Significant Black Economist Series: Glen Cartman Loury


Glenn Cartman Loury was born September 3rd 1948 in Chicago, Illinois. He received his bachelor in mathematics at Northwestern University, followed by his Ph.D in economics which he received from MIT. As well as being an economist, he is a significant public voice for socio-economic issues, a published author, and a professor. He was the first black tenured professor of economics at Harvard University (1982). Currently he is the Merton P. Stoltz professor of social science, and professor of economics at Brown University. Loury has written many interesting and important studies. A couple of his most important pieces include the following. In 1995 he wrote One by One from the Inside Out: Essays and Reviews on Race and Responsibility in America, which was a critical look at deep issues related to race. An important critique Loury raised about society is that we are too quick to place generalized labels on people, like liberal and conservative, as well as the lack of meaningful discourse between opposing viewpoints. The second piece is Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy: Comparing the US and the UK, in 2005. This piece examines the complex concept of social mobility, and how wealth, income, and political and social recognition affect social mobility. Loury compares the structure of social mobility in the US and the UK. He finds a drastic difference between their respective black communities, but similarities from the affect of wealth and income. The bulk of his academic writing focused on the drastic economic conditions of minority and black communities in America. They addressed important socio-economic issues, including lower educational attainment, higher rates of violent crime, low intergenerational mobility and more.


While Glenn Loury’s life has been filled with academic success, he has had his own trials along the way. In 1987 Loury withdrew from consideration for the position of Undersecretary of Education, which would have made him the second highest ranking person of colour in the Regan administration. This was done three days before he received an assault charge, and soon after he received another charge for possession of cocaine. Loury took time away in reclusion to self-reflect and reconsider choices in his life. During this time Loury converted to a born-again Christian, and adopted, as he claimed, a black progressive ideology. He decided to leave Harvard and join Boston University to head the institute on race and social division. He held this role for fourteen years until he left for the role he currently has at Brown University.


Glen Loury’s contributions to the black community have been much greater than his individual accolades. Through his work, he has raised awareness and searched for answers to troubling socio-economic conditions within minority and black communities. Racial inequity is still a real problem in our world, but to be able to address the problem at its roots, we must first identify and understand those roots. If you are interested in understanding the causes of racial inequity from an economic standpoint, we highly recommend Loury’s work. A great place to start is The Anatomy of Racial Inequity. It addresses the perpetuity of black oppression decades after the civil rights movement, and analyzes the roots of these issues, as well as the dire implications they could have on the future.


Written by Kabi Jaishankar, Operations Executive on the Laurier Economics Club


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