Discrimination in America

illustrationLast fall, Harvard T.H. Chan School of public health released the results of a series of surveys conducted in conjunction with National Public Radio and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Here is a selection of the key findings. Read the full results at hsph.me/discrimination-polls.


57% of black Americans reported discrimination in pay and consideration for promotions.

31% of all women say they have been discriminated against when applying for jobs due to their gender.

Native Americans living in majority Native areas are more than twice as likely (54%) as those living in non-majority Native areas (22%) to say they have faced anti-Native discrimination in hiring, promotion, and compensation.

“Over the course of our series, we are seeing again and again that income is not a shield from discrimination”

—Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who co-directed the surveys.


51% of black Americans say they have personally experienced people using racial slurs against them.

60% of women ages 18 to 29 report that they or a female family member have been sexually harassed.

35% of Asian Americans report personally experiencing people making insensitive or offensive comments or negative assumptions about their race or ethnicity.

David Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University, says that the effects of experiencing discrimination, in both institutional and individual contexts, can accumulate over time and trigger an array of health problems, including elevated blood pressure, heart disease, and even premature aging or mortality, among others. Williams says, “This poll helps us see where we need to take action to address the problem.”

Health care

9% of white Americans making under $25,000 per year say they have avoided medical care out of concern they would be racially discriminated against because of their race, compared to 0% of white Americans making $75,000 or more per year.

22% of black Americans say they have avoided seeking medical care for themselves or a member of their family out of concern they would be discriminated against because they are black.

16% of LGBTQ people report being personally discriminated against when going to a doctor or health clinic because of their identity.

“In addressing the health outcomes of individuals facing racial and ethnic discrimination, it is important to change the nature of the discussion we are having. We are led to believe, on one side, that this is an issue of political correctness, and on the other, that there is only a need to respond to individual instances of micro-aggression. But the long-term impact of these broad patterns of discrimination on health and economic outcomes must be our shared focus.”

—Dean Michelle Williams wrote in an op-ed published in conjunction with the series in The Boston Globe in November.

Interacting with police

30% of LGBTQ people of color say they have avoided calling the police, even when in need, out of concern that they would be discriminated against because of their orientation. Only 5% of white LGBTQ people reported this avoidance.

60% of black Americans say that they or a family member has been unfairly stopped or treated by the police because they are black.

Nonimmigrant Latinos are nearly twice as likely (36%) as immigrant Latinos (19%) to say they or a family member have been unfairly stopped or treated by the police because they are Latino.

Amy Roeder