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Measuring Racial Discrimination
discriminatory effects, in that they disadvantage the targets of such behavior, creating a hostile environment. They also precede and vary with more overtly damaging forms of treatment, such as denial of employment (Dovidio et al., 2002; Fiske, 1998; Talaska et al., 2003). For example, an interviewer’s initial bias on the basis of race will likely be communicated nonverbally to the interviewee by such behaviors as cutting the interview short or sitting so far away from the interviewee as to communicate immediate dislike (Darley and Fazio, 1980; Word et al., 1974). Such nonverbal hostility reliably undermines the performance of otherwise equivalent interviewees. In legal settings, verbal and nonverbal treatment are often presented as evidence of a discriminator’s biased state of mind; they may also constitute unlawful discriminatory behavior when they rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment.
Avoidance entails choosing the comfort of one’s own racial group (the “ingroup” in social psychological terms) over interaction with another racial group (the “outgroup”). In settings of discretionary contact—that is, in which people may choose to associate or not—members of disadvantaged racial groups may be isolated. In social situations, people may self-segregate along racial lines. In work settings, discretionary contact may force out-group members into lower-status occupations (Johnson and Stafford, 1998) or undermine the careers of those excluded from informal networks.
Becker (1971) describes a classic theory about how aversion to interracial contact—referred to as a “taste for discrimination”—can affect wages and labor markets (more complex versions of this model are provided by Black, 1995; Borjas and Bronars, 1989; and Bowlus and Eckstein, 2002). Laboratory experiments have measured avoidance by assessing people’s willingness to volunteer time together with an outgroup individual in a given setting (Talaska et al., 2003). Sociological studies have measured avoidance in discretionary social contact situations by report or observation (Pettigrew, 1998b; Pettigrew and Tropp, 2000). In legal settings, avoidance of casual contact can appear as evidence indicating hostile intent.
Avoidance may appear harmless in any given situation but, when cumulated across situations, can lead to long-term exclusion and segregation. It may be particularly problematic in situations in which social networking matters, such as employment hiring and promotion, educational opportunities, and access to health care. Avoiding another person because of race can be just as damaging as more active and direct abuse.
Segregation occurs when people actively exclude members of a disadvantaged racial group from the allocation of resources and from access to institutions. The most common examples include denial of equal education, housing, employment, and health care on the basis of race. The majority of Americans (about 90 percent in most current surveys; Bobo, 2001) support laws enforcing fair and equal opportunity in these areas. But the remaining