Race, Law, and Inequality, 50 Years After the Civil Rights Era

Source: Frank W. Munger and Carroll Seron, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 13, October 2017
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Over the last several decades, law and social science scholars have documented persistent racial inequality in the United States. This review focuses on mechanisms to explain this persistent pattern. We begin with policy making, a mechanism fundamental to all the others. We then examine one particularly important policy, the carceral state, which can be described as the most important policy response to the civil rights era. A significant body of scholarship on employment discrimination presents a site for explaining the transformation of law on the books into the law in action. Finally, we review scholarship on the persistence of segregation and concentrated neighborhood disadvantage and their attendant impact on racial inequality. We conclude with two themes that deserve special emphasis: the need for theory drawing these fields together and our need, above all at this moment in our history, for public scholarship changing the discourse, politics, and law perpetuating racial inequality.