Statistics of Inequality and Discrimination

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2022-06-21 18:30:09

Many social questions about inequality, injustice and unfairness are, in part, questions about evidence, data, and statistics. This class lays out the statistical methods which let us answer questions like Does this employer discriminate against members of that group?, Is this standardized test biased against that group?, Is this decision-making algorithm biased, and what does that even mean? and Did this policy which was supposed to reduce this inequality actually help? We will also look at inequality within groups, and at different ideas about how to explain inequalities between and within groups. The class will interweave discussion of concrete social issues with the relevant statistical concepts. Pre-requisites 36-202 ("Methods for Statistics and Data Science") (and so also 36-200, "Reasoning with Data") Learning Objectives (accreditation bureaucrats look here) By the end of the course, students will be be able to calculate, adjust, and communicate standard statistical measures of inequality within and between groups, and discuss their relation to social concepts of discrimination and disparity. More specifically, students will learn to Calculate standard measures of within-group inequality, such as the Gini index, apply them to data sets, and interpret the results Recognize, describe and estimate heavy-tailed distributions of income, wealth, etc., and articulate how heavy tails relate to levels of inequality Calculate standard measures of between-group inequality, apply them to data sets, calculate the statistical significance and uncertainty of these measures, and interpret the results Adjust measures of between-group inequality for differences in the characteristics of various groups (using regression or other, related techniques), and explain the pros and cons of doing so Relate statistical measures of between-group inequality to legal concepts of "disparate treatment", "disparate impact" and discrimination Calculate standard measures of intergenerational mobility, and explain their implications for the persistence of inequality Calculate and interpret standard measures of spatial segregation; Calculate, distinguish and apply widely-used concepts of "fairness" and "bias" for decision-making algorithms and for mental tests; Assess studies of social programs against commonly-accepted standards of experimental and observational study design Understand models of social dynamics in which categorical inequalities form and/or perpetuate themselves, even in the absence of prejudice, and distinguish situations where these models do apply from those where they do not Course Mechanics Lectures No Recordings No textbooks, lots of readings Assignments Exercises Homework Time Expectations Grading Grade changes and regrading Canvas, Gradescope and Piazza Office Hours Collaboration, Cheating and Plagiarism Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Inclusion and Respectful Participation Lectures Lectures will be used to amplify the readings, provide examples and demos, and answer questions and generally discuss the material. You will usually find the readings more rewarding if you do the readings before lecture, rather than after (or during).

No Recordings: I will not be recording lectures. This is because the value of class meetings lies precisely in your chance to ask questions, discuss, and generally interact. (Otherwise, you could just read a book.) Recordings interfere with this in two ways: They tempt you to skip class and/or to zone out and/or try to multi-task during it. (Nobody, not even you, is really any good at multi-tasking.) Even if you do watch the recording later, you will not learn as much from it as if you had attended in the first place. People are understandably reluctant to participate when they know they're being recorded. (It's only too easy to manipulate recordings to make anyone seem dumb and/or obnoxious.) Maybe this doesn't bother you; it doesn't bother me, much, because I'm protected by academic freedom and by tenure, but a good proportion of your classmates won't participate if they're being recorded, and that diminishes the value of the class for everyone.

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