Jens Ludwig: Discrimination in the Age of Algorithms


Monday, September 23, 2019, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Bell Hall–Belfer500

Jens Ludwig, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago.

Jens LudwigThe law forbids discrimination. But the ambiguity of human decision-making often makes it hard for the legal system to know whether anyone has discriminated. To understand how algorithms affect discrimination, we must understand how they affect the detection of discrimination. With the appropriate requirements in place, algorithms create the potential for new forms of transparency and hence opportunities to detect discrimination that are otherwise unavailable. The specificity of algorithms also makes transparent tradeoffs among competing values. This implies algorithms are not only a threat to be regulated; with the right safeguards, they can be a potential positive force for equity.

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About the speaker

Jens Ludwig is the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, codirector of the Education Lab, and codirector of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s working group on the economics of crime.

In the area of urban poverty, Ludwig has participated since 1995 on the evaluation of a HUD-funded randomized residential-mobility experiment known as Moving to Opportunity (MTO), which provides low-income public housing families the opportunity to relocate to private-market housing in less disadvantaged neighborhoods. In the area of education he has written extensively about early childhood interventions, and about the role of social conditions in affecting children’s schooling outcomes. In the area of crime, Ludwig has written extensively about gun-violence prevention.

Through the Crime Lab Ludwig is also involved in partnering with policymakers in Chicago, New York City, and across the country to use tools from social science, behavioral science, and computer science to identify effective (and cost-effective) ways to help prevent crime and violence. This includes studies of various social programs, helping the Chicago Police Department use data to reduce gun violence and strengthen police-community relations, and work underway to use data science to help New York City build and implement a new pretrial risk tool as part of the city’s goal to close Riker’s Island. Crime Lab projects have helped redirect millions of dollars of public-sector resources to evidence-based strategies and have been featured in national news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, PBS News Hour and National Public Radio. In 2014 the Crime Lab was the recipient of a $1 million MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the organizational equivalent of the foundation’s “genius prize.”

His research has been published in leading scientific journals across a range of disciplines including Science, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, American Economic Review, Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Economic Journal, and the American Journal of Sociology. His coauthored article on race, peer norms, and education with Philip Cook was awarded the Vernon Prize for the best article in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. He is also coauthor with Cook of Gun Violence: The Real Costs (Oxford University Press, 2000), coeditor with Cook of Evaluating Gun Policy (Brookings Institution Press, 2003), and coeditor with Cook and Justin McCray of Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Ludwig received his BA in economics from Rutgers College and his MA and PhD in economics from Duke University. In 2006 he was awarded APPAM’s David N. Kershaw Prize for Contributions to Public Policy by Age 40. In 2012 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.

Learn more about Jens Ludwig's work




See also: Fall 2019