Category Archives: Discrimination

The Debt Divide: The Racial and Class Bias Behind the “New Normal” of Student Borrowing

Source: Mark Huelsman, Dēmos, May 2015

From the summary:
Today, taking out loans is the primary way individuals pay for college—a major shift in how our nation provides access to higher education. While concerns about the growth in college costs and student debt are nearly universal, much of this concern focuses on how college debt is impacting the economic well-being of college graduates and our overall economy. What has been less understood, or examined, is how this shift to a debt-based system impacts our nation’s historical commitment to ensuring everyone—regardless of race or class—can afford to go to college. We need to understand whether or not the “new normal” of debt-financed college is having an impact on our ability to make good on that fundamental promise.

This report, The Debt Divide, provides a comprehensive look at how the “new normal” of debt-financed college impacts the whole pipeline of decision-making related to college. This includes, whether to attend college at all, what type college to attend and whether to complete a degree, all the way to a host of choices about what to do for a living, and whether to save for retirement or buy a home. In an America where Black and Latino households have just a fraction of the wealth of white households, where communities of color have for decades been shut out of traditional ladders of economic opportunity, a system based entirely on acquiring debt to get ahead may have very different impacts on some communities over others.

Our analysis, using data from three U.S. Department of Education surveys, the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, and existing academic literature, reveals a system that is deeply biased along class and racial lines. Our debt-financed system not only results in higher loan balances for low-income, Black and Latino students, but also results in high numbers of low-income students and students of color dropping out without receiving a credential. In addition, our debt-based system may be fundamentally impacting the post-college lives of those who are forced to take on debt to attend and complete college. Our findings include:
● Black and low-income students borrow more, and more often, to receive a bachelor’s degree, even at public institutions. ….
● Associate’s degree borrowing has spiked particularly among Black students over the past decade. ….
● Students at for-profit institutions face the highest debt burdens. ….
● Black and Latino students are dropping out with debt at higher rates than white students. ….
● Graduates with student loan debt report lower levels of job satisfaction when initially entering the workforce. ….
● Average debt levels are beyond borrowing thresholds that are deemed by research to be “positive.” ….
● While those with a college degree are more likely to save or buy a home, student debt could be acting as a barrier. ….

Affirmative Action in the United States: A Brief Summary of the Law and Social Science

Source: Richard Lempert, University of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 430, December 2014

From the abstract:
This paper, written for a Brazilian sociology journal, seeks to acquaint readers unfamiliar with affirmative action in the United States with its history, law and social science. It discusses the law of affirmative action as it has developed in the government contracting, employment and educational spheres, and reviews social science research addressing affirmative action in the educational sphere. It specifically addresses and shows the flaws in and/or limitations of research that supports the educational mismatch hypothesis, the empirical case for “science mismatch,” and the claim that class-based affirmative action would be as or almost as effective in promoting racial diversity as race-based affirmative action. Work by Richard Sander, Richard Kahlenberg, Doug Williams and Peter Arcidiacono is specifically addressed. The article also argues that the Bakke case distorted the jurisprudence of educational affirmative action and conversations about it in ways that have had lasting, unfortunate effects.

Crazy in Alabama: The Judicial Process and the Last Stand Against Marriage Equality in the Land of George Wallace

Source: Howard M. Wasserman, Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-03,April 20, 2015

From the abstract:
This essay examines the ongoing litigation battle in Alabama over the constitutionality of its ban on same-sex marriage, where one district judge invalidated the state ban and subsequent confusion over the meaning and scope of that injunction has drawn unfortunate and erroneous comparisons to George Wallace and Massive Resistance to integration. In fact, this essay argues, the controversy in Alabama is about judicial procedure and the scope of injunctive relief in constitutional litigation; it reveals how judicial decision making and judicial remedies actually function in a geographically divided and hierarchical federal judiciary. Rhetoric aside, the judicial process in Alabama has functioned largely as it should.

Religion and Employment Antidiscrimination Law: Past, Present, and Post Hosanna-Tabor

Source: Jennifer Ann Drobac, Jill L. Wesley, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Research Paper 2015-24, 2014

From the abstract:
This Article summarizes the history of and recent trends for two aspects of the law regarding the intersection of religion and U.S. employment. Part I surveys laws and case precedent that protect working religious adherents who claim discrimination, harassment, or a failure to accommodate. Adherents now bring most of their claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or equivalent state fair employment practice statutes. However, isolated legislation, some arguably politically as well as religiously motivated, offers additional protections. Recently passed “refusal clauses,” also known as “conscience clauses,” relate to the sale of contraceptives or the provision of pregnancy termination services. They highlight the importance of targeted and specific statutes. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. addresses whether for-profit, private corporations enjoy the same protections afforded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) that religious persons may claim against governmental interference. Part II covers the protections for religious institutions that also operate as employers. The Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC indicates that the legal debate concerning the separation of church and state remains lively — at least where religious employers operate. The future direction of court interpretation of that precedent remains obscure. Some analysts suggest that the Court limited Hosanna-Tabor’s reach, while others contend that its influence may be quite extensive. Finally, this Article concludes by making several observations about the evolution of religion and employment law.

Is the American dream dead?

Source: Adam May, Al Jazeera America, America Tonight, July 22, 2014

A groundbreaking study from Johns Hopkins University shows that for big segments of the population it is. … When Alexander and his team analyzed all the data, they made a bleak discovery. Not only did the poor stay poor, but only 4 percent of urban disadvantaged students graduated a four-year college. The vast majority returned to their poverty-stricken neighborhoods after school. “Kids who grew up in low-income distressed neighborhoods on average had lower levels of completed schooling, lower-status jobs and lower earnings as young adults,” Alexander explained. Of the nearly 800 children originally surveyed, only 33 moved from birth families in the low-income bracket to the high-income bracket as young adults. Middle-class children were more likely to move up. …. Race also played a major role. Forty-five percent of white men from low-income backgrounds ended up with good-paying trade jobs, such as plumbers or factory workers. But only 15 percent of black men found the same. …. On top of that, white workers made twice as much money. Alexander believes a lot of this has to do with social network advantages: family and friend connections that give white men better access to the most lucrative sectors of blue-collar work. He said this subtle but powerful privilege “goes back generations, we’re convinced.” ….

Is the American dream dead?

#BlackWorkersMatter

Source: Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, Linda Burnham, Steven Pitts, Marc Bayard, Algernon Austin, Discount Foundation and the Neighborhood Funders Group, May 2015

From the summary:
…. #BlackWorkersMatter comprises six sections. The first and longest report focuses on black worker organizing, its history, and the challenges it faces, relying heavily on interviews from activists and leaders prominent in the worker organizing field. It is followed by four reports that address various aspects of the black jobs crisis, its causes, its effects, and the potential for black worker organizing to provide a path to its resolution. These reports, while they stand as powerful individual pieces, together offer a comprehensive picture of the status of both black workers and the struggle for economic opportunity for African Americans. The final section of #BlackWorkersMatter is a recommendations section. …..

Protest Campaigns and Movement Success – Desegregating the U.S. South in the Early 1960s

Source: Michael Biggs, Kenneth T. Andrews, American Sociological Review, Published online before print March 9, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Can protest bring about social change? Although scholarship on the consequences of social movements has grown dramatically, our understanding of protest influence is limited; several recent studies have failed to detect any positive effect. We investigate sit-in protest by black college students in the U.S. South in 1960, which targeted segregated lunch counters. An original dataset of 334 cities enables us to assess the effect of protest while considering the factors that generate protest itself—including local movement infrastructure, supportive political environments, and favorable economic conditions. We find that sit-in protest greatly increased the probability of desegregation, as did protest in nearby cities. Over time, desegregation in one city raised the probability of desegregation nearby. In addition, desegregation tended to occur where opposition was weak, political conditions were favorable, and the movement’s constituency had economic leverage.

How Cities’ Funding Woes Are Driving Racial and Economic Injustice—And What We Can Do About It

Source: Brad Lander and Karl Kumodzi, The Nation, April 28, 2015

It doesn’t stop with Ferguson—common underlying problems create conflict and tension across the country… These cities are like Ferguson because of a common underlying problem: All across America, cities and towns are struggling to maintain enough revenue to provide crucial services to residents. The collateral damage of this revenue crisis—over-criminalization, utility shut-offs, the withdrawal of public services, and slashed budgets for schools—is dire. …. In 2008, the Great Recession caused the municipal revenue crisis that had been brewing for decades to explode, spurring significant and rapid declines in general fund revenues for municipalities. In order to deal with the impacts of this dramatic shortfall, cities were forced to cut personnel, cancel capital projects (and their much-needed jobs), and slash funding for education, parks, libraries, sanitation, and more. These cuts hit low-income families the hardest. And they are especially harmful to Black families because African-Americans are 30 percent more likely to be employed by the public sector than other workers. ….

The Whiteness of Wisconsin’s Wages: Racial Geography and the Defeat of Public Sector Labor Unions in Wisconsin

Source: Hannah Walker & Dylan Bennett, New Political Science, Volume 37 Issue 2, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In 2011, the passage of Wisconsin Act 10 eliminated substantive collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin. How did politicians in Wisconsin invoke racial symbolism in the policy contest over public sector collective bargaining rights? To what extent did this policy battle reconstruct racial identities of blackness and whiteness? In this analysis, we leverage a multi-method approach to speak to these questions. We use a historical analysis of race in Milwaukee and current public opinion around support for public sector cuts to frame a discourse analysis of political rhetoric employed by the Walker campaign. We join critical race perspectives to examine how politicians play on existing inequalities as a method of gaining political and electoral legitimacy and achieving a retrenchment of the modern state. Moreover, we build a case supporting the claim that Governor Walker and his allies activated the racial animus of white workers.