Glenn C. Loury

Loury’s Early Life and Education

Glenn C. Loury (b. 1948) was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois.

Loury began his undergraduate career by attending Southeast Junior College (now Olive-Harvey College) at night while working at a printing plant by day to support his young family.

While at the two-year school, Loury won a scholarship which made it possible for him to pursue a degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Northwestern in 1972.

For his graduate work, Loury attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received his PhD in economics in 1976. He wrote his dissertation, entitled “Essays in the Theory of the Distribution of Income,” under the supervision of the Nobel laureate, Robert M. Solow.

Loury’s Career

After receiving his Ph.D., Loury returned to Northwestern in 1976 as an assistant professor. In 1979, he moved to the University of Michigan, where he attained the rank of full professor in 1980.

Two years later, in 1982, Loury was appointed a full professor of economics with tenure at Harvard University. Feeling that he was not a good fit with Harvard’s economics department, Loury moved to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1984. That same year, Loury raised his public profile considerably through two papers.

The first, entitled “Black Leadership,” was delivered as one of two talks (with Bernard E. Anderson) at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. The second, entitled “A New American Dilemma,” appeared in the widely read New Republic (for details, see “Selected Works by Loury,” below).

In 1987, the administration of President Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) announced Loury’s appointment as assistant to Secretary of Education, William J. Bennett. However, Loury soon asked that his candidacy be withdrawn due to turmoil in his personal life.

Overcoming his personal problems, Loury underwent a religious conversion—returning to his Christian roots—and threw himself into his work, remaking himself into an accomplished technical economist.

In 1991, Loury moved from Harvard to Boston University, where he taught until 2005.

In 1995, Loury published his first book, One by One from the Inside Out, a collection of his essays on topics of general interest spanning a wide spectrum, from political correctness to affirmative action to liberal racism to black anti-Semitism.

In 2005, Loury moved to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he has taught ever since. He is currently the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown.

Loury’s Ideas

While Loury’s most-influential work has undoubtedly been on welfare economics and the economics of race and inequality, he has also published in the fields of microeconomics, industrial organization, natural resource economics, and game theory.

Perhaps Loury’s best-known work has been on affirmative action—an interest that dates to his 1976 doctoral dissertation at MIT. This body of work (including several papers co-authored with Roland G. Fryer, Jr.) examines the effects of affirmative action on such things as reputation, incentive, and efficiency.

Loury’s peer-reviewed academic articles are notable for applying a rigorous, theoretical framework to an emotionally charged and politically divisive topic. They also make important distinctions that are often conflated in the public debate.

For example, Loury distinguishes between “race-neutral” and “race-conscious” forms of affirmative action. Another distinction Loury makes is between preferences in candidate selection versus preferences in access to resources.

In addition to his peer-reviewed academic work, Loury is also widely known as a public intellectual, often publishing essays in literary and political magazines, as well as newspaper op-ed columns. He also runs a podcast called “The Glenn Show” on One of his frequent interlocutors on the show is the linguist John McWhorter.

At the end of the turbulent year of 2021—in the wake of the previous year’s widespread arson and bloodshed attendant upon the Black Lives Matter movement; the condoned vandalism of public monuments and the rewriting of history (the “1619 Project”); and the contentious debate surrounding “critical race theory”—Loury delivered a lecture entitled “The Case for Black Patriotism,” as a keynote address at the second annual National Conservatism Conference.

This lecture was later published in abbreviated form at the beginning of 2022 in the prominent conservative journal of religious and political thought, First Things (see below).

In this courageous and important intervention, Loury acknowledges the many ways in which the legacy of slavery continues to weigh upon the black community in America. However, he makes an impassioned plea to his fellow African Americans to adopt the bourgeois values of mainstream society as its own, and to work hard to better itself through its own efforts.

Loury’s fundamental philosophical thesis is that our common humanity ought to trump our racial and other tribal allegiances. From this perspective, he claims that Western Civilization is the heritage of all of humanity.

As Loury movingly puts it in his talk:

Tolstoy is mine. Dickens is mine. Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein are mine!

Selected Works by Loury

1. Works Authored or Co-authored by Loury

A New American Dilemma,” The New Republic, 14–18, December 31 (1984).

One by One from the Inside Out: Essays and Reviews on Race and Responsibility in America (1995).

The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (2002).

Racial Stigma: Toward a New Paradigm for Discrimination Theory,” American Economic Review, 93: 334337 (2003).

 “The Anatomy of Racial Inequality: A Clarification,” in David Colander, Robert Prasch, and Falguni Sheth, eds., Race, Liberalism and Economics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press; pp. 238255 (2004).

Affirmative Action in Winner-Take-All Markets,” with Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Journal of Economic Inequality, 3: 263–280 (2005).

Affirmative Action and Its Mythology,” with Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19: 147–162 (2005).

“Race, Inequality and Justice in the United States: Some Social-Philosophic Reflections,” in Glenn C. Loury, Tariq Modood, and Steven M. Teles, eds., Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; pp. 255261 (2005).

Relations Before Transactions: A New Paradigm for Racial Discrimination Theory,” Georgia State University Law Review, 23: 585–615 (2007).

An Economic Analysis of Color-Blind Affirmative Action,” with Roland Fryer and Tolga Yuret, Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 24: 319355 (2008).

Race, Incarceration, and American Values, with contributions from Pamela S. Karlan, Loïc Wacquant, and Tommie Shelby (2008).

Crime, Inequality and Social Justice,” Daedalus, 139(3): 17 (2010).

“Stereotypes and Inequality: A ‘Signaling’ Theory of Identity Choice,” with Young-Chul Kim, KDI Journal of Economic Policy, 34(2): 115 (2012).

 “The Superficial Morality of Color-Blindness: Why Equal Opportunity May Not Be Enough,” Eastern Economic Review, 39: 425–438 (2013).

Valuing Diversity,” with Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Journal of Political Economy, 121: 747–774 (2013).

Social Externalities, Overlap and the Poverty Trap,” with Young-Chul Kim, The Journal of Economic Inequality, 12: 535–554 (2014).

“Group Inequality,” with Samuel Bowles and Rajiv Sethi, Journal of the European Economics Association, 12: 129152 (2014).

To Be, or Not to Be: Stereotypes, Identity Choice, and Group Inequality,” with Young-Chul Kim, Journal of Public Economics, 174: 36–52 (2019).

Relations before Transactions: A Personal Plea,” in Danielle Allen and Rohini Somanathan, eds., Difference without Domination: Pursuing Justice in Diverse Democracies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; pp. 171186 (2020).

The Case for Black Patriotism,” First Things, Number 319: 43–48, January (2022).    

2. Book Co-edited by Loury

From Children to Citizens: Vol. 3. Families, Schools, and Delinquency Prevention, with James Q. Wilson (1987).

Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy: Comparing the USA and the UK, with Tariq Modood and Steven M. Teles (2005).