Discrimination in America

Experiences and Views on Affects of Discrimination Across Major Population Groups in the United States
A diverse group working on a project.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio (NPR) is rolling out a series of major reports on discrimination in America.

The report series, titled “Discrimination in America,” focuses on personal experiences with discrimination across more than a dozen areas of daily life.  

This series is based on a survey among a nationally representative sample of 3,453 adults ages 18 or older, including African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Whites, LGBTQ adults, men and women.

Overall, the findings portray a complex experience of discrimination across different areas of life and different groups in America. The reports also highlight perceptions of discrimination that occur in local communities.

Key Findings

  • Nearly half (45%) of African Americans experienced racial discrimination when trying to rent an apartment or buy a home.

  • 18% of Asian Americans say they have experienced discrimination when interacting with police. Indian-Americans are much more likely than Chinese-Americans to report unfair police stops or treatment.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 Latinos have avoided medical care due to concern of being discriminated against or treated poorly.

  • 34% of LGBTQ Americans say they that they or a friend have been verbally harassed while using the restroom.

  • 41% of women report being discriminated against in equal pay and promotion opportunities.

About the Survey

Discrimination is a prominent and critically important matter in American life and throughout American history. While many surveys have explored Americans’ beliefs about discrimination, this survey asks people about their own personal experiences with discrimination.

The survey can be seen as the scientific backing for the anecdotes related to discrimination that surround us in everyday life. It reports individuals’ personal experiences with discrimination rather than perceptions of how discrimination affects others, across a range of areas of everyday life including:

  • When interacting with the police
  • When applying for jobs
  • When it comes to being paid equally or considered for promotions
  • When trying to rent a room or apartment or buy a house
  • When going to a doctor or health clinic
  • Whether they have experienced slurs
  • Whether they have experienced negative assumptions or insensitive/offensive comments
  • Whether people have acted afraid of them

Between October and December 2017, separate reports will be released covering each group’s experiences, in conjunction with coverage from NPR. A final report comparing all groups surveyed collectively will be released in December.  

From the Blog

Why Discrimination Is a Health Issue

Social Scientist David Williams provides an overview of the physiological response to health-harming stress and why good educations or higher-paying jobs don't necessarily protect from its effects.

Read the blog post