Sociology Index


Discrimination is the unequal treatment of a person or group on the basis of their personal characteristics, which may include age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnic identity or physical identity.

Discrimination can be behavior promoting a person or group or against a against a person or group. Discrimination usually refers to negative treatment, but discrimination in favour of particular groups can also occur. Setting a condition or requirement without reasonable justification leads to discrimination. Racial discrimination, like in South Africa in the apartheid era, on the basis of real and perceived racial differences has been official government policy in several countries.

Competitive Threat and Workplace Discrimination - Garcia, Lisette
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. - Abstract: We have learned a great deal about racial variations in labor market opportunity, wage differentials, and other allocative issues, yet we still know a limited amount regarding causal processes and the mechanisms by which stratification is reinforced in our society.

Indeed while history, differences in human capital, and job networking are most assuredly playing a role, they do little to explain gate-keeping and other forms of potentially discriminatory behavior at the workplace level, in particular what drives discrimination. Sociological theory suggests that perhaps the relative concentration of the minority group influences feelings of competition and threat, thereby leading to discriminatory behavior on the part of those trying to protect their position in society. This paper tests the relationship between group size and discrimination. Few studies have been able to directly link discriminatory behavior and the relative size of the minority group due to limitations in available data. Using a multi-level model that combines population data with data drawn from discrimination cases filed in the state of Ohio between 1988-2003, the author tests theories surrounding racial competition and its effects on discrimination. Results indicate that feelings of competition and threat across space due to concentrations of minority populations have consequences for the ways in which discrimination is enacted and by which stratification is maintained in American society.

Investigating the link between competition and discrimination - Sandra E. Black
How competition affects the ability of companies to favor particular groups is a longstanding issue in the economics literature. In a seminal work published in 1957, economist Gary Becker argued that, over the long run, product market competition would drive discrimination out of the marketplace.1 Becker’s model as applied to the labor market can be described in relatively general terms: employers with a "taste for discrimination" will forego profits in order to indulge their desire to employ a specific type of worker. For example, employers with a taste for discrimination against women will employ less than the profit-maximizing number of women. Instead, they will hire a greater number of equally skilled but more highly paid men. Becker goes on to say that where markets are not perfectly competitive, that is, markets in which companies face little product market competition, discriminating employers can exist in the market indefinitely. Given the lack of transparency surrounding the practice of discrimination, it has been difficult to test Becker's theory.

Perceived Discrimination and Depression: Moderating Effects of Coping, Acculturation, and Ethnic Support - Samuel Noh, PhD and Violet Kaspar, PhD - Am J Public Health. 2003 February; 93(2): 232–238
The authors evaluated the effects of cultural norms and social contexts on coping processes involved in dealing with perceived racial discrimination.

We sought to examine how racial/ethnic discrimination may be related to depression by focusing on the ways in which individuals respond to perceived discrimination and how personal coping responses, as well as acculturation and ethnic social support, moderate the impact of perceived racial stigma on depressive symptoms. Stress and coping research provides ample evidence demonstrating that psychological manifestations of social stress are significantly mediated by personal coping behaviors. Health consequences of discrimination also vary according to personal coping responses.
In a sample of Southeast Asian refugees residing in Canada, Noh and his colleagues found that forbearance or emotion-focused coping diminished the strength of the link between discrimination and depression. Such a stress-moderating effect was not found for problem-focused coping or confrontation. It has been shown that, in comparison with White women, Black women more often cope with sex discrimination in a passive manner, suggesting low perceptions of controllability. The analysis of the Detroit Area Study suggested that, among both Blacks and Whites, passive coping appeared to be the most detrimental form of coping. Active, problem-focused coping showed the largest gains, although levels of well-being were still significantly lower among those who adopted active coping than among those who did not experience discrimination.