One reason it is difficult to assess discrimination is that changes have occurred in the nature of prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behaviors.With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws that prohibit discrimination because of race in a variety of domains, overt discrimination is less often apparent.Such racial disparities persist despite the many legal and social changes that have improved opportunities for minority racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
The panel develops a cross-disciplinary research and data collection agenda for action by public and private funding agencies and the research community.
The report makes no attempt to actually measure current or past levels of discrimination in any domain.
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Most people would agree that equal opportunity to participate as a full and functioning member of society is important.
Examples of studies using methods that persuasively measure the presence or absence of discrimination are rare, and appropriate data for measurement are often unobtainable.
As a result, there is little scholarly consensus about the extent and frequency of discrimination and how it relates to continuing disadvantages along racial and ethnic lines (Fix and Turner, 1998).
Although researchers in specific disciplines have investigated discrimination in particular domains, there has been little effort to coordinate and expand such research in ways that could help to better understand and measure various kinds of racial and ethnic discrimination across domains and groups and over time.
To address this problem, the Committee on National Statistics convened a panel of scholars in 2001 to consider the definition of racial discrimination, assess current methodologies for measuring it, identify new approaches, and make recommendations about the best broad methodological approaches.
The purpose of this report is not to promote a single “right” way to measure discrimination.
In some situations, one approach may be more easily implemented and more credible; in other situations, another approach may be more appropriate.