Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point comes under fire
New Yorker writer and popular thinker Malcolm Gladwell savaged Anderson and his new economics of digital abundance as totally baseless. Now it's Gladwell's turn to take the hit -- from a more academically rigorous critic, no less.
A post on the blog VoxEU by New York University economic professor William Esterly calls into question the key theories behind Gladwell's mega-bestseller The Tipping Point (one of the best selling business books of all time). Gladwell's research was based on the work of another economist, the Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling. Schelling studied situations in U.S. neighborhoods and theorized that integrated neighborhoods were less stable.
As minorities began to move into white neighborhoods, Schelling believed, racist whites would leave. At first, the most racist whites would leave. But that would change the ratio of the neighborhood enough to encourage slightly less racists to leave until the equilibrium of the neighborhood had moved so dramatically that whites were no longer willing to live in the neighborhood. That change in equilibrium is what Schelling believed to be the tipping point.
Esterly went back and revisited actual neighborhood data from U.S. census collections and actually found the opposite to be true, in a working paper for the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research. The key quote: