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Arun Khanna

Does the largely community specific human capital investments by Muslims in France have an impact on their job prospects and propensity to riot?


This is very related to a recent paper written by a grad student University of Wisconsin. She estimates a model of labor supply with minimum wages and fixed employment costs. She finds that the minimum wage has substantial employment effects. Something like a participation rate of 10 percent with a minimum wage and 50 percent without a minimum wage.


Paul N

The 1992 L.A. riots were not prompted by the video of Rodney King being beaten, but instead by the "not guilty" verdict in the trial of the police officers in the incident.

Joe Merchant

How easy it is to state our opinion, even when in posession of contradictory facts:

"An old and well-established rule of life is that the thoughts of young men turn to mischief when they have lots of time on their hands."...

"generous minimum wages and other rigidities of the French labor market caused unemployment rates that have remained stubbornly high"


(The French need) "lower minimum wage levels."

And yet:

..."The likelihood of a riot is not explained by differences among cities in the black unemployment rate"


As for my opinion, I have worked for U.S. minimum wage, and it isn't a self-sustaining activity. The federal minimum wage (when applied to the Florida economy) pays for a sub-subsistence existence, requiring augmentation with welfare (or in my case, parental support) just to be able to afford food, shelter, and transportation to this insulting form of employment. And, yes, once I even did work for a grocery store within walking distance of my home, but 40 hours a week at that job would only pay for simple food, and my 1/5th share of the rent and utilities, with a whopping $250 a month left over as "disposable income" (this, in the late 1980s). Remember, these hard working minimum wage earners pay taxes, too.

Luckily, my parents supported my education, and I now make roughly 10x the federal minimum wage. Without their supoort, I could have afforded roughly one college credit a month, while working 40 hours a week, so that would leave me finishing college after about 12 years, with no significant income in the meantime. Then, at the ripe old age of 30, I could enter the job market with a BS degree and no experience... what a land of opportunity!

To the point: addressing unemployment by dropping the minimum wage does little or nothing to improve society as a whole. It does create a peasant "You want fries with that?" class, but are these proud wearers of polyester uniforms any less likely to riot because they might lose their McJob? I think not, and the evidence from the 1960s suggests there is no correlation.

Affordable (perhaps compulsory?) vocational training would be a good start. Allowing youths to drop from the educational system before they are employable is a deeper root cause of dissent than a lack of busywork jobs.


As a reply to the above comment let me point out that just because life sucks at minimum wage and would suck more at wages below minimum wage hardly establishes that it is a good thing. The question is whether lowering the minimum wage (which is much higher in france I presume) takes people who previously had no job at all and brings them into the workforce. If this is its only effect it is surely positive. However this discussion is just too complex and too long to have here.

On the minimum wage issue I would like to point out something that Becker probably meant but did not make clear. The statistics showing no correlation between unemployment and rioting *do not* establish that unemployment was not a cause of the rioting. It could well be that a certain level of unemployment was a necessery condition for the rioting that was satisfied in virtually all the US cities and other factors came in to trigger or prevent the riots.

Also I find it unclear from Becker's statistics whether it is the unemployment rate of young black men he is looking at or the overall black unemployment rate. It could very well be that the unemployment rate amount the 18-25 year old group is radically different from the overall black unemployment rate and I would be very curious to see if this correlated with the likelihood of rioting.


The failure to mention that the race riots in the United States were motivated by not insignificant concerns such as the protection of their basic civil and human rights is clearly calculated to emphasize the irresponsibility of rioters rather than frustrations arising from deeper social & political concerns. Economics appears to play a role, no doubt, but attetion should be paid to how the population has become integrated in French society. Even in the US, a cursory glance at census data tells us that given the same level of education and experience Women and members of ethnic minorities get paid less than there white male counterparts. France may lack similar statistics, as mentioned in the original post, but it is at least worth considering that the rioting may also be caused by issues related to French ethnocentrism of which the failure to integrate these youths into the workforce and the education system may be in effect as well as a cause. Life is far more complex than mere economic explanations will allow for. Economics is but one interelated factor among many worth considering.

Pi√π Messenger

Is that good?

Arun Khanna

The claim in an earlier posting, "Given the same level of education and experience women and members of ethnic minorities get paid less than their white male counterparts" is interesting. If one controls for quality of education, I am guessing it is unlikely that the claim is supported by data. On the other hand, I haven't looked at the data closely, so I am willing to be pursuaded by a well done empirical analysis on the issue.


No creo que las noticias buenas vuelen tan rapido!

Tutto Playstation

Justo lo que nos faltaba!

Tutto Playstation

Justo lo que nos faltaba!


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Arun Khanna

Given the earlier postings, it seems the typing of "human" has not stopped spam bots. I suggest that Becker-Posner use Blogspot's word verification utility. http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=1203&topic=23

Telecharger Emule

Justo lo que nos faltaba!


I don't know much about the French economy, so I have no opinion on whether the French riots mean anything, besides the fact that the rule of law has broken down. The rioters do not seem to be making political statements, and it does not appear that they rioted in response to any particular event. Our attempt to draw "lessons" or "conclusions" from the riots might well be a fuitle exercise.

It is a common human mistake to try to draw deep moral or political lessons from senseless violent acts. France is an open society, and if the rioters wished to make a political statement, they surely could have done so in a non-violent way. Generally, burning a car, or blowing up a building, is not a political statement, and we should not reflexively treat it as such. In the western world, at least, there is no reason to resort to violence to make a political point, and we should resist the urge to treat the violence itself as a political act.

Kirk H. Sowell

David's point that burning a car is not a political statement, but just criminality, is reinforced by the fact that the vast majority of the cars destroyed in the French "Car BQ" are the vehicles of other poor people living in their own neighborhoods. The immediate instance here was the accidental electrocution of two individuals running from the police who were responding to a legitimate break in call.

To the extent that there is a parallel to the Los Angeles riots a la Rodney King - poor people robbing Korean grocery stores as "protest" - it is that it is opportunistic criminality.

Joe Merchant

It's O.K. to set a minimum wage that "sucks", but the level set in the US (a flat level for the whole country), doesn't just suck in the more expensive regions, it is really un-liveable without external support. Calling minimum wage earners "employed" is really a joke, these people cost society dearly in terms of welfare, crisis health-care, police, courts, etc.

My point above is that making "busywork jobs" available will only take the rabble off the streets a few hours a week, it won't transform them into model productive citizens. Some form of education is needed to do that. If they don't elect to get themselves educated in the available public (and mostly free, in Europe) universities - maybe they could learn an employable skill or two the old fashioned way: in military service.


By "controlled for quality of education" I doubt you mean we ought to take into consideration how those who live in poorer neighbourhoods often have little choice but to attend schools that are over-crowded and under funded. The facts can be found at http://factfinder.census.gov/
It takes a little getting used to but one can look up income as it relates to factors such as gender, education, and race. One can also see how the gap between poor and rich has grown during the per in which we have most aggressively adopted what are loosely termed and grouped together as free-market policies. I am not saying that the riots are comparable as a political act to the French riots of '68, but they are manifestatations of what should rightly be considered social, politcal, and economic challenges the French face. I can not help but point out that that the previous poster does not seem be aware of how the French education system operates. Not only is the "bac" a notoriously difficult barrier to higher education for youth educated in poorer neighbourhoods but what we Americans would consider freedom of religion is not allowed in the schools (under Loi n∞ 2004-228 du 15 mars 2004 encadrant, en application du principe de laÔcitÈ, le port de signes ou de tenues manifestant une appartenance religieuse dans les Ècoles, collËges et lycÈes publics.). It is not suprising that problems would arise given a situation such as this. Nor are these problems neccarily new. The work of French socilogiest Pierre Bourdieu clearly documents some of the social and economic problems with the French education system (this is not to say that are not clear parrellels to educational systems in countries such as the United States as scholars such as Michael Apple and others have pointed out).


"The overall French unemployment rate is now almost 9 per cent- compared to about 5 per cent in the US"

It's worth noting that this isn't an accurate comparison in any useful sense because unemployment is calculated differently in each country. In the US for example you are no longer officially unemployed if you haven't had a job for six months.




hyperlocal citizen journalism

this is the first time i tried a simurl. hope it works.


ambition is not an absolutely great thing.

it may be neither necessary or sufficient- not sure

it does provide playwrights with interesting material.


David does have a point that we may not be able to draw any conclusions from this riot by comparing it to others. Riots are such a rare occurance that sample sizes are an obvious problem. The main reason however, is that interactoins between the huge numbers of individuals that create a society create a chaotic system. It's extremely difficult to forcast what kinds of policies might lead to this kind of result. Besides, the riots will stop, people will move on, and, in the ned, we'll only be out a few cars.


Do people who are anti-immigrant bear a little responsibility for the riots because they have made it at least a little harder for immigrants to fit into society?


It's funny to read what americans think about the present social situation in Europe, in their arrogant way of speaking.
Curious the comparison between the riots in France, with riots in the 60's of black american people... In "the past" americans "used to" segregate black people. And nowadays? And with the latins, mexicans, cubans, etc...
Wouldn't be more interesting to write about the future riots that may ocure in USA, result of the poor life conditions that the new imigrants are facing? Or are you all convinced that they are all happy with their "particular" american lifestyle...? Try to lower the minimum wage there, it may prove to be very useful...

Regards, Euro


Is it possible for U.S. elites to engage in anti-competitive, collusive behaivior? Do you think this upsets young people and eliminates opportunities?


Your input on the above would be appreciated. I could easily be wrong.

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