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Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth

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Overview

As debate rages over the widening and destructive gap between the rich and the rest of Americans, Claude Fischer and his colleagues present a comprehensive new treatment of inequality in America. They challenge arguments that expanding inequality is the natural, perhaps necessary, accompaniment of economic growth. They refute the claims of the incendiary bestseller The Bell Curve (1994) through a clear, rigorous re-analysis of the very data its authors, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, used to contend that inherited differences in intelligence explain inequality. Inequality by Design offers a powerful alternative explanation, stressing that economic fortune depends more on social circumstances than on IQ, which is itself a product of society. More critical yet, patterns of inequality must be explained by looking beyond the attributes of individuals to the structure of society. Social policies set the "rules of the game" within which individual abilities and efforts matter. And recent policies have, on the whole, widened the gap between the rich and the rest of Americans since the 1970s. Not only does the wealth of individuals' parents shape their chances for a good life, so do national policies ranging from labor laws to investments in education to tax deductions. The authors explore the ways that America - the most economically unequal society in the industrialized world - unevenly distributes rewards through regulation of the market, taxes, and government spending. It attacks the myth that inequality fosters economic growth, that reducing economic inequality requires enormous welfare expenditures, and that there is little we can do to alter the extent of inequality. It also attacks the injurious myth of innate racial inequality, presenting powerful evidence that racial differences in achievement are the consequences, not the causes, of social inequality. By refusing to blame inequality on an unchangeable human nature and an inexorable market - an excuse
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Following in the footsteps of the critical The Bell Curve Wars (LJ 4/15/94) and Measured Lies (LJ 6/1/96), Fischer and his fellow members of the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, have collaborated to produce a clear and persuasive counter argument to the conclusions of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve (Free Pr., 1994) that racially related I.Q. scores are the determining factors for explaining the differing economic, social, and intellectual success levels of Americans. Fischer et al. first question the validity of Murray and Herrnstein's statistical results. Then "using history, geography, and economics, [they] show" that such inequalities are rooted in environmental background and circumstances, not the obverse, and that these are shaped by social policy and structure. The authors urge that Americans not scapegoat race but look critically at policy and at a design for society to narrow the gaps between the least and most encouraged in our country. Recommended for academic and lay readers.Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred
San Francisco Chronicle - Jonathan Marshall
. . . calmly but devastatingly refutes the view that IQ is the inexorable force behind growing inequality in American society. [This] message deserves wide airing, lest voters and policy makers believe the fatalistic—and false—message that our destiny lies in our genes. . . . The fact that IQ isn't destiny means Americans can't wash their hands of poverty and related social problems by imagining them to be timeless and unchangeable.
From the Publisher
Named an Outstanding Book by the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America for 1998

"Inequality by Design's most important findings describe an America deeply stratified by class, an America in which equal opportunity remains only and idle dream...[It] may well after the public discussion...with a shot across the bow of the nation's policymakers."Lingua Franca

". . . calmly but devastatingly refutes the view that IQ is the inexorable force behind growing inequality in American society. [This] message deserves wide airing, lest voters and policy makers believe the fatalistic—and false—message that our destiny lies in our genes. . . . The fact that IQ isn't destiny means Americans can't wash their hands of poverty and related social problems by imagining them to be timeless and unchangeable."—Jonathan Marshall, San Francisco Chronicle

"A clear and persuasive counter argument to the conclusions of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve. . . . The authors urge that Americans not scapegoat race but look critically at policy and at a design for society to narrow the gaps between the least and most encouraged in our country."Library Journal

Lingua Franca
Inequality by Design's most important findings describe an America deeply stratified by class, an America in which equal opportunity remains only and idle dream...[It] may well after the public discussion...with a shot across the bow of the nation's policymakers.
San Francisco Chronicle
. . . calmly but devastatingly refutes the view that IQ is the inexorable force behind growing inequality in American society. [This] message deserves wide airing, lest voters and policy makers believe the fatalistic—and false—message that our destiny lies in our genes. . . . The fact that IQ isn't destiny means Americans can't wash their hands of poverty and related social problems by imagining them to be timeless and unchangeable.
— Jonathan Marshall
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691028996
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/8/1996
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Table of Contents

Figures and Tables ix
Preface xi
CHAPTER 1 Why Inequality? 3
CHAPTER 2 Understanding "Intelligence" 22
CHAPTER 3 But Is It Intelligence? 55
CHAPTER 4 Who Wins? Who Loses? 70
CHAPTER 5 The Rewards of the Game: Systems of Inequality 102
CHAPTER 6 HOW Unequal? America's Invisible Policy Choices
CHAPTER 7 Enriching Intelligence: More Policy Choices 158
CHAPTER 8 Confronting Inequality in America: The Power of Public Investment 204
APPENDIX 1 Summary of The Bell Curve 217
APPENDIX 2 Statistical Analysis for Chapter 4 225
Notes 241
References 277
Index 303
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