Study: Most People (Minorities Included) Rarely or Never Face Discrimination

Probably the most famous song from Broadway’s Avenue Q was, Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, where puppets sing about how everyone has tendencies towards racism in one way or another. If this is the case, you’d think that most people would suffer from discrimination in one way or another, but a new study suggests that it isn’t universal. Don’t make a mistake--we still have a long way to go, but this study suggests discrimination isn’t inevitable.

Professor Brian B. Boutwell, a professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice led a study that surveyed 14,000 Americans about their personal experiences with racism.

The study asked the following question,”In your day to day life, how often do you feel you have been treated with less respect or courtesy than other people?” and respondents could answer Never, Sometimes, or Often. When respondents answered Sometimes or Often, researchers followed up with, this question: “What do you think was the main reason for these experiences?” The respondents could choose from one of the following reasons: 1) race/ancestry/skin color; 2) gender; 3) age; 4) religion; 5) height or weight; 6) sexual orientation; 7) education or income; 8) physical disability; and 9) other.

To keep reading and find out the results, click here: Study: Most People (Minorities Included) Rarely or Never Face Discrimination

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16 thoughts on “Study: Most People (Minorities Included) Rarely or Never Face Discrimination

  1. Good post on an important topic. Despite what we keep hearing on the news and otherwise, discrimination is not rampant in this country. Yes, there are still issues, but the mainstream populous is not out to get minorities.
    I think we need to recognize that.
    A major problem now is that because there is a large segment opposed to illegal immigration, it is assumed it is racially motivated. Most Americans want people to come this this country and become “Americans”, using the legal methods to do so.

    1. …discrimination is not rampant in this country.

      I disagree. Every person of color I’ve ever known has experienced it. Maybe not every day, but it does happen and they grow up KNOWING it will happen.

      You should read the latest issue of the Atlantic. There is an excellent article about how we got to the way things are now. IMO, this administration forced us to confront it, and that’s why you’re seeing so much news about it.

      We’re just scratching the surface on American racism. Also sadly, the legal path to citizenship is not as easy as people think.

  2. I’m glad you included the caveat about the limitations of the study. Based on how the survey question was worded (“day-to-day life”), I would have answered that I don’t experience discrimination. However, I was terminated from a position because I made a harassment complaint based on my protected class. Even if someone has been legitimately discriminated against, it does not follow that they also experience constant, overt discrimination every day.

  3. The results of this study are at odds with many others out there, raising questions about its validity. Also, although gender was listed as a possible basis of discrimination, there was no breakdown as to women’s responses. According to other well-regarded studies, most women experience gender discrimination.

    1. This is such a good point.

      As others have commented, this article is flawed in so, so many ways. There are endless instances of micro-aggressions that minorities and women experience that are subconsciously based on race/gender, but not something you can point to and say “Hey, look, this happened because of my race!” This article fails to take those in account.

      I’m disappointed that EHRL would post such an article without really scrutinizing its validity.

  4. I constantly read articles about how women in IT are treated terribly, but I haven’t experienced it and I network with many other women in tech who also haven’t experienced discrimination. (every once in a while I run into a jerk, but they are jerks to everyone not just women)
    I believe there are some major employers that have issues and those stories make the headlines so much that there is a perception that discrimination is embedded in every IT department. At least with women in tech, I believe we are moving forward and it is just the holdout/boys-club companies that refuse to change.

  5. I wonder how much of this is because people don’t know they’re being treated differently? I spent a few years in the public school system and it became clear that parents with kids in Title I schools received faaaaaaar fewer resources and less support than parents with kids in rich schools… but they didn’t complain, because they didn’t have any idea what it was like in those other schools.

    Part of the problem with institutional racism is that a lot of it happens *without people realizing it is happening.*

    1. This! People don’t realize where they have an advantage or where others are given a leg up. Most people assume we are all given the same education/opportunities, etc – but we really aren’t. Its not on purpose. We aren’t doing it with racist ideology, but it is based on institutional methods that keep it going. We need to look for places where we need to step up; I have worked in kitchens, IT, call centers, admin staff and management – and I can tell you that while I wouldn’t have said then that it was harassment or bad, I can tell you that if someone talks to/around my daughter like I experienced, someone will meet a very angry mother. Looking nice, being friendly, and taking care of people is not the tax I pay for being a woman. Always being “different” from the rest of everyone of your color, being expected to speak in a grammatically different way than the elders in your community and learning to dress in a way that mimics “wealth” is NOT the tax you should have to pay for being a POC.

  6. There are serious limitations to this study that aren’t mentioned here. For instance, the researcher did not survey 14000 Americans as is suggested, rather, they used a portion of a data set from another researched, specifically the 4th interview in a series of in home interviews of 19-25 year olds that they initially recruited in middle/high school. So many of the respondents are likely either in college or newly graduated. Also, they purposefully oversampled certain groups for the initial study, including twins and “black families with educated parents”, for example. I don’t think this represents a sample of Americans adequately enough to warrant the headline that “Most People Rarely or Never Experience Discrimination”.

  7. I read numerous articles everyday about various workplace and social topics. But from reading briefly through this so-called survey and I will dig deeper, it amazes me that over 9,000 of those surveyed were in the majority and the rest (4,931) were minorities. This gives me my first cause for pause. Then when you look at the EEOC charge stats over the years, it doesn’t appear that the number of charges have decreased. There were 91,503 charges filed in 2016. Now that doesn’t mean that all the charges were legitimate or were some form of unlawful discrimination, but that gives me my second cause for pause. And why would someone have to experience constant overt discrimination every day? One time in someone’s life could have an everlasting psychological, emotional and physical impact. People in this country are discriminated every day in some form or another and most times, they don’t even know it’s happening. I guess they were not privileged enough to be included in this survey. Like hearing that someone in senior management stated following an employment interview, that a company needs to hire someone younger and more energetic. YES, it is still happening every day and in all walks of life across all races of people, young and old. If it didn’t, we would not have the anti-discrimination laws in place in this country to mandate how people should act and be treated. But unless you are the person involved in the situation how would you even know. I would also like to know in what parts of the country people were surveyed and what their cultural, economic and employment background is. To think that discrimination is not rampant in this country, is naïve in my opinion. Ask the people who have lost a loved one due to egregious bias and if discrimination is not rampant in this country. Have you been to the new African American Museum yet? Real eye-opener and I am a minority. Long way to go?? We are just skimming the surface on this social matter. If we would just treat all humankind with care and respect, we wouldn’t need to have these discussions or studies. My third cause for pause: Why don’t/can’t we?

  8. Such a click-bait title, leading to a very questionable study makes me reassess my confidence in this site & related posts on Inc., etc. EvilHRLady has been on my daily business blog reading list for a looong time, but this leaves me sad & disappointed.

    1. This is my first time on this site and my last, reading an article like this. These types of “surveys” are problematic and dismissive. I’m unsure about the integrity of this site for even posting it. Everyone I know (minorities) including myself faces discrimination in day to day life. For instance when I go to stores and am followed as others are not. I make a pretty good salary and it’s annoying that it is assumed I might steal sheerly because I’m a minority. I despise articles like this because they feed into the “get over it”, “racism is rare” etc. agenda which just ISN’T TRUE. Knowing the millions of limitations and inaccuracies of this article I REALLY question why it was posted.

  9. Asking people if they personally have suffered discrimination is a very suspect way of doing a survey.

    Far too often what people have perceive as racial, gender, or other protected-class bias is really nothing more than class bias. Someone who doesn’t know how to behave outside their own social setting will often believe it is “racist.” When it is their own behavior that is wrong.

    Case in point: several years ago while stopping at a truck stop which had both a sit-down section (you had to wait to be seated) and a carry-out (order at a counter and take it to go) a busload of people came in; they ordered at the counter and then proceeded to take their food into the seating area.

    When they were told they couldn’t do that they claimed “racial discrimination.” In truth, they were politely told that they had ordered carry-out and that the tables were reserved for those who wanted a waitress to wait on them. They just didn’t listen as they were all ready to believe that they were victims. In reality they were misbehaving and not victims at all. In fact, I would argue that they were “stealing” from the wait staff who would lose out on tips from other customers who couldn’t sit there while the “carry-out” customers hogged the tables and didn’t leave any tips.

    Clearly, this group didn’t understand that they were NOT at a fast food restaurant; and they refused to believe anything they were told. To them it was all just “racist!”

    So, no, asking folks if they have been a victim is a very suspect way to conduct a survey.

  10. There are so many problems with the methodology of this study and its reporting in this article, I don’t even know where to begin.

    Let’s start with what the authors say: “What should be avoided is the conclusion that our results suggest that the problem of discrimination in the US is, to any great extent, remedied and in need of no further scrutiny or improvement.”

    Then there’s how the question was asked, which talks about what you’re experiencing right now, not what they’ve experienced over the course of their career. So if someone left a job, voluntarily or involuntarily, because they faced discrimination, to find one where they wouldn’t be discriminated against, they wouldn’t count as a yes in this survey, even if they won a million dollars in a race discrimination lawsuit for the most egregious discrimination you could imagine.

    The study didn’t define what discrimination is, so you have underreporting (since it only refers to what is happening right now, people may be experiencing it but are unaware of it or choosing for now to ignore it) and overreporting (things that are unfair but but don’t meet the legal requirement of what the courts have held to be discriminatory would count). You can’t just assume these things cancel each other out, and both could skew the results considerably.

    Then you report an average like it’s meaningful in the slightest, using the fact that whites don’t typically suffer from race discrimination and therefore report a lot less of it to boost the average numbers. And whites are oversampled relative to groups who more typically experience discrimination to represent their prevalence in the population, so what 9700 white people say outweighs what 2200 black people say when you use an average.

    I’m sure those proficient with interpreting data can tear this one apart, so I’m going to send this to some friends with heavy data chops, but this is just for starters….

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