall changes in the immigrant population in Sweden over the same years, so they are unable to conclude that the voucher program caused the change. According to the Swedish Migration Agency, yearly residence permits granted to immigrants ranged from around 59,000 in 1993 to around 100,000 in 2009. Obviously, overall immigration leads to more racial stratification, regardless of the school choice program.
More Important Questions?
The scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that school vouchers lead to racial integration. But what if it didn’t?
Should such a finding allow government officials to control the educational selections of families desperately trying to improve their well-being? If a minority parent wanted to send their child to a prestigious all-black school, should a bureaucrat be able to tell them that they are not allowed to do so?
This is strange to me: in our country’s disturbing history, government officials decided that people ought to be “separate but equal” for the greater good. They thought that having racially diverse people in the same institutions would harm society through racial tension. Today, public officials make the same argument, just in the opposite direction. They claim that government force is necessary to move people, based on skin color, to achieve some greater social goal.
If you do not support the forced racial segregation that started back in 1896, it would be logically inconsistent for you to support forced racial integration today.
We can avoid all of the negative consequences that come along with the use of government force by allowing individual families to voluntarily opt into the schools that work best for their children. As the evidence shows, the self-interested choices of individual parents result in the social benefit of racial integration, without coercion by those in power."