Perceived discriminations and social inequalities: from statistical data to biographical accounts

Project accepted by the ANR (“Blanc” programme 2006), coordinated by A. Frickey

Research on discrimination in social sciences has primarily concentrated on normative based approaches that assess the discrepancies between a group assumed to suffer from discrimination and a reference group. These approaches have limited capacity to explain the interrelations between discrimination and social inequalities. In order to deepen analysis of these interrelations, this project proposes an alternative approach on discrimination, focusing on the individual rather than on his/her membership to a group presumed to be the target of discrimination. Based on the notion of “perceived discrimination”, our research shall focus primarily on individuals’ subjective relation to discriminations as well as their potential cumulativeness.

This project includes three main axes:

1. Perceived discrimination: definition and description

This first axis, methodological, intends to better characterise the notion of perceived discrimination. We draw upon statistical data (the 3 parts of the Generation ’98 survey by Céreq) concerning young individuals who left the educative system in 1998. As the questions were asked at different stages in their professional lives (at 3, 5 and 7 years following their studies), the information, collected from the same individuals, enables observation of the existence or lack of continuity in the feeling of suffering from discrimination along their professional lives. By processing the responses to the question on declared discriminations, the project aims to specify the nature, the causes and the reoccurrence of facts or attitudes that are felt and indicated as discriminatory.

2. Groups and individuals suffering from discrimination and social inequalities: the quantitative approach

The second axis shall focus on the link between perceived discrimination and social inequalities. Its aim is to further develop sociological characterisation of individuals having experienced discrimination in the labour market, by means of accumulated information from the statistical survey. This axis shall also include econometric analytical discussion with the intent to characterise the link between perceived discrimination and professional career.

3. Perceived discrimination and social inequalities: a transversal analysis in a biographical approach

Using biographical interviews (to be conducted) with previously interviewed youth from Generation ’98, we shall re-examine the meaning of the very expression of perceived discrimination, its degree of applicability to other areas of social life, the way this perception was able to form over time and how this relates to other biographical events, and the manner in which it relates to or intersects other forms of perceived discrimination (at school, in access to housing, during leisure activities, etc.). A main objective is to evaluate the degree to which the young individuals demonstrate interiorisation of perceived discrimination as well as potential discrimination, because the anticipation of difficulties and the behaviours of auto-selection are imposed all along their educational, professional and personal paths. With this in mind, we shall compare on the one hand the discourse of young individuals whose profiles in the statistical survey did not alter, whether having declared to have suffered from discrimination on the labour market or the contrary, and on the other hand, the discourse of young individuals whose profiles vary only in the social mark indicated as the source of discrimination (gender, national origin, etc.).