Although many countries have passed civil rights legislation over the past 50 years, discrimination continues to be a serious problem throughout the world -- even in democratic countries that publicly affirm the ideal of equality. For instance, here are just a few documented examples of discrimination in the United States:
- According to a review of more than 100 studies by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, discrimination contributes to racial disparities in health care and higher death rates among minorities from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and H.I.V. infection (Smedley, Stith, & Nelson, 2002).
- Hispanics and Blacks spend an average of over $3,000 more than Whites to locate and buy the same house (Yinger, 1995), often receive harsher criminal sentences than Whites for the same offense (Mauer, 1999), and are generally less likely to be hired than comparable White job applicants (Turner, Fix, & Struyk, 1991).
- Women earn an average of $.76 for every male dollar (Bowler, 1999) and face employment discrimination of such magnitude that recent settlements have run into the hundreds of millions of dollars (Molotsky, 2000; Truell, 1997).
- A U.S. Justice Department study found that handicap-access provisions for disabled people were violated in 98% of the housing developments investigated (Belluck, 1997).
Despite the prevalence of discrimination, however, one of the greatest barriers to its removal is, strangely enough, the difficulty people have detecting it at the individual level. Why should this be? First, individuals cannot serve as their own control group and test whether they would have received better treatment as a member of more privileged groups (Fiske, 1998). Second, discrimination is easier to detect with aggregated evidence than single cases, because single cases are easy to explain away (Crosby, 1984). Third, individuals may deny discrimination to avoid feeling that they are being mistreated by others or that they do not have control over their situation (Ruggerio & Taylor, 1997; Taylor, Wright, Moghaddam, & Lalonde, 1990). As a result of these and other reasons, women and minorities are more likely to perceive discrimination against their group than against themselves personally (Crosby, 1984; Taylor, Wright, & Porter, 1994).
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