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Examples of discrimination in society today

What is discrimination?

Everywhere we look, we see differences in wealth, power, and status. Some groups have higher status and greater privilege than others. This inequality in the system is what we call social stratification. In this unequal social system, there is often unfair treatment directed against certain individuals or social groups. This is referred to as discrimination. Discrimination can be based on many different characteristics—age, gender, weight, ethnicity, religion, or even politics. For example, prejudice and discrimination based on race is called racism. Oftentimes, gender prejudice or discrimination is referred to as sexism. Discrimination is often the outcome of prejudice—a pre-formed negative judgment or attitude. Prejudice leads people to view certain individuals or groups as inferior.

Discrimination in the workplace

Let’s first look at where discrimination can occur. An example we notice in everyday life is salary differences! There are often obvious salary differences among across genders and race groups. In the workplace, there is sometimes wage discrimination. An example of gender wage discrimination is when an employer pays a woman less than a man for the same work. Take a look at this table here:
Table showing Full-Time Wage Inequalities, by Gender and Race. Median annual earnings of black men and women, Hispanic men and women, and white women as a percentage of white men’s median annual earnings
Full-Time Wage Inequalities, by Gender and Race (Median annual earnings of black men and women, Hispanic men and women, and white women as a percentage of white men’s median annual earnings)
We can see that wage inequalities occur prominently along race and gender lines. We can also see that men earn more than women on average, and Whites earn more than Blacks and Hispanics regardless of gender. Over time, it seems like both the gender and ethnic wage gaps are gradually narrowing. Increases in education levels or improved social policies could all contribute to a decrease in salary inequalities.
But you may ask, what about inequalities across different types of jobs? Does gender or race affect whether a person gets paid more even with the same job? Let’s look at wage differences by occupation:
Median Weekly Earnings for Male and Female Workers, by Race and Ethnicity for Broad Occupational Groups (Full-Time Workers Only), 2013
Median Weekly Earnings for Male and Female Workers, by Race and Ethnicity for Broad Occupational Groups (Full-Time Workers Only), 2013
Normally, jobs with higher occupational prestige or status pay more. These types of jobs are often viewed as those that require higher skills and qualifications or higher-level jobs. We can see from the above table that women’s average incomes are lower than men’s in nearly all job categories. However, the gender gap is further strengthened by an ethnic salary gap. The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2013 was $453 per week. Hispanic women fall below that line in several occupational categories! You can also see that more Hispanic women are in “low status” or low-earning jobs, while almost 50% of White women have “high status” occupations.
What about when someone tries to look for a job? Would we see discrimination in the job market? A researcher sent pairs of college men to apply for 350 entry-level jobs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One team was African American, and one was White. The teams had identical resumes, except for one difference—on each team, one of the men said that they had served 18 months in jail for drug possession. Guess what the results were? Not surprisingly, men without a prison record were 2 to 3 times more likely to receive a callback from the job. However, there was also a significant racial difference—white men with a prison record were more likely to be offered a job than African American men who had a clean record! Because of this research study, the Congress was asked to fund a $300 million program to provide mentoring and other support to help former prisoners to get jobs.

Minority groups and marginalization

Certain groups in society are less powerful than others. Sociologists refer to those who do the discriminating as the dominant group. This dominant group is the group with the most power, greatest privilege, and highest social status. This does not mean that the dominant group is the majority group in terms of numbers. A small dominant group can still hold power over the majority. On the other hand, minority groups are people who are singled out for unequal treatment and who see themselves as objects of collective discrimination. These minority groups are often marginalized. This means they are confined to an unimportant or powerless position within a society. Marginalized groups are socially excluded, disadvantaged, and often at the fringe of society.

Fighting back!

Many social groups are marginalized, but it does not mean that they stay at the edge of society. These groups and individuals are constantly fighting for their rights, for the power to make positive changes for their groups. There are many examples of minority movements and stories of success.
For example, the gender equality movement has recently had a lot of success! In recent years, there has been a movement to include third gender categories. Third gender is defined as a gender category for those who do not identify with either male or female gender categories. Many countries now recognize a third gender on their census, including India and Nepal! This is a sign of the recognition of citizens’ choice of gender identity. Third gender or neutral bathrooms are also now available in many university campuses around the US.
Did you know that Facebook now includes up to 50 gender options? The terms cisgender or cissexual (often abbreviated as cis), describe gender identity perceptions, where a person’s experiences of their own gender agree with the sex they were assigned at birth. This is a new definition of gender which incorporates elements of gender identity. In short, cisgender refers to individual who have a match between the gender they were assigned with at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity. For example, cis male refers to ‘male assigned male’ at birth, and cis female refers to ‘female assigned female at birth’. You can see the different categories in the table below! Since it is a social media platform, it can offer nuanced gender identification categories. In a census survey however, it would be difficult to achieve the same.
List of all the different types of third gender categories
Including third genders in census surveys is very important. Did you know that currently we don’t know the true size of the transgender population? When someone is a member of a marginalized group, they are often overlooked, and oftentimes, that also means they are at risk of being underserved. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey shows that 71 percent of 6,450 respondents said that they hid their gender or gender transition to avoid discrimination. Research also showed that homeless transgender people were sleeping on benches because homeless shelters were separated by female and male genders. Because of this, transgender people may not be included in city evaluations of who needs shelter assistance. This also affects how health, medical, and other social services can be provided for marginalized groups.

Want to join the conversation?

  • hopper jumping style avatar for user Eric
    When did the Milwaukee study happen? The one where they sent white and black men with and without prison records to apply for jobs.
    (5 votes)
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    • area 52 purple style avatar for user Seb Clairmont
      It looks like it was done in 2003 - you can find the reference when you click on "[Licensing and attribution]" at the bottom of the article for future reference.

      The article in question is: "Pager, D. (2003). “The Mark of a Criminal Record”, American Journal of Sociology 108(5): 937-975"
      (1 vote)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Nicholas Marshall
    In the picture in "Fighting back!" demonstrating the many gender options there seems to be a lot. Is there a comprehensive list anywhere of what some of these (e.g. Female to Male, Androgyne, etc.) actually mean.
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user warb0946
    In the first paragraph it says discrimination is "unfair treatment directed against certain individuals or social groups". Is this implying that you can discriminate against a certain person (regardless of social groups)? Or that discrimination can occur against individuals in a certain social group?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Harrison
    So despite genders being determined by chromosomes, you can choose your gender? If your race is also determined by genetics, can you just choose your race as well? Why don't we all just "choose" to be white and get higher wages according to this table? a serious question....
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Kilbride Amelia
      To answer your question Harrison,
      sex is determined by chromosomes. gender however is your identity, gender is not a choice. it is a harmful and toxic misunderstanding. say you are a cis woman, meaning your assigned sex was female and your gender identity happens to match that, if you were to have your body disappear you would still know you were a woman even if your body doesn't match that. Does that make sense? basically, gender is not a choice but I can see how you came to that conclusion.
      (0 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Parth Setia
    What are some examples of Prejudice in society today, and, how do they impact people?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user mujahid omar
    I'm using this website for research purposes and I can't find the author for citing. what should I do?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user khog.nida4949
    is there any articles that talks about prochoice discrimination?
    (1 vote)
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  • hopper cool style avatar for user Jason
    What is an explanation of discrimination based on religion? And an example.
    (1 vote)
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  • duskpin seedling style avatar for user A°Bean
    I'm doing an essay about this book called To Kill A Mockingbird, We had to choose a theme that had to relate with the book and to what people have to face to this day, I chose Discrimination, Does this Article relate to this topic?
    (0 votes)
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  • duskpin seed style avatar for user Natalie Stembridge
    So I am doing an essay on black women's rights. Does article pertain to this topic?
    (0 votes)
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