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The Persistence of Stereotypes

The Knowledge We Need About Race and Racism

In addition to facilitating intergroup dialogues, colleges and universities can also improve the knowledge Americans have about our nation's racial legacies and about the impact of race in America today. Research has shown that Americans know shockingly little about race in America and that their attitudes are still influenced by many negative ethnic images. Profound disparities also exist in attitudes toward a variety of important equity issues across a variety of racial and ethnic groups. According to research compiled by the staff of the President's Initiative on Race, despite much progress, discrimination against minority groups continues today to limit and reduce their opportunities and choices. There is clear evidence of active forms of discrimination in employment, housing, credit markets, and public accommodations.


A 1990 Urban Institute study of employment discrimination found that when racially mixed pairs of individuals applied for the same jobs, one in eight times the white was offered the job and his or her equally qualified African American partner was not. This report also found that Latino/as were more likely to experience unfavorable treatment at the application and interview stages than were African Americans. The author of a more recent synthesis of evidence also concluded that, despite great progress, employment discrimination is clearly still a significant problem.


Studies of discrimination in housing markets reveal that African American or Latino/a testers experience some form of differential treatment roughly half of the time. Even the most conservative measures reveal that at least 25 percent of the time there will be discrimination in many important types of behavior by rental or real estate agents. Based on a 1989 national housing audit, 5 to 10 percent of the time African Americans and Latino/as are excluded from, or simply not told about, units that are made available to whites. A General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago revealed that in 1994, 32 percent of Americans still believed that homeowners should have the right to refuse to sell their homes to African Americans. This number was, however, down from 65 percent in 1975.

Public Accommodations and Treatment in the Marketplace

A 1997 Gallup Poll found that African Americans report high levels of discrimination when they are shopping in stores. Thirty percent of African Americans report an incident of unfair treatment within the last 30 days. Twenty-one percent report unfair treatment in restaurants, bars, or theaters. Another research study in which testers were used found that African American males were likely to be charged $1,000 more to purchase an automobile than their comparable white partners.

Misperceptions About
The Face of America

What is the current demographic breakdown by Racial/Ethnic group in America?

In a 1995 survey, on average,
  • White Americans estimated that America is 23.8% Black, 14.7% Hispanic and 10.8% Asian
  • Black Americans estimated that America is 25.9% Black, 16.3% Hispanic and 12.2% Asian
  • Hispanic Americans estimated that America is 22.7% Black, 20.7% Hispanic and 10.8% Asian
  • Asian Americans estimated that America is 20.5% Black, 14.5% Hispanic and 8.3% Asian
In fact,
  • Americans are 12.1% Black, 11% Hispanic, 3.6% Asian, and 0.7% American Indian.

Sources: Ian Ayres and Peter Siegleman, "Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car," American Economic Review 85 (June, 1995); Marc Bendick, "Research Evidence on Racial/Ethnic Discrimination and Affirmative Action in Employment" (May 4, 1995). Testimony for the California State Legislature, Assembly Committee on the Judiciary; Department of Housing and Urban Development, "The Housing Market Practices Survey (1977); Department of Housing and Urban Development, "Housing Discrimination Study (1989); Gallup Poll Social Audit, "Black/White Relations in the United States: 1997" (June, 1997); Susan Mitchell, The Official Guide to American Attitudes (New Strategist Publications, Inc., 1996); Richard Morin, "A Distorted Image of Minorities" (The Washington Post, October 8, 1995: A1/25); Margery Turner, M. Fix and R. Struyk, Opportunities Denied, Opportunities Diminished: Racial Discrimination in Hiring. (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Report 91-9, 1991); John Yinger, Closed Doors, Opportunities Lost: The Continuing Costs of Housing Discrimination (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1995).

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