Why Do Crack Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?

The death rate [in a gang is] 7% per person per year. . . .The death rates on death row from all causes, including execution, 2% a year.  So it’s a lot safer being on death row than it is selling drugs out on the street.

A fellow teacher posted this TED talk on her Facebook page today, and I took a look this morning.  Then later, a sixth-grade student happened to ask me at lunch what TED talk I’d seen recently (because last week I showed them Improv Everywhere).  Wow, what serendipity!

I told him I just watched one this morning called “Why Do Crack Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?” and I explained that it’s debunking the myth that drug dealers make a lot of money.

A second student nodded his head matter-of-factly, and explained to me that there were a bunch of drug dealers living on the corner in his neighborhood, and they all live with an “old lady.”  He wondered aloud what they were going to do – who would support the drug dealers – when the old lady died.  I replied that they’d probably find a girlfriend to move in with, if they lived that long.  It was an opening for conversation for which I am extremely grateful, because, heartbreakingly, I have eighth-grade students who are already claiming to be in gangs.  I praise God for orchestrating this opportunity to discuss the sobering reality of gang life with two young sixth graders over lunch today.

Though this video is sobering, it is also funny at times.  One thing I found entertaining is the contrast between “economist-speak” and the language of the gang members, who often expressed the same idea much more clearly and succinctly.

On compensating differentials:

Economist:  a “compensating differential” is the increment to wages that a worker requires to leave him indifferent between performing two tasks, one which is more unpleasant than the other.

Gang Member:  Would you stand around here when all this shit [shooting] is going on?  No, right?  So if I gonna be asked to put my life on the line, then front me the cash, man.

On game theory:

Economist:  Every two-person game has a Nash equilibrium.

Gang Member:  If we start shooting around there [the other gang’s territory], nobody, and I mean you dig it, nobody gonna step on their turf.  But we gotta be careful, ’cause they can shoot around here too and then we all fucked.”


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