American Sociological Association

An Explanation for the Gender Gap in Perceptions of Discrimination among African Americans: Considering the Role of Gender Bias in Measurement

Studies indicate that African American men report more personal experiences with discrimination than do African American women. According to the subordinate male target hypothesis, this gender difference reflects an underlying reality in which African American men are the primary targets of anti-Black discrimination. From the perspective of intersectionality theory, African American women and men experience racial discrimination differently; and therefore greater reports of discrimination among African American men might be a result of measurement bias that favors the experiences of African American men vis-à-vis African American women. To assess these perspectives, the authors analyze data from the 1995 Detroit Area Study and the 2001–2003 National Survey of American Life. The authors use multiple-group confirmatory factor analytic models with latent means and categorical outcomes to observe the degree to which gender bias in measurement accounts for disparities in perceived discrimination among African American women and men. The results show that gender bias in the measures most often used to assess unfair treatment in social surveys is responsible for the gender gap in certain kinds of perceived discrimination among African Americans. Measures of everyday discrimination are mostly gender balanced, but measurement bias is responsible for a large portion of the gap in perceptions of major life discrimination and the entire gap when major life discrimination is attributed to race. The results highlight the importance of intersectionality theory for assessing discrimination, and the authors argue that revisions in the measurement of perceived discrimination are required to better reflect the experiences of African American women.


Ifatunji, M. A., Harnois, C. E.





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