How Discrimination and Bias Shapes Outcomes

Publisher: In The Future of Children "How Cultural Factors Shape Economic Outcomes," vol. 30, no. 1
Jun 29, 2020
Ariella Kahn-Lang Spitzer and Kevin Lang

Key Findings:

  • Disparities tend to reinforce each other and are described as a “system of discrimination,” arguing that policies aiming to counter discrimination in one domain must recognize this system or set of interactions.
  • Key points at which change is likely to have a substantial system-wide impact are increasing the stock of affordable housing units in higher-income neighborhoods, reducing exclusionary land-use policies, and making public transportation more accessible.
  • There is strong evidence that high-quality early education has long- term effects, and growing evidence that increasing school spending produces better student outcomes.
  • Research shows that teacher expectations affect student performance.

This article is part of a larger initiative by The Future of Children, which focuses on how cultural factors shape children’s future economic outcomes. Beginning on page 165 of the article series, Mathematica’s Ariella Kahn-Lang Spitzer co-authors a piece with economist Kevin Lang from Boston University. Their article examines how discrimination and bias shape people’s outcomes. Kahn-Lang Spitzer and Lang focus primarily on discrimination by race while acknowledging that discrimination exists along many other dimensions as well, including gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity. They describe evidence of substantial racial disparities in the labor market, education, criminal justice, health, and housing, and they show that in each of these domains, such disparities at least partially reflect discrimination.