disparate impact

Jared Diamond, in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, writes about the differing fortunes of Haiti and the Dominican Republic despite the two countries sharing the same island.

“While [...] environmental differences did contribute to the different economic trajectories of the two countries, a larger part of the explanation involved social and political differences, of which there were many that eventually penalized the Haitian economy relative to the Dominican economy. In that sense, the differing development of the two countries were overdetermined: numerous separate factors coincided in tipping the result in the same direction.” (pg 339)

I find that last line very interesting – many things seeming to be totally unrelated all contributing to the same result. I see that often from my role as a City Councillor.

I also find myself thinking about the same idea in reverse. What about single policies or projects that have a range of impacts otherwise unrelated and difficult to anticipate?

Sometimes it’s very challenging to motivate people to make changes when they see the benefits as being very small. The sum of the many small benefits is hard to appreciate when those pieces appear so far apart.



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