Discrimination manifests itself in multiple ways that range in form from overt and intentional to subtle and ambiguous, as well as from personal to institutional, whether through statistical discrimination and profiling or organizational processes. Discrimination also operates differently in different domains and may cumulate over time within and across domains. Regardless of which form it takes, discrimination can create barriers to equal treatment and opportunity and can have adverse effects on various outcomes. Clear theories about how discriminatory behavior may occur are important in order to develop models that help identify and measure discrimination’s effects.

Although discrimination is sometimes still practiced openly, it has become increasingly socially undesirable to do so. Consequently, such discrimination as exists today is more likely to take more subtle and complex forms. Subtler forms of discrimination can occur spontaneously and ambiguously and go undetected, particularly at the institutional level. Although legal standards address specific forms of unlawful intentional or statistical discrimination, subtler forms are more difficult to address within the law. Thus, shifts in kinds of discriminatory behavior have implications for the measurement of discrimination. As we discuss in the next chapter, some types of discrimination may be more difficult to identify and may require collecting new and different data and the further development of new methods of analysis.

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