About a third of Latinos in America say they've been personally discriminated against when it comes to applying for jobs, being paid equally or considered for promotions — and when trying to rent a room or apartment or buy a house. Slightly more (37 percent) say they've personally experienced racial or ethnic slurs because of their race or ethnicity.
These are some of the key findings NPR is releasing Wednesday from a poll done with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The survey of 3,453 adults looked at a wide range of issues in many groups and included 803 adults identifying as Latino or Hispanic. The poll also surveyed African-Americans, white Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and LGBTQ adults. We are releasing data by each of these groups on a weekly basis.
Overall, Latinos reported substantial and significant discrimination in their day-to-day lives. In addition to those who said they'd been slurred, 33 percent say they've experienced offensive comments or negative assumptions about their race or ethnicity at some point in the past. Nonimmigrant Latinos and Latinos with a college degree are both more likely to report various forms of one-to-one personal discrimination.
When we drilled down into the data, we found that the experience for immigrants and nonimmigrants varied significantly in employment as well, with immigrant Latinos experiencing discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity more than twice as often as nonimmigrant Latinos. There were also divides based on what kind of neighborhood people live in.
The survey was a large, nationally representative sample, conducted from Jan. 26 to Apr. 9. The findings on Latino Americans have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The poll is part of a larger NPR project, "You, Me and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America."
Our poll has its roots in research showing disparities in the health and life expectancies of minorities in America. There is a growing body of research showing that day-to-day exposure to discrimination increases the risk of various diseases, raises the rate of premature birth and may decrease overall life expectancy.
Dr. David Williams, a Harvard professor, put it this way in a recent interview with NPR's Michel Martin:
"The research indicates it is not just the big experiences of discrimination, like being passed over for a job or not getting a promotion that someone felt they might have been entitled to. But the day-to-day little indignities affect health: being treated with less courtesy than others, being treated with less respect than others, receiving poorer service at restaurants or stores. Research finds that persons who score high on those kinds of experiences, if you follow them over time, you see more rapid development of coronary heart disease. Research finds that pregnant women who report high levels of discrimination give birth to babies who are lower in birth weight."
This extends even to doctors' offices, our poll finds. In particular, 25 percent of Latina women told us they had been personally discriminated against when going to a doctor or health clinic.
"A substantial share of Latinos, particularly Latina women, report they have been discriminated against in trying to seek medical care — and when they need it, they often avoid getting it," says Robert J. Blendon, the director of our poll and professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan School. "And that can create major health problems when people are so anxiety-ridden about how they were treated that they don't seek care when they think they actually need it."
Another major factor in people's daily environment is the intersection between their perception of safety and their fear of discrimination. While there have been many reports over the years maintaining that Latinos, in particular, are afraid of calling the police when in need, our poll found wide regional and age variations on this score.
Other reports in the coming days will focus on the relatively low rate of college enrollment and more on the generation gap in the kinds and amount of discrimination experienced by millennials versus people in other age groups.
Our series on discrimination, "You, Me and Them," will continue through December. Last week we presented the results for African-Americans. In coming weeks, we will look at results from white Americans, Native Americans, LGBTQ adults, and Asian-Americans, as well as look at gender discrimination as it affects all races, ethnicities and identities.