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Economic Opportunities Available for African American Women

The concept of racial and gender inequalities sheds light on the relationship between gender, race, and discrimination in the United States of America. Various people of different ethnic backgrounds have been subjected to different forms of discrimination, usually based on their skin colors. Racial discrimination has led to increased levels of poverty amongst certain communities. Although Native Americans also sometimes face racial discrimination, non-native Americans are the most affected people, especially African Americans.

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Both males and females of African ancestry often face discrimination in different aspects of their lives: ranging from educational opportunities to provision of healthcare services and employment in the labor market. Numerous researches have been conducted to shed more light on various impacts of racial and gender discrimination such as low self-esteem, poor performance of students at schools and employees at the workplace, prolonged depression, increased suicides, reduced personal achievements, and low economic growth and development. Research studies have also been conducted to determine the best possible solutions to solve problems related to these effects of discrimination.

However, no particular research has ever been carried out to expose how racial and gender discrimination has adversely affected economic capabilities of African American women. With this in mind, this research study hypothesizes that race and gender are the major sources of discrimination that had the cruelest effects on economic capabilities of African American women. In the study, sample of 600 women of African origin will be studied and results will be analyzed to arrive at final conclusions.


Discrimination refers to any act of prejudiced treatment against a person based on possession of a certain set of characteristics such as skin color, age, religion, or sex amongst others. Discrimination often takes the form of maltreatment that is disadvantageous to the targeted party. According to Boven (2009) and Bergman, Palmieri, and Ormerod (2010), discrimination may take various forms such as racial discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, and age discrimination. This act of ill-treatment of another person may be direct or indirect. Discrimination often results from social stereotypes about particular races or ethnic groups, for example, most African Americans are believed to be less intelligent as compared to white Americans.

Gender Discrimination

According to Nadin (2009), no law has ever attempted to define precisely the meaning of gender discrimination. However, for the purposes of this research, gender discrimination can be defined as unfair treatment of females in comparison to males. Generally, women have been subjected to gender discrimination more often as compared to men.


Gender refers to social roles and status differences between men and women. These roles are determined by social, cultural, and economic organizations of a society and prevailing religious, moral, and legal norms. According to Feather and Boeckmann (2007), gender, unlike sex, concerns physiological and socio-cultural differences.

Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination refers to an act of maltreating an individual or a group of individuals based on their race. For example, a black African woman may not be warmly welcomed in activities of a local church dominated by white Americans because of her skin color. According to Puhl, Andreyeva, and Brownell (2008), racial discrimination usually includes distinction, restriction, or preference of an individual based on his or her skin color, race, or ethnic origin.

Economic Opportunity

An economic opportunity refers to the act of providing an individual or a disadvantaged person with basic tools such as adequate education, employment, training, and development that aims at helping him or her develop economically, hence gaining economical independence. For example, an employment opportunity would provide an individual with finances required to buy basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Similarly, good education also increases individual’s ability to gain economic power through access to better employment opportunities. Most economists assert that economic capability tends to give individuals an upper edge in the society, for example, economically capable individuals often live high standard lifestyles.

Various research studies on gender differences in labor market outcomes have unadventurously focused on gender specific factors with emphasis on gender differences in qualifications and in labor market discrimination.A new aim of recent research studies by economists studying the labor market has been to determine implications of racial discrimination for victims and other members of that particular race. For example, racial discrimination against blacks is known to reduce possibilities of employment in most multinational organizations. Furthermore, previous research studies have found out that discrimination majorly results from gender differences amongst other factors.

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However, these past research studies have failed to determine various effects of racial and gender discriminations on economic opportunities available to African American women. Therefore, there is a great need to study adverse effects of discrimination on economic opportunities available to African American women. Sellers and Shelton (2008) argue that African American women are more vulnerable to gender discrimination because of social stereotypes, unequal distribution of income, limited access to productive inputs such as credit facilities or loans from financial institutions, command over property, control over earned income as well as other biases that are race-related.

This paper aims to examine what are some of the effects of racial and gender discrimination for African American women and their ability to be involved in income generating activities. The contribution of this investigation will be to explore combined impact of racial and gender discrimination on African American women and their ability to have access to economic opportunities as well as economic choices that these women make. By doing so, I will expand on the traditional analysis of economic opportunities available to women of foreign origin in the United States of America.

Discrimination has been a serious issue within most ethnic communities in the United States of America. At one point in time or another, an individual has been exposed to racial or gender discrimination. In the United States of America, black Americans are believed to be the most affected people. According to Talaska, Fiske, and Chaiken (2008) and Brown and Tylka (2011), the major cause of discrimination are societal stereotypes that people develop towards members of a particular community or ethnic background.In addition to discrimination based on race, it has also been widely documented that women are generally more prone to discrimination than men are.

Most women tend to have higher unemployment rates or get employment on informal jobs. According to Reitz (2010), few women who get employed are also paid lower salaries as compared to their male counterparts. Such discrimination has sparked strong debates on negative effects of racial and gender discrimination against women. In this study, researchers will focus mainly on the effects of racial and gender discrimination on economic capability of African American women.

Almost all research studies conducted on racial discrimination in the United States of America indicate that African Americans are the most affected people. Research studies have been carried out in various fields ranging from education, employment opportunities, access to financial services such as loans and mortgages, and police treatment. Previous studies have shown that African Americans, both males and females, often receive poor treatment from their Native American counterparts.

A research study by renowned economist Berta Esteve Volart concluded that discrimination of women on the labor market has adverse damaging implications on their economic capability (Jager, 2011). The research included an examination of national data on labor market composition from seven states in the United States of America between 2003 and 2009. The research revealed that racial discrimination against African American women has hindered them from employment opportunities, hence reducing their economic development. The notion behind this result is that discrimination of most African American women have forced them to face numerous barriers that have held them back from gaining economic independence. Racial discrimination also leads to insufficient utilization of various talents possessed by African American women, hence hindering their economic development (Alfred, 2007; Utsey, Bolden, & Williams, 2007). At the same time, various social norms and stereotypes make it difficult for women to fully explore their economic opportunities.

Most African American women have also faced racial and gender discrimination in relation to access to educational opportunities. This has resulted in low levels of their education. This further reduces their chances of getting well paying jobs, hence further hindering their economic power. Past research studies have also indicated that women have low or no share in earnings of the family.

According to Gordon (2011), economic cost of racial and gender discrimination against black women in the United States of American is high. He further explains that a 15 percent increase in female-to-male ratio in the labor market will increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita by 2 percent (Gordon, 2011). Generally, African American women in the United States face relatively larger barriers in getting economic opportunities due to gender discrimination.

Statistical data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) for 2008 shows that even in 30 most developed countries of the world, the average percentage of female workers is less than 25 percent (International Labor Organization, 2008). In America, this rate is lower than 18 percent. Moreover, women usually have restricted access to formal labor market. According to Cynthia and Brian (2009), most employers often choose to discriminate women if they come from African background. Though unequal participation by gender in the labor market has been assessed from various angles, its economic implications have not been extensively studied. In particular, this will be the first study of aggregate economic costs of discrimination based on race and gender.

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Donner (2010) also found out that most African American women are not allowed to work outside the house, which makes them even more vulnerable. In addition, black women were also found to carry more burden of household chores. In my opinion, if household work and other related chores were shared equally between men and women, women would be given a better chance to engage in economic activities. Consequently, their economic power would be increased. In addition, husbands often have the power over their wives and act as decision makers of the families. Black women are rarely given equal opportunities to attain education. According to Gondwe (2006), most old traditional roles of men and women have hindered participation and ability of women to engage in more economic activities.

Due to racial and gender discrimination at the workplace, African American women have not been given equal opportunities for career growth and development, thus women have been earning low salaries that inhibit their chances of growing economically.

More recently, economists and social researchers have paid greater attention to the impact of racial discrimination on empowerment of women. There exists adequate evidence to support the notion that racial and gender discrimination have had adverse effects on performance of women as well as their economic capability. However, these studies have not elaborated on economic capability of African American women, who, in my opinion, are more vulnerable than white American women. Given that experiences of a particular gender or race may reflect different contexts in success, there is a need to conduct research that investigates economic capability of African American women.

Previous research studies have generalized discrimination of women in the society. In this way, they left a big gap between economic capabilities of African American and Native American women. Previously, most researchers have assumed that all women, regardless of their racial origin, face similar challenges. However, this is not true. This is because people of different racial origins or ethnic backgrounds often have different circumstances, situations, and characteristics. In my view, most African American women face more challenges than their Native American counterparts. This situation has been fueled by cultural and traditional beliefs of most Africans.

This research study hypothesizes that African American women have fewer economic opportunities than native American women due to increased racial and gender discrimination. Economic opportunities available for African American women is the dependent variable, while racial and gender discrimination is an independent variable.

This research study will study a sample of 600 African American women. Close-ended questionnaires will be administered to determine whether participants were faced with any form of racial or gender discrimination in the past. Participants who have faced racial or gender discrimination before will also be asked to elaborate how such discrimination may have affected their economic capability, for example, employment at a high-paying job. Those who have never faced any direct discrimination based on their race or gender will be asked to give their views, if any, about possible impact of racial and gender discrimination on their access to economic opportunities. In addition to administration of questionnaires, researchers will also interview participants to obtain additional and first-hand information on the research topic.

Participants will be recruited randomly without prior check of their current economic statuses. This will help to ensure that both successful and unsuccessful African American women are included in the study. Moreover, all participants must be women of African American origin.

After recruitment, participants will be divided into groups of 50 people each. Members of each group will then discuss their past experiences in relation to their encounters with racial and gender discrimination. They will also discuss how such encounters have affected or determined their current economic capabilities.

Independent variables: racial and gender discriminations, will be measured using nominal scales, where a participant will be required to state the exact number of times she has been subjected to racial and/or gender discrimination. On the other hand, the dependent variable (economic capability) will be measured using ordinal scales where economic capability will be defined by the net income earned by participant from either formal employment or personal business. Other factors such as ability to attain higher education, investments in real estate and security markets, and general lifestyle will also be used as determinants of economic capability.

Moreover, the following items will constitute part of the measures to be used in questionnaire:

  1. How much influence, do you think, race discrimination has to prevent you from getting a job even if you qualify for it?
  2. How influential, do you think, racial and gender discrimination is in preventing you from achieving your fullest economic capability?
  3. In your opinion, how often have you been denied a chance for employment or access to financial services such as loans and mortgages due to your race and gender?
  4. In your opinion, how often have you been excluded from social activities within your community or organization due to your race and gender?
  5. Compared to other women from other races, are you paid more or less?
  6. Compared to non-African American women, how many opportunities for promotion and employee training and development do you get at your work place?
  7. Do you think that your past experience or encounters with racial and gender discrimination have adversely affected economic opportunities available to you?
  8. How many times have you been denied access to any opportunities (economic or social) based on your race and gender?

Note: all the above items will be closed-ended questions.


This research proposal will find answers to one of the most contentious issues in our society today. Similarly, the study will suggest the most appropriate ways of dealing with economic problems caused by racial and gender discrimination of African American women.

From my part, effective economic empowerment of women entails providing them with equal opportunities as well as addressing various issues such as racial discrimination that may hinder their success. Moreover, supportive policies that focus on empowerment of women, such as equal access to education and employment, should be adopted by relevant authorities and incorporated into our societies.

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