Institutional racism definitely played its role in the 19 & 20th century, is there empirical evidence it still plays an important role today? I like this question to attract a collection of empirical evidence pertaining present day institutional racism. I'm not interested in everyday experience but sound scientific studies. Also I'm not looking for studies which are 20 years and older...

  • 4
    Have you read the wikipedia article yet?
    – Philipp
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:45
  • 1
    Duplicate question?
    – Brian Z
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:48
  • 1
    I have but found it pretty unsatisfying..Has this never been studied instead of looking at in cross section studies?..It seems that the underlying variable is wealth / income Jun 26, 2020 at 12:55
  • 5
    I really wonder if this question shouldn't be closed as too broad. When one does just a minimum of research they find out that people of color are at a disadvantage in almost every aspect of public life in the US, but that the reasons are complex and it requires quite a lot of explanation for every single one of these aspects to refute all the racist arguments that it is "their own fault" people of color have it worse.
    – Philipp
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:57
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? How does one parse the notion of "systemic racism" in the context of poverty? Jun 26, 2020 at 14:54

1 Answer 1


There's a lot of evidence, but the two strongest and irrefutable ones are:

  1. Discrimination in employment. It's been shown in studies that, all else being equal, an applicant with whitish names like "Greg" will receive more callbacks than a blackish name like "Lakisha". https://cos.gatech.edu/facultyres/Diversity_Studies/Bertrand_LakishaJamal.pdf. This naturally has many other implications: do black people also get passed over for promotions? Are they more likely to be laid off? Are they more uncomfortable in a work environment due to being marginalised hence they perform worse? These implications carry over to their student life and the treatment they receive on campus. It should be mentioned that there have been some attempts to discredit above study (by pointing out that if we only consider black surnames rather than first names, then there's no difference ... but one such study uses names like "Ryan Washington" as a proxy for a "black" name, which sounds highly dubious. If I hear the name "Ryan Washington", I am certainly not making the connection that Ryan is an African-American, but if I hear "Lakisha Washington", the connection is immediate.
  2. Unsubstantiated racial profiling. While racial profiling in and of itself (arguably) is a logical method of policing, it must be substantiated with data and community experience. It many cases however, black people are shown to be targeted by police officers. A famous example is the NYC stop-and-frisk program, which targeted black people and latinos at a rate of 90 %, despite them committing crime at a rate of 74 %. That means at least 16 % points of the targeted profiling was unsubstantiated. In fact, 16 % is likely to be an underestimation, because since we know that there is racial profiling going on, that means that the previously mentioned crime rate of 74.4 % is overestimated, since more non-black non-latino people are probably committing crimes and getting away with it. There are many similar studies, e.g. some data indicates that in certain areas, white people commit more drug-related crimes, yet black people suffer more from drug-related arrests. This disparity could also be due to a targeted policing effort against black members of society.

A more abstract case for institutional racism is the everyday experience of black folk. Some may just be playing the victim card, but when nearly all ethnic minorities (of all origins, really) report some degrees of racial injustice or bias in their life, then there's probably some truth to it. Even if 90 % of those questioned are just playing the victim card (unlikely but let's make that assumption)... that means 10 % aren't. That's evidence.

  • @CuriousIndeed Regarding 2, the game-theoretic optimal strategy is to frisk at the rate of the crime rate. That is, first you spot a random car you may or may not want to frisk. There's a 50 % chance in NYC that car consists of a black/latino (actual data). Then you frisk based on their crime rate (74 %). That means that there's a 0.37 chance you frisk a black/latino and 0.13 chance you frisk a nonblack/nonlatino, and 0.5 chance you decide to let the person be. This means that you frisk blacks/latinos at a rate of (0.37)/(0.37 + 0.13) .... = ..... you guessed it: 74 %. Their crime rate.
    – Sad
    Jun 28, 2020 at 13:38
  • From the study: "A similar out-going message is recorded on each of the voicemailboxes but each message is recorded bysomeone of the appropriate race and gender." So you can then verify language skills by listening to a 10s audio? Jun 28, 2020 at 15:12
  • There is a difference between evidence (as by the callback study) and reported experience. Otherwise why would we conduct scientific studies? Jun 28, 2020 at 15:20
  • 2
    "These implications carry over to their student life and the treatment they receive on campus. " Have you ever heard of affirmative action? Jun 30, 2020 at 16:05
  • 3
    "After controlling for grades, test scores, family background (legacy status), and athletic status (whether or not the student was a recruited athlete), Espenshade and Radford found that whites were three times, Hispanics six times, and blacks more than 15 times as likely to be accepted at a US university as Asian Americans." Jun 30, 2020 at 16:05

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .