The Sociology of Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in Employment, Housing, Credit, and Consumer Markets

Annu Rev Sociol. 2008 Jan 1;34:181-209. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131740.


Persistent racial inequality in employment, housing, and a wide range of other social domains has renewed interest in the possible role of discrimination. And yet, unlike in the pre-civil rights era, when racial prejudice and discrimination were overt and widespread, today discrimination is less readily identifiable, posing problems for social scientific conceptualization and measurement. This article reviews the relevant literature on discrimination, with an emphasis on racial discrimination in employment, housing, credit markets, and consumer interactions. We begin by defining discrimination and discussing relevant methods of measurement. We then provide an overview of major findings from studies of discrimination in each of the four domains; and, finally, we turn to a discussion of the individual, organizational, and structural mechanisms that may underlie contemporary forms of discrimination. This discussion seeks to orient readers to some of the key debates in the study of discrimination and to provide a roadmap for those interested in building upon this long and important line of research.