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Neither of the Sexes Demands Equality for All — All the Time, Study Finds

A recent study found that although American women are generally less tolerant of discrimination than men, neither of the sexes is adamant about equality for all, particularly Arab Americans and poorly educated immigrants.

People may reject some forms of discrimination while accepting others, said Edward J. McCaffery, a law professor who co-authored the study by the University of Southern California-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics.

“As a matter of practice, people morally opposed to discriminatory policies based on reviled forms of prejudice do not insist on equal treatment for everyone, in every context,” McCaffery said.

During the study, to be published in the June issue of Political Research Quarterly, more than 3,300 people were surveyed by phone and via the Internet to assess their tolerance of discrimination. They were presented with five scenarios involving Arab American airplane travelers, the morbidly obese, the genetically disadvantaged, poorly educated immigrants and Black motorists. They were asked to respond to a utilitarian statement in favor of discrimination or a statement favoring justice.


The vast majority of respondents chose the equality position. But of the respondents who chose to allow discriminatory practices, 27.7 percent of respondents to the phone interview and 32.3 percent of respondents to the Web survey accepted discrimination against poorly educated immigrants. The second highest percentage of people in both phone interviews and Web surveys said they found discrimination against Arab Americans acceptable (26.4 percent of phone respondents, 17.8 percent of online respondents).

Respondents were least likely to accept discrimination against the genetically disadvantaged with just 6.7 percent of phone respondents and 3.2 percent of online respondents saying they found this type of discrimination acceptable.

Across all categories, men were more likely to accept discrimination than women. Men on the phone were 7.6 percent more likely than women to tolerate discrimination against the obese and 8.9 percent more likely to accept racial profiling of Black motorists.

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