Friday, April 15, 2011

Disparity and Discrimination Still Occuring In The United States?

This week in class we had the opportunity to touch on the topic of disparity. Disparity occurs when a group of people is either under or over represented among the group of a particular service relative to their numbers in the general population (Rodenborg Handout). We all became aware in class that disparities can happen in many different types of programs including: the criminal justice system, housing access, healthcare, infant mortality, child protection, life expectancy, high school graduation rates, and employment.

The handout that we all received in class included alarming disparities that were occurring in Minnesota. One topic that I found particularly alarming was the disparities regarding employment. It was said that, “The Minneapolis metropolitan area stands out as having the worst relative disparity” (Austin, A. 2010). This area has a black-white unemployment ratio of 3.1 to 1, which means that African Americans are a little more than three times as likely to be unemployed as whites (Austin, A. 2010). Now some people may say that the reason for these disturbing employment statistics is the lack of education of the African American people. However, this theory is false, the ACS data showed that in Minneapolis, African Americans with the exact same educational as whites would still have a much higher unemployment rate (Austin, A. 2010). It is hard to believe that people today are trying to cover up racial disparities by making the excuse that it is due to a person’s lack of education or knowledge. There have been several studies completed that have shown that this indeed is not the case.

I came across a very interesting article that had an example of women experiencing gender disparity. This woman had been fired from Wal-Mart because she was complaining about being discriminated based on her sex. She had discovered that a male employee who had the same job title and less experience was making $10,000 more each year than she was ("Wal-mart v. women," 2011). Her boss defended this disparity by saying that the male worker had a family to support. In my opinion, her boss did not give a justifiable answer when explaining the reason for Wal-Mart's discrimination. Even if she did not have a family to support (which she did, she had a baby on the way) it was not a valid reason for a man to be making $10,000 more when he had the same position and less experience as her. Wal-Mart is a huge company with a lot of power. It would be very difficult for an individual to sue Wal-Mart and come out victorious. So, the plaintiff's in the case have brought up a plan to sue Wal-Mart as a class action. In legal terms, a class action is a civil court procedure where a party or a group of parties may sue as representatives of a larger class ("Definitions: class action," 2009). Class actions allow lawyers to justify the rights of a large group of people where no individual party has enough economic incentive to start a law suit on their own ("Definitions: class action," 2009). Proceeding with a class action would be much fairer rather than dismissing the woman's case and insisting that those other 1.5 million women fend for themselves. So far the case record consists of 120 sworn statements from women who experienced sex discrimination in pay, promotion and also in the work environment ("Wal-mart v. women," 2011). Wal-Mart has a good chance of winning this battle if the court determines that the class isn’t cohesive enough. The court may find that there may be more than one class being represented, which would result in the case being dropped and Wal-Mart would get away with discriminating against employees. This article brings up a very scary question. Are there some companies that are too big to be held accountable of discrimination and disparity?

Austin, A. (2010). Uneven pain-Unemployment by metropolitan area and race. Economic Policy Institute. Issue Brief #278, June 8, 2010.

Definitions: class action. (2009). Retrieved from

Rodenborg, N. (2011). Disparities-A few Minnesota statistics. SWK 280 class handout.

Wal-mart v. women. (2011). The New York Times,

By: Katie


  1. Disparties are something that will always be experiences, unfortunately. I liked how you included Wal-Mart in your post. I like how you questioned if big corporate companies are being held accountable. I would like to think that they are, but with so much control and money, it's very possible to see that the people on the bottom of the heiarchy of power are getting pushed aside. I even feel this way at work sometimes because I'm at the bottom of the food chain. Most people don't want to express their feelings due to fear of being fired. It's hard in this economy to let our voices be heard because employment is so hard to come by. It's much easier to suck up to our bossed versus challenging them due to job security. What a sad thing it is!

    Very nice posting!

    (BTW, this is Natalie Kro)

  2. This blog brings about many emotions surrounding "Disparities" and makes me think of how Disparities even became what they are today? Who created disparity? What is the point of it? I view disparity as a way to bring people down, there doesn't seem to be any positive outcomes from disparity. It causes pain and hardships among cultures, when what we really should be doing is embracing each other. In the face of disparity I simply try to remain unabashed with my identities and march forward. Good blog!

  3. Thanks for the blog!!! it was very interesting!!! This reminds me of the book "nickeled and dimed" its about this lady who tries to survive by working min. wage jobs or doing things like moving into a town with out anything and trying to see if she could make it. From her experience Minneapolis was the hardest city to find a place to live and that the cost of living was the highest!!!
    Thanks for the post it was very interesting!!!

  4. Katie,
    Thanks for the blog! I found it very interesting. I’m glad that you included the part about Minneapolis having the most relative disparity. It makes it relatable for me since I have grown up here my whole life. I agree with Natalie as well about big corporate companies being held accountable. I also found the Wal-Mart story about the women experiencing gender disparity interesting. That is completely degrading that she was getting paid less than the man. THanks again for the post.