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.

Discrimination is a prominent and critically important matter in American life, with significant and harmful effects on health and well-being.

The largest poll of its kind conducted to date,  “Discrimination in America” focuses on personal experiences with discrimination across more than a dozen areas of daily life.

Developed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio (NPR), the findings reveal widespread experiences of discrimination across many groups in America, and the significantly different manifestations and experiences of discrimination across different groups.

Researchers interviewed 3,453 people, including African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Whites, and LGBTQ adults, as well as men and women. People were asked whether they believe they have ever personally experienced various forms of both institutional and individual discrimination.

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.

Discrimination in America: About the Survey

Discrimination has been widely shown to have significant, harmful effects on health and well-being. The results of the "Discrimination in America" survey show major variation in reports of personal experience with discrimination because of race, gender, or LGBTQ identity, and can be viewed as the scientific backing for anecdotes related to discrimination that surround us across a range of areas in 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 survey reports were released covering each group’s experiences, in conjunction with coverage from NPR. A final report compared all groups surveyed collectively.  

Overall, the reports portray a complex experience of discrimination across different areas of life and different groups in America. They demonstrate that, rather than isolated incidents, these experiences reflect a larger, systemic pattern of discrimination in America, with significant implications for the health of both individual Americans and the nation as a whole.

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