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Measuring Racial Discrimination
and other organizational reports, these sources rely on targets of discrimination knowing where and how to report mistreatment and being motivated and able to do so.
In conducting in-depth or qualitative interviews, a researcher engages one or more subjects in an extensive, semistructured conversation, which is often audio recorded (Bonilla-Silva and Forman, 2000; Essed, 1997; Feagin, 1991; Feagin and Sikes, 1994; St. Jean and Feagin, 1998, 1999; Zweigenhaft and Domhoff, 1991). The advantages of such interviews are that they ask individuals about their actual experiences of discrimination and often elicit information that is richly detailed. Essed (1991), for example, claims that using unstructured interviews rather than highly structured ones allowed her to draw out more detailed accounts of people’s experiences. She also notes that participants were able to express intuitive feelings regarding their experiences with prejudice and discrimination that might otherwise be difficult to articulate and to report events in ways that others might consider oversensitive.
In-depth interviews are generally based on small, usually unrepresentative samples that are often biased because participants are of higher status, more articulate, and more politically aware than most of the subject population (see Essed, 1991; Feagin, 1991; Zweigenhaft and Domhoff, 1991). The most frequently used method of selection is the chain referral method, also known as snowball sampling, in which respondents provide leads to other potential interviewees within their social networks. Because social networks tend toward homogeneity, snowball sampling can yield biased samples and findings that are difficult to generalize (Goodman, 1961). Moreover, the accuracy of self-reports may be affected by ways in which respondents react to interviewer probes for reports of discrimination or other behaviors, or if respondents provide vague and poorly detailed accounts (Smith, 2002).
SCALE MEASURES USED IN SURVEYS
As discussed above, although survey-based self-reports have been found to be reliable, accurate, and useful ways of measuring experiences of discrimination, the shift from overt to subtle forms of discrimination has made it more difficult to assess the occurrence of discrimination or to capture people’s beliefs using survey questions. Many observers have noted an ongoing conflict between principle and practice regarding racial prejudice in the American psyche and have theorized the contradiction under a variety of conceptual rubrics (Fiske, 1998): modern racism (McConahay, 1986),