Berkeley News

By Public Affairs, UC Berkeley

July 24, 2020

Sandy Darity: Thank you, and thank you to you Suresh and to Dani for organizing this event. I think it’s very, very important for us as economists to learn from the other disciplines. We’ve had an imperializing tendency towards the other disciplines, and in the process I think we have failed to really recognize many of the important contributions that have been delivered from other disciplines using their perspective rather than the perspective that we normally bring to these issues.

In particular, I’m struck by the fact that an important tool that I’ve used in much of my research, the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition, really I believe was preceded by the Blau and Duncan decomposition in sociology, but I think frequently we have not been aware of that.

And similarly, when we talk about unobserved heterogeneity, it sometimes becomes a blockade for really understanding the phenomenon of discrimination. Or when we talk about the identification problem, it constitutes a blockade to thinking about some factors as being fundamental causes of phenomena rather than interactive causes of phenomena.

So, as a consequence, I think it’s really going to be valuable for us to hear from the scholars who are going to join us today. We have four speakers — after they make their respective presentations, we will take questions from the floor, so to speak, and have an opportunity for the speakers to respond to those questions as well as engage with one another.

And our first speaker is going to be Daina Ramey Berry, who is the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Her superb book The Price for Their Pound of Flesh, recovers the humanity or persons, Black persons specifically, whose lives were comprehensively commodified.

There are two additional dimensions of her book that I think merit deep attention. First, the extended commodification of Black bodies after life ends into death; and second, the significance of the effects of markets, markets in human beings on U.S. economic development. Her most recent book is A Black Women’s History of the United States, co-authored with Kali Nicole Gross.

And I’m hopeful, time permitting, that she’ll have an opportunity to tell us what we can learn from that book also. Our second speaker is Arjumand Siddiqi, who is an epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Population Health Equity.