Racial discrimination

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Racial discrimination is any discrimination against individuals on the basis of their skin colour, or racial or ethnic origin.[1][2] Individuals can discriminate by refusing to do business with, socialize with, or share resources with people of a certain group. Governments can discriminate in a de facto fashion or explicitly in law, for example through policies of racial segregation, disparate enforcement of laws, or disproportionate allocation of resources. Some jurisdictions have anti-discrimination laws which prohibit the government or individuals from discriminating based on race (and sometimes other factors) in various circumstances.


According to World Values Survey data, as analyzed by The Washington Post, the least tolerant country worldwide is Jordan.[3] According to this study, racial tolerance is also low in ethnically diverse Asian countries, while Western and Central Europe and the United States are relatively racially tolerant.[3]

More than 30 years of field experiment studies have found significant levels of discrimination against non-whites in labor, housing, and product markets in 10 different countries.[4]

The Netherlands[edit]

A study conducted in the Netherlands and published in 2013 found significant levels of discrimination against job applicants with Arabic-sounding names.[5]



The constitution of Liberia renders non-Blacks ineligible for citizenship.[6]

United States[edit]

With regard to employment, multiple audit studies have found strong evidence of racial discrimination in the United States' labor market, with magnitudes of employers' preferences of white applicants found in these studies ranging from 50% to 240%. Other such studies have found significant evidence of discrimination in car sales, home insurance applications, provision of medical care, and hailing taxis.[7] There is some debate regarding the method used to signal race in these studies.[8][9]


Racial discrimination in the workplace falls into two basic categories:[10]

  • Disparate Treatment: An employer's policies discriminate based upon any immutable racial characteristic, such as skin, eye or hair color, and certain facial features;
  • Disparate Impact: Although an employer may not intend to discriminate based on racial characteristics, its policies nonetheless have an adverse effect based upon race.

Discrimination may occur at any point in the employment process, including pre-employment inquiries, hiring practices, compensation, work assignments and conditions, privileges granted to employees, promotion, employee discipline and termination.[11]

Researchers Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, at the University of Chicago and MIT found in a 2004 study, that there was widespread racial discrimination in the workplace. In their study, candidates perceived as having "white-sounding names" were 50% more likely than those whose names were merely perceived as "sounding black" to receive callbacks for interviews. The researchers view these results as strong evidence of unconscious biases rooted in the United States' long history of discrimination (e.g., Jim Crow laws, etc.)[12]

Devah Pager, a sociologist at Princeton University, sent matched pairs of applicants to apply for jobs in Milwaukee and New York City, finding that black applicants received callbacks or job offers at half the rate of equally qualified whites.[13][14] Another recent audit by UCLA sociologist S. Michael Gaddis examines the job prospects of black and white college graduates from elite private and high quality state higher education institutions. This research finds that blacks who graduate from an elite school such as Harvard have about the same prospect of getting an interview as whites who graduate from a state school such as UMass Amherst.[15]

A 2001 study of workplace evaluation in a large U.S. company showed that black supervisors rate white subordinates lower than average and vice versa.[16]


Multiple experimental audit studies conducted in the United States have found that blacks and Hispanics experience discrimination in about one in five and one in four housing searches, respectively.[7]

A 2014 study also found evidence of racial discrimination in an American rental apartment market.[17]

Effects on health[edit]

Studies have shown an association between reported racial discrimination and adverse physical and mental health outcomes.[18] This evidence has come from multiple countries, including the United States,[19][20][21][22] the United Kingdom,[23] and New Zealand.[24]

Racism in healthcare system[edit]

Racial bias exists in the medical field affecting the way patients are treated and the way they are diagnosed. There are instances where patients’ words are not taken seriously, an example would be the recent case with Serena Williams. After the birth of her daughter via C-section, the tennis player began to feel pain and shortness of breath. It took her several times to convince the nurse they actually took her self-said symptoms seriously. Had she not been persistent and demanded a CT scan, which showed a clot resulting in blood thinning, Williams might have not been alive.[25] This is just one of hundred’s of cases where systemic racism can affect women of color in pregnancy complications.[26]

One of the factors that lead to higher mortality rates amongst black mothers is the poorly conditioned hospitals and lack of standard healthcare facilities.[27] Along with having deliveries done in underdeveloped areas, situation becomes complicated when the pain dealt by patients are not taken seriously by healthcare providers. Pain heard from patients of color are underestimated by doctors compared to pain told by patients who are white[28] leading them to misdiagnose.

Many say that the education level of people affect whether or not they admit to healthcare facilities, leaning to the argument that people of color purposefully avoid hospitals compared to white counterparts[29] however, this is not the case. Even Serena Williams, a well-known athlete, was not taken seriously when she described her pain. It is true that the experiences of patients in hospital settings influence whether or not they return to healthcare facilities. Black people are less likely to admit to hospitals however those that are admitted have longer stays than white people [30]

The longer hospitalization of black patients does not improve care conditions, it makes it worse,[31] especially when treated poorly by faculty. Not a lot of minorities are admitted into hospitals and those that are receive poor conditioned treatment and care. This discrimination results in misdiagnosis and medical mistakes that lead to high death rates.

Although the Medicaid program was passed to ensure African Americans and other minorities received the healthcare treatment they deserved and to limit discrimination in hospital facilities, there still seems to be an underlying cause for the low number of black patients admitted to hospitals, like not receiving the proper dosage of medication.[32] Infant mortality rates and life expectancies of minorities are much lower than that of white people in the United States. Illnesses like cancer and heart diseases are more prevalent in minorities, which is one of the factors for the high mortality rate in the group.[33] however are not treated accordingly.

Although programs like medicaid exists to support minorities, there still seems to be a large number of people who are not insured. This financial drawback discourages people in the group to go to hospitals and doctors offices.[33]

Financial and cultural influences can impact the way patients are treated by their healthcare providers. When doctors have a bias on a patient, it can lead to the formation of stereotypes, impacting the way they view their patient's data and diagnosis, affecting the treatment plan they implement.[33]

Reverse discrimination[edit]

Reverse discrimination is a term for allegations that the member of a dominant or majority group has suffered discrimination for the benefit of a minority or historically disadvantaged group.

United States[edit]

In the United States, courts have upheld race-conscious policies when they are used to promote a diverse work or educational environment.[34][35] Some critics have described those policies as discriminating against white people. In response to arguments that such policies (e.g. affirmative action) constitute discrimination against whites, sociologists note that the purpose of these policies is to level the playing field to counteract discrimination.[36][37]


A 2016 poll found that 38% of US citizens thought that Whites faced a lot of discrimination. Among Democrats, 29% thought there was some discrimination against Whites in the United States, while 49% of Republicans thought the same.[38] Similarly, another poll conducted earlier in the year found that 41% of US citizens believed there was "widespread" discrimination against whites.[39] There is evidence that some people are motivated to believe they are the victims of reverse discrimination because the belief bolsters their self-esteem.[40]


In the United States, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits all racial discrimination based on race.[41] Although some courts have taken the position that a white person must meet a heightened standard of proof to prove a reverse-discrimination claim, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) applies the same standard to all claims of racial discrimination without regard to the victim's race.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dr. Deen Dayal (15 June 2018). Complexion Based Discriminations: Global Insights. Notion Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-1-64324-232-3.
  2. ^ "International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination". United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner. United Nations. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b "A fascinating map of the world's most and least racially tolerant countries". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-16.
  4. ^ Riach, P. A.; Rich, J. (November 2002). "Field Experiments of Discrimination in the Market Place". The Economic Journal. 112 (483): F480–F518. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/1468-0297.00080. Controlled experiments, using matched pairs of bogus transactors, to test for discrimination in the marketplace have been conducted for over 30 years, and have extended across 10 countries. Significant, persistent and pervasive levels of discrimination have been found against non-whites and women in labour, housing and product markets.
  5. ^ Blommaert, L.; Coenders, M.; van Tubergen, F. (19 December 2013). "Discrimination of Arabic-Named Applicants in the Netherlands: An Internet-Based Field Experiment Examining Different Phases in Online Recruitment Procedures". Social Forces. 92 (3): 957–82. doi:10.1093/sf/sot124.
  6. ^ Ludwig, Bernadette (2016-01-15). "A Black Republic: Citizenship and naturalisation requirements in Liberia". Migration Letters. 13 (1): 84–99. doi:10.33182/ml.v13i1.265. ISSN 1741-8992.
  7. ^ a b Pager, Devah; Shepherd, Hana (August 2008). "The Sociology of Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in Employment, Housing, Credit, and Consumer Markets". Annual Review of Sociology. 34 (1): 181–209. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131740. PMC 2915460. PMID 20689680.
  8. ^ Gaddis, S. Michael (2017). "How Black Are Lakisha and Jamal? Racial Perceptions from Names Used in Correspondence Audit Studies". Sociological Science. 4: 469–489. doi:10.15195/v4.a19.
  9. ^ Gaddis, S. Michael (2017). "Racial/Ethnic Perceptions from Hispanic Names: Selecting Names to Test for Discrimination". Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World. 3: 237802311773719. doi:10.1177/2378023117737193.
  10. ^ Larson, Aaron (10 January 2017). "Racial Discrimination Law". ExpertLaw. ExpertLaw.com. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  11. ^ "Facts About Race/Color Discrimination". U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 8 September 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
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  14. ^ "The Mark of a Criminal Record," 2003, American Journal of Sociology, by Devah Pager
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  16. ^ Elvira, Marta; Town, Robert (2001-10-01). "The Effects of Race and Worker Productivity on Performance Evaluations". Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society. 40 (4): 571–590. doi:10.1111/0019-8676.00226. ISSN 1468-232X.
  17. ^ Ewens, Michael; Tomlin, Bryan; Wang, Liang Choon (March 2014). "Statistical Discrimination or Prejudice? A Large Sample Field Experiment". Review of Economics and Statistics. 96 (1): 119–34. CiteSeerX doi:10.1162/REST_a_00365.
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  19. ^ Williams, David R.; Mohammed, Selina A. (22 November 2008). "Discrimination and racial disparities in health: evidence and needed research". Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 32 (1): 20–47. doi:10.1007/s10865-008-9185-0. PMC 2821669. PMID 19030981.
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  21. ^ Sellers, Robert M.; Copeland-Linder, Nikeea; Martin, Pamela P.; Lewis, R. L'Heureux (June 2006). "Racial Identity Matters: The Relationship between Racial Discrimination and Psychological Functioning in African American Adolescents". Journal of Research on Adolescence. 16 (2): 187–216. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2006.00128.x.
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  24. ^ Harris, Ricci; Tobias, Martin; Jeffreys, Mona; Waldegrave, Kiri; Karlsen, Saffron; Nazroo, James (June 2006). "Effects of self-reported racial discrimination and deprivation on Māori health and inequalities in New Zealand: cross-sectional study". The Lancet. 367 (9527): 2005–2009. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68890-9. PMID 16782491.
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  41. ^ a b "Section 15: Race & Color Discrimination". EEOC Compliance Manual. 19 April 2006. Retrieved 16 August 2017.

Further reading[edit]