Glossary

audit study
A type of field experiment in which trained individuals called auditors pretend to apply for a service or enter a marketplace to test for discrimination. To do this they pretend to have matching characteristics, except for the one being tested. Audit studies can also be done without trained auditors by using fictitious applications submitted online or via the mail.
categorical inequality
Inequality between particular social groups (identified, for instance, by a category such as race, nation, caste, gender or religion). Also known as: group inequality.
civil liberties
Those rights and freedoms a government’s constitution and legal system have promised to protect. In the United States, these include such things as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial, and equal protection under the law.
collateral
An asset that a borrower pledges to a lender as a security for a loan. If the borrower is not able to make the loan payments as promised, the lender becomes the owner of the asset.
discrimination
The practice of treating people differently based on their membership, or perceived membership, in a group, such as race, class, gender, religion, or national origin.
disparate impact
Occurs when policies, practices, or other institutions that appear to be broadly neutral nonetheless have a disproportionate impact on a group or groups, specifically groups that have historically been oppressed, marginalized, or heavily discriminated against.
equilibrium
A model outcome that is self-perpetuating. In this case, something of interest does not change unless an outside or external force is introduced that alters the model’s description of the situation.
freedmen
A once-enslaved person (of either gender) who is now free, that is, no longer enslaved.
institutional racism
Also known as: structural racism.
intergenerational inequality
The extent to which differences in parental generations are passed on to the next generation, as measured by the intergenerational elasticity or the intergenerational correlation.
political inequality
Restrictions on access of some groups to voting, political office, fair legal proceedings and other violations of the democratic idea of political equality whereby all citizens have an equal voice in decisions affecting everyone.
positive feedback (process)
A process whereby some initial change sets in motion a process that magnifies the initial change.
procedural judgements of fairness
An evaluation of an outcome based on how the allocation came about, and not on the characteristics of the outcome itself, (for example, how unequal it is). See also: substantive judgements of fairness.
redlining
The practice of denying housing loans, or only offering unduly expensive loans, for houses in certain neighborhoods, regardless of how creditworthy the borrowers are.
spatial mismatch hypothesis
The hypothesis that minorities living in segregated neighborhoods—especially in urban areas—experience poor labor market outcomes not simply due to labor market discrimination, but also because they are physically distant from good job opportunities.
structural racism
A societal structure (laws, public policies, social norms, common beliefs) that have the effect of disadvantaging a particular racial group (also termed institutional racism). Also known as: institutional racism.
substantive judgements of fairness
Judgements based on the characteristics of the allocation itself, not how it was determined. See also: procedural judgements of fairness.
targeted policy
A policy aimed at some specific group or groups.
universal policy
A policy which applies equally to all citizens, regardless of their demographic characteristics.
vigilante violence
Violence inflicted on others by private individuals who claim to be enforcing local social norms or laws, thereby taking law enforcement into private hands.