How to End (Price) Discrimination

John List and Uri Gneezy have appeared on our blog many times. This guest post is part a series adapted from their new book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. List appeared in our recent podcast "How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten."

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a landmark civil rights bill. It afforded the disabled protections against discrimination that were similar to earlier landmark civil rights bills. In particular, the bill targeted two types of discrimination. One type was the discrimination against the disabled motivated by hatred or disgust. For example, one provision targeted employers that denied employment opportunities to those that truly qualified. Other parts of the bill focused on ensuring a level playing field for the disabled, like one requirement for businesses to make readily achievable retrofits to their businesses to afford the disabled access.

When economists think about the causes of discrimination, they tend to lump them into these two categories. The first is called animus discrimination, which is the type of discrimination we tend to associate with the treatment of African-Americans in the early 20th century. The second is called statistical discrimination, which is discrimination motivated by statistical trends associated with groups. For example, women tend to pay less for auto insurance because they are safer drivers. 

Black-Market Tour Guides at Disney World

The Week (and, earlier, the N.Y. Post) reports a new way for high-wage people to economize on time: when visiting Disney World, hire a “tour concierge” — a disabled person who uses his/her disability privileges to ignore waiting lines (and take the high-wage person and family with him/her ahead of the crowd).  At $130 per hour, the time saving is easily justified economically (just think of the lines at Space Mountain, or at my personal favorite, Small World).  It would be nice too if people would rent me their toddlers to board Southwest Airlines flights ahead of the mob.  Clearly, there is room for beneficial exchange like this in many areas.

These are not, however, Pareto improvements: while the “concierge” and his/her customers gain, everybody else in line loses. It doesn't seem fair to me, and perhaps not efficient, since the externalities of extra waiting time for the whole line can be substantial.

If You Like Helen Keller, You Will Love Daniel Kish

This guy is a real life Batman. Amazing.

Why Isn't Helen Keller a Bigger Deal?

Given the sort of topics that elementary schools emphasize these days (e.g., a few weeks back, it was national anti-bullying day; my 10-year-old has painstakingly spelled out "Save the Earth" on her bedroom door), shouldn't Helen Keller be front and center in the curriculum?

How Can We Stop Handicap Fraud?

A few years ago, a colleague of mine off-handedly mentioned that he "tried not to use" his spouse's disability placard to park in handicapped spaces when she wasn't in the car. Frankly, I was appalled. The implication was that he sometimes succumbed to the temptation to use the placard to park in a handicapped place.

Apparently, he isn't alone.

Adverse Selection in Disability Payments

The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson presents information on disability payments to injured World War I veterans: 16 shillings per week (80 pence to those unfamiliar with older British money) for the loss of a right arm, 15 shillings for the loss of a left arm. Since about 90 percent of people are right-handed, this is more equitable than the reverse. But why not equality?

The Price of Disability Law

We wrote a column a while back about a variety of powerful unintended consequences.

One example was the Americans With Disabilities Act, and we told the story of a Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon named Andrew Brooks. When a deaf patient came to him for a consultation, he realized that the A.D.A. required him to hire a sign-language interpreter for each visit if that's what the patient wanted.

FREAK-TV: Is the Law of Unintended Consequences the Strongest Law Around?

Video The Americans with Disabilities Act was considered landmark legislation. Here’s a summary of the law from the Department of Justice Web site: The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It […]