The Diaspora of Ethnic Economies: Beyond the Pale?

72 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2011

See all articles by Lan Cao

Lan Cao

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Date Written: 2003


To the extent that preferential racial policies are promoted and pursued in the United States, the liberal consensus among supporters dictates that they are to be pursued by the government, within the ambit of the law, whether instituted legislatively, administratively, or judicially, and in furtherance of legitimate legal objectives such as integration, assimilation, and equality. This Article argues that this governmental emphasis has crowded out other forms of “affirmative action” or preferential practices engaged in by members of the disadvantaged groups themselves. The liberal consensus in modern, developed countries assumes, indeed expects, immigrants and/or ethnic minorities to uncluster and disperse in pursuit of individual economic opportunities offered by the mainstream labor market. This article discusses minority preferences in majority economies and majority preferences in minority economies through specific global examples as well as preferential policies practiced by the specific ethnic group itself outside of a formal governmental framework.

This Article critically questions the use of government-mandated preferences for government-designated groups to constrain the entrepreneurial tendencies of certain ethnic groups- either by destroying their ethnic economies (in the name of integration) or by restricting their entrepreneurial activities to achieve a semblance of economic parity. The Article aims to demonstrate the following: (1) There is a wide range of ethnically conscious preferential practices that currently exist in many countries, without government support and hence outside the framework of the law; and (2) these practices, engaged in by private groups, should, for the most part, be allowed to exist within the “pale” twilight of the law.

Keywords: affirmative action, racial preferences, international economic development

JEL Classification: Z10, K33, J71

Suggested Citation

Cao, Lan, The Diaspora of Ethnic Economies: Beyond the Pale? (2003). William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 44, pp. 1521-1625, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Lan Cao (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
7146282659 (Phone)


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