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Robert Hardaway

Abstracted from: Robert Hardaway, Race and Income Disparity: an Ideology-neutral Approach to Reconciling Capitalism and Economic Justice, 3 Columbia Journal of Race and Law 49 (2013) (179 Footnotes)


      According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are vast disparities in income between racial groups. In 2009 constant dollars, the median annual income of Asian and Pacific households is $65,469, $51,861 for whites, $38,093 for Hispanics, and just $32,684 for blacks. These disparities in income have in turn generated distortions in the percentages of total federal income taxes paid by different racial groups, which in turn serves to lower the percentage of Americans with an economic stake in the body politic.

      When measured along racial lines, such income disparities have inspired a plethora of books, articles, and manifestos, the titles of which suggest the ideological undertones to be found within them: Economic Apartheid in America, Destiny Revolutionized: Economic Enslavement of African-Americans, Black Wealth, White Wealth.

      This article seeks to look beyond the traditional and ideological explanations for income disparities and screens them for arguments and assertions that may reflect the pursuit of a political agenda rather than the pursuit of a rational solution to an undeniable social problem. Since income disparities by race create the potential for social conflict, diminishment of economic opportunity, and threats to political and democratic stability, it is all the more critical that the political ideologies that contribute to such disparities be rationally explained and examined, and that ideology-neutral solutions be proposed to those who make policy in a democratic society. Blind adherence to ideological preconceptions on the part of representatives of both the right and the left have effectively blocked or neutralized the good faith efforts of each other. Consequently, little has been done in addressing the deep social and economic problems that flow from racial disparities in income in the United States.

      Part II will survey how conservative ideology and government policies promulgated thereunder have served to exacerbate racial disparities in income. It will discuss counter-productive conservative policies related to population, family planning, abortion, and drug policy. Part III will in turn discuss how liberal ideology has also led to policies that exacerbate income inequality between races, and includes subsections on housing policy, immigration, labor policy, tax policy, and educational policy. Part IV will survey policies contributing to racial income disparities that have been fostered by, at different times and in different contexts, both conservative and liberal policymakers. It includes an analysis of local residential exclusionary policies and trade policy.

      Finally, Part V concludes that true progress toward addressing the social and economic consequences of income disparities can only be made through a non-ideological approach in which both conservatives and liberals set aside ideological preconceptions and political agendas, give adequate consideration to the values and arguments of the other, and work together to alleviate the problems of racial disparities in income that both sides agree are a blot on the American dream.

      In looking for both explanations and answers, it will be noted throughout this article that the greatest obstacles to rational discourse have come in the form of ideologically inspired litmus tests to which policymakers and politicians so often feel obliged to adhere. Such adherence has led policymakers to adopt self-defeating policies which serve to exacerbate rather than alleviate the problems of racial disparities in income.

* * *

      Adherence to ideology by both liberals and conservatives has often proven to be an insuperable obstacle to the adoption of sound policies directed toward reducing race-based disparities in income.

      Policymakers will best achieve this goal by:

  • providing the poor with access to family planning services; 
  • ensuring that women--especially poor women--enjoy the right to choose the size of their family and whether to have an abortion; 
  • eschewing ideologically driven policies such as minimum wage laws which encourage employers to out-source jobs to foreign countries, and fall most heavily on the poor, particularly minorities; 
  • rejecting higher taxes on the poor in the form of high tariffs on goods;
  • reforming archaic drug laws that fall mostly heavily on minorities; and 
  • implementing immigration reform that protects both racial minorities and legal immigrants from the ravages of wage declines wrought by illegal cheap foreign labor.

      In short, liberals and conservatives must put aside ideological preconceptions, be willing to listen to each other, and work together to find meaningful solutions to the problems of income and wealth disparity in the United States.


. Professor of Law, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law.