Tuesday, 20 May 2008

the cost of human capital

greg clydesdale is afraid people will call him racist because he's prepared a report apparently stating that pasifika migrants are a "drain on the economy". let me say that i haven't read the report, as i can't find a copy on the internet. it's not even mentioned on his massey webpage, so i'll have to rely on what's been reported in the media.

i'll quite happily call the report racist. not because of the statistics he's reported. i'm pretty sure they will be factual. i agree with him that pacific islanders have higher rates of unemployment than other groups, have higher representation in the crime stats, and are probably weaker than other groups when it comes to educational qualifications. but that is about as much as i can agree with.

it's not the data that i have a problem with. it's what he does with it. if, for example, pacific islanders have poor health problems, did dr clydesdale investigate the health system to see if there were any endemic problems that might have contributed? i can think of some interactions with health professionals that some of my friends have had. their concerns have been ignored, and one woman was told to her face "oh, these people are so stupid" by a hospital administrative worker. would you feel like going back to such a place? i wish i had the time to find it, but i'm sure i've read about research showing that you are less likely to be referred to a specialist if you are unfortunate enough to be of the wrong ethnicity.

perhaps dr clydesdale could have looked at their diets, which would be determined by their income levels. those on lower incomes can't afford healthy foods, which in turn leads to health problems.

does dr clydedale look at the types of jobs they're working in, and how that employment is structured? as an example, this experience is really worth a read. could it be that some improvement is needed in work conditions, and that the problem of pasifika migrants is more about poverty than it is about race?

could it be that coloured migrants are kept out of the well-paid jobs because they don't have the networks; because when there is a choice, they are the ones whose CVs get tossed in the bin first? it's very much harder to move yourself up the ladder and move out of poverty when you have fewer opportunities. it's very much harder to achieve when you have few positive role models. it's only in recent times that the contributions of pacific islanders have been valued; that their culture has been celebrated. if you're in a society that treats you like a failure, then guess what? you're likely to be a failure.

i wonder if dr clydesdale's report considers research (again, don't have time to find the links, would appreciate it if anyone has some for me) that shows coloured offenders, particularly maori or pacific islanders, are likely to face harsher penalties for the same crime. they are likely to receive longer sentences, and they are much more likely to go to jail rather than get a non-custodial sentence. that may be part of the reason why they have higher conviction rates, and if it's true, surely we should be looking at improving the justice system.

i'd call dr clydesdale's report racist because he is not interested in improving the lot of pasifika NEW ZEALANDERS. not all of those included in his statistics will be migrants, remember. i wonder if his research looks at the long-term trends on the key indicators. are they going up or going down? if they are improving, do we really have a problem here? i would rather we continued to work on removing poverty and investing in our human capital, rather than bashing particular groups with their apparent failures.

i'd also like to question mr clydesdale's notions of what a valuable contribution is. having looked briefly over one of his papers, he seems to have a narrow and very economic definition of what is valuable. according to his measures, i wonder how he would the productivity and economic impact of cleaners? i'd rate them quite highly. what about fruit-pickers, or taxi drivers that do the graveyard shift?

working as an accountant, i'm accutely aware that what is measured is what is considered important. yet it's usually the things that are measured which are crucial. for example, which company balance sheet measures the strength of it's human resource? what information do they give you regarding training levels, work ethic, loyalty etc of their staff? probably very little, yet anyone in business knows that the most important ingredient for a successful business is a highly committed team of employees.

and so it is when we try to measure the contribution of coloured migrants. there's so much we fail to value, yet these things may be the most important - the colour, the languages, the vibrancy.

mr clydesdale does not appear to have looked into the whole range of issues i've outlined above, and instead decides (or so it appears) that there are no problems with discrimination in nz, that there are no entrenched or institutionalised systems that impact the lives of these people. neither does he choose to consider the many high-achievers in the pasifika community.

he has already slammed people criticising his report as "pc bullies". so instead of engaging in debate, and proving his point through reasoned argument and rebuttal, he resorts to name-calling. it's hardly the level of intellectual debate that he appears to be calling for.

finally, something that may or may not be related. hatred towards immigrants has lead to 22 deaths in south africa. there are reports of people hiding in police stations, fearing for their lives. demonising a group is easy, especially when neither you nor yours have to face the consequences.

UPDATE: richard pamatatau informed us on AEN that dr clydesdale "would grant an interview in return for Radio New Zealand newspromoting his CD Legacy.We were unable to offer him that exchange." the reason i raise this is because it does make one think that this particular report may be just a publicity stunt to improve his out-of-work income. if that is the case, it's pretty abhorrent. also found this BSA complaint quite interesting, and i'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.


Anonymous said...

"could it be that coloured migrants are kept out of the well-paid jobs because they don't have the networks"

You're overlooking the basic point that Asian immigrants outperform white students academically. There then go on to well paid jobs.

Rather than institutional racism, part of the issue is that different population groups faced different environmental pressures and evolved distinct genetic traits. For instance African Americans are more prone too frostbite.

I noted that Asians outperform other groups academically. They also have the highest non-verbal IQ. See William Saletan's Slate article:

"How could genes cause an IQ advantage? The simplest pathway is head size. I thought head measurement had been discredited as Eurocentric pseudoscience. I was wrong. In fact, it's been bolstered by MRI. On average, Asian-American kids have bigger brains than white American kids...According to twin studies, 50 percent to 90 percent of variation in head size and brain volume is genetic. And when it comes to IQ, size matters. The old science of head measurements found a 20 percent correlation of head size with IQ. The new science of MRI finds at least a 40 percent correlation of brain size with IQ. "


Ben R said...

"so instead of engaging in debate, and proving his point through reasoned argument and rebuttal, he resorts to name-calling. it's hardly the level of intellectual debate that he appears to be calling for."

Well, he's provided his report. He's pointed out some data from MED & Ministry of Pacific Affairs & Ministry of Justice.

What has he got in response?

People have responded saying it's "lazy academic cr8p". Hardly engaging in what he has to say are they? How can he rebutt comments like that?

What he's referring to are people who dismiss his comments because they refer to a minority group & accuse him of racism. That's the standard response unfortunately to anything unfavourable about a minority group. Name calling, rather than analysis.

stargazer said...

anonymous, mr saletan's work has been widely criticised by people much smarter than me, and i certainly don't give it much credence.

but let's just for a moment accept what you say is true. say asians are smarter than europeans and they are smarter than africans. does that mean europeans have nothing to contribute, nor africans? perhaps africans are much better at sports or other areas. maybe europeans are stronger in a particular field. i believe that everyone has something to contribute, regardless of race. if we are prepared to treat them as valuable, and treat their contributions as valuable. i'll say it again, if you treat people like failures, they are likely to be failures.

ben, the racism comments result because of the way his discourse is framed - he called pacific islanders a drain on the economy. that's strong and inflammatory language. don't tell me dr clydesdale didn't expect exactly that result when he put the info on his report out into the media. and the story must have started from him, because his report is not publicly available. he knew what he was doing, i strongly suspect he did it purely for the publicity, and it's up to him to show us why his work isn't racist. he's not going to do that by calling everyone else pc bullies.

DeepRed said...

Irrespective of the merits of Dr Clydesdale's report or lack of them, does he really want the endorsement of these people?


DeepRed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"does that mean europeans have nothing to contribute, nor africans?

Of course not. The figures Saletan, who was at pains to point this out, cited are just averages.

The problem is that people tend to stereotype or think in absolutes, so if they see results like that they will treat everyone in the group as having certain characteristics.

I think the point Saletan was trying to make, is that while you need to treat people as individuals and give people an equal chance, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll get equal outcomes. A less controversial example of this is in sport, where different groups tend to excel in different areas. Jon Entine wrote a book about this in the US explaining the taboo about discussing African Americans domination in sports.

"The pool of potential great sprinters (and athletes with fast burst, anaerobic skills) is deepest among athletes of West African descent. Claude Bouchard, geneticist at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, found that such populations have a higher percentage of "energy efficient" fast twitch muscle fibers to complement their naturally more mesomorphic physiques. http://www.jonentine.com/reviews/straw_man_of_race.htm