Richard Rothstein

Richard Rothstein is a Research Associate of the Economic Policy Institute, a Senior Fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law, a Contributing Editor of The American Prospect, and an occasional contributor. His previous work on racial segregation and public education is posted here, and his most recent Prospect print story, "The Making of Ferguson," can be read here. Readers may correspond with him about his writing at

Recent Articles

The Parent Panacea

Gloria Molina has been Los Angeles County's First District Supervisor since 1991, when courts ordered the creation of a protected Latino seat on the County Board of Supervisors. Akin to the mayoralty of the nation's biggest Mexican-American "city," the post has given the former congresswoman a chance to promote her view--widely shared across the country--that greater parent involvement is the key to boosting the academic performance of disadvantaged children. She's tried dramatic measures, like having the district attorney threaten parents with jail time when children are habitually truant. But last year, Molina explored gentler approaches, having her staff look for examples of successful parent involvement programs that she might introduce to the schools in her community. To her surprise, the landscape was already cluttered with such programs. At the 800-student Murchison Street Elementary School in Molina's own East L.A. district, her staff...

The Starbucks Solution: Can Voluntary Codes Raise Global Living Standards

Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and Levi Strauss say they will do the right thing all over the world. That's better than if they made no commitment, but it may not be much.

S oon after protesters leafleted Starbucks stores because its Guatemalan coffee bean pickers earn less than that country's $2.50 daily minimum wage, Starbucks announced it would henceforth require growers to pay wages meeting "basic needs" of plantation workers. After NBC's Dateline filmed children working for Wal-Mart's Bangladesh garment suppliers, Wal-Mart adopted a contractor's "code of conduct." Following an expose that Levi Strauss contractors in Saipan had virtually enslaved imported Chinese women and paid them less than the legal minimum wage, the company vowed to do future business only with contractors whose workers are "fairly compensated . . . and not exploited in any way." A "toycott" of imported Chinese products provoked Toys "R" Us to adopt a code forswearing child labor. Reebok and Nike both now have codes for Third World workers, announced in response to Dutch and American protests (a recent Nation article noted that Nike paid Michael Jordan more for promotion in 1992...

Seismic Stimulus: The California Quake's Creative Destruction

The earth literally had to move to jolt Congress into passing a stiumulus package -- and to lift California out of recession.

In April 1993, Congress rejected President Clinton's proposal for $16 billion of economic stimulus and public investment. Opponents attacked it as pork barrel politics, tax-and-spend liberalism, and a budget-buster. Yet a year later, the same Congress easily passed a series of Clinton proposals to increase the fiscal deficit by spending $9.5 billion on emergency assistance and public works for Southern California. The difference, of course, was the Los Angeles earthquake, an event that revealed a great deal about the nation's ideological fault lines. The disaster that rocked Southern California in January was the costliest in U.S. history. Sixty-one people died. More than 9,000 were injured. The quake destroyed more than $15 billion of property, including 21,000 housing units. It devastated highways in the nation's most auto-dependent region. The federal government provided disaster relief for Southern California, duplicating and expanding actions it took after the Midwest, South...

The Global Hiring Hall: Why We Need Worldwide Labor Standards

Years ago we decided to banish child labor within our borders. Will such standards now be extended to the global economy -- or abandoned entirely?

Global labor standards may now become a mainstream public issue. NAFTA represents the first time a major trade agreement secures labor rights, albeit minimally. President Clinton may attend the 75th anniversary meeting of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva this June—a meeting that will consider endorsing the right of industrialized nations to bar imports from nations with little "social progress." Clinton and Jacques Delors, president of the European Union, have suggested that labor and social standards could be the subject of the next round of trade negotiations. In a world of widespread poverty, high unemployment and integrated markets, global labor standards are necessary to keep the poverty of poor nations from depressing the decent living standards of rich ones. When Third World workers' purchasing power lags their output, they can't afford to consume the fruits of their own production or to buy many exports from the industrial nations. As a result, the...

Are Black Diplomas Worth Less?

Relative to whites, minorities have made impressive gains in education attainment. Why are they still falling behind economically?

T he passage of Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), has signaled to many the beginning of the end for affirmative action [see Peter Schrag's " When Preferences Disappear "]. Evidence from California shows, however, that while the gap between white and minority educational achievement has narrowed, the gap between white and minority wages has continued to increase. This evidence strongly suggests that, contrary to the claims of many CCRI supporters, California's labor markets have not outgrown the need for interventions to correct bias, intentional or otherwise. Even conservative economists acknowledge that affirmative action was responsible in the late 1960s and 1970s for raising blacks' wages and bringing them more in line with the qualifications of black workers. But whether minority (especially black) wages are still less than what their qualifications warrant is a more difficult question than it appears. Educational attainment (measured by years of...