Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United States has used the force of nationwide law to prohibit discriminatory treatment in the job and housing markets, in government and educational institutions, and at stores and facilities serving the general public. Many legally proscribed forms of exclusion and ill treatment are directed against people because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, age, and disability status. To this day, efforts continue to extend protections to additional groups, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Core American values of fairness and equality inspire nondiscrimination measures, but there is also an important health rationale. Research has repeatedly confirmed what common sense suggests: when people are subjected to discriminatory acts ranging from subtle putdowns to outright harassment or exclusion from opportunities, their personal wellbeing suffers. Discrimination contributes to health inequalities – and fighting bias can reduce them.
The Harmful Effects of Discrimination
Discrimination typically refers to unfair treatment of people on the basis of social identities defined by race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion. Many Americans report facing discrimination that constrains their livelihood – for example, when they are unfairly fired or denied a job or promotion, when they are denied a bank loan or medical treatment, or when they are discouraged by a teacher from pursing further education. Banned by law, such blatant forms of discrimination also affect victims’ health by depriving them of jobs, medical treatments, and other benefits and opportunities that keep them out of poverty and open doors of opportunity. more...