Class and Disparate Impact
July 27, 2010, 02:57 PM
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Every so often, a nice moderate suggests getting rid of racial preferences and replacing them with class preferences. They usually make this suggestion in various states of naivete, but one of the most common is that they don't understand that the main body of preferences isn't college admissions but employment, and it's less done by overt than by covert quotas motivated by fear of disparate impact discrimination lawsuits. One reason why class has faded relative to race so dramatically as a subject of liberal concern since the days of Harry Truman is that there's no money in it. You can't file a disparate impact lawsuit over class discrimination because the government doesn't count by class, it counts by race/ethnicity, by sex, and by age. The Soviet Union counted people by class, but the whole project seems pretty hopeless in the U.S. The Office of Management and Budget has rules for how to count by race, but not by class.

I realize that there are a lot of other reasons why liberals are so bored by class these days, but never underestimate the power of the government handing out money and prizes along some lines and not along other lines to determine what is a political obsession and what is not.