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Lesson Ideas

Scientific Research on Discrimination: Student Reading Collection

This collection of adapted research articles provides students with approachable, empirical evidence of scientific research on the complex dimensions of discrimination and racism. Engage students with standards-matched adaptations, introductory video content, comprehension questions, and vocabulary to further your lesson outcomes. Each adapted article also comes with additional suggestions for activities to enhance student understanding and make the class more exciting.

1. How do gender stereotypes impact girls’ interest in science?

Abstract: Has anyone ever said that you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something because of one of your traits? If so, you’ve probably been the victim of a stereotype. A stereotype is a set of shared beliefs based on a trait or the identity of a group. A common stereotype is that women are not as good at or interested in science as men. This can result in fewer women participating in the sciences. We wanted to know if and when these gender stereotypes about science affect children and adolescents. We also wanted to know if stereotypes cause girls to be less interested in and take part less in these fields. To find out, we conducted surveys and laboratory experiments. We found that very young students believed these gender stereotypes. Girls were less interested in participating in computer science and engineering if they believed the stereotypes. So, teachers and schools should try to generate interest in these fields at an early age.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available, as well as an Ask-A-Scientist video interview or podcast episode with the original researcher, Dr. Allison Master.

  • Key terms: discrimination, gender, inequality, psychology
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, line graph
  • Scientific methods: experiment, survey research

2. How does air pollution affect people differently?

Abstract: Bad air quality is a problem all over the world. In the U.S., air quality is often worse in places where people of color live. There are many different sources of air pollution, like fireplaces, factories, cars, and power plants. We wanted to know how much different pollution sources added to inequality. We found out that people of color are exposed to more air pollution from almost every type of pollution source.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available, as well as an Ask-A-Scientist video interview with the original researcher, Dr. Christopher Tessum.

  • Key terms: atmosphere, pollution, inequality, racism
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, pie chart
  • Scientific methods: scientific modeling

3. Why do some women deny gender discrimination?

Abstract: Women face discrimination across the world. They have fewer rights and opportunities (like education) than men, all because of their gender. And the COVID-19 pandemic has made this worse. But despite this, many people (including women) deny that gender discrimination exists. Even people who have experienced it personally! We wanted to find out why this is. We thought that perhaps it’s because denying discrimination makes the world seem fairer. This makes women happier. We carried out three studies, involving 20,000 participants from 23 countries altogether. We tested the hypothesis that denial of gender discrimination is related to better well-being in women. We found this to be true across the United States and worldwide. In fact, in countries where gender discrimination is worse, women were even more likely to deny it! Denial of discrimination helps women to cope, but it makes gender inequality worse.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available, as well as two different Ask-A-Scientist video interviews with the original researcher, Dr. Lexi Suppes.

  • Key terms: discrimination, inequality, psychology
  • Scientific figures: bar graph
  • Scientific methods: representative sampling, survey research

4. Can you help stop online racism?

Abstract: Imagine you read a comment on a school social media site that made a negative statement about your race. How would that make you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Now imagine that nobody stood up to the person that made the comment. Would that make you feel worse? You might think other people agree with them, or you may feel disconnected from the school. Unfortunately, this is how many Black students feel because of the online racism they face today. We wanted to find out more about the impacts of online racism. We also wanted to discover what makes students more likely to stand up to online racism, and if this helps to reduce its negative impact. Our study showed that online racism negatively affects how Black students feel. But when they see White students standing up to the post, they feel better. We found that White students are more likely to stand up to online racism if they understand how it impacts Black students, and if they know what to say.

This article is suitable for middle school and high school students. An audio version is available.

  • Key terms: discrimination, inequality, psychology, racism, social media
  • Scientific figures: bar graph
  • Scientific methods: experiment, observation

5. Do hot neighborhoods affect everyone equally?

Abstract: Have you ever noticed how it can be really hot on the sidewalk, but comfortable and cool under a tree? In a city, where there are lots of buildings and roads, it can get hotter than the countryside. There is a name for this: the urban heat island effect. We wanted to know whether the urban heat island effect affects everyone in cities equally. We looked at data about 175 big cities in the United States. It turns out that people of color have higher exposure to the urban heat island effect than white people in all but six of these cities! Poor people also usually have higher exposure. Climate change is going to make hot days even hotter. We hope that city leaders use our data to help neighborhoods prepare for climate change.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available, as well as Ask-A-Scientist interviews with two of the original researchers: Dr. T.C. Chakraborty and Dr. Glenn Sheriff.

  • Key terms: climate change, discrimination, heat wave, inequality, racism
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, map
  • Scientific methods: observation, risk analysis, survey research

6. What’s the connection between poverty and race in U.S. schools?

Abstract: Have your parents ever told you that you should be glad you can go to school – that kids in some other countries are not so lucky? Well, this is true, but it leaves out the fact that even in the U.S. not all children have the same opportunities in the educational system. Black and Hispanic students are especially likely to go to very poor schools which offer lower-quality education than richer schools. These students often achieve less during their school years than their peers in richer schools, without it being their fault.

This article is suitable for lower high school students.

  • Key terms: discrimination, inequality, racism
  • Scientific figures: bar graph
  • Scientific methods: data reconstruction, scientific modeling

7. How is asthma related to the neighborhood you live in?

Abstract: Do you have asthma? In the US, asthma is more common in communities of color. But why is that? People of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with worse air quality and more poverty. But this is only the start of the answer. Why are those neighborhoods like that? A discriminatory system from 85 years ago labeled Black and Hispanic neighborhoods as worse (“lower grade”) than white neighborhoods. This meant these neighborhoods received less investment (money) than white neighborhoods. We wanted to find out if this grading system from the past might relate to asthma rates in these neighborhoods today. We found that asthma emergencies are more common in those neighborhoods that were once labeled low grade. So was air pollution, the percentage of people living in poverty, and the percentage of people of color. A discriminatory plan from many years ago may be one of the underlying causes of asthma emergencies among people of color today. To fight asthma, we need to uplift all communities, especially those harmed by the low grade label. We also need to ensure that outlawed and outdated policies are not still harming people living in these places.

This article is suitable for high school students.

  • Key terms: discrimination, inequality, racism
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, map, pictograph
  • Scientific methods: case study, policy analysis

8. How does your address affect your chances of being evicted?

Abstract: The idea of losing your home is scary. If a renter struggles to pay their landlord, the landlord may start the legal process of eviction. The renter has the opportunity to present their case in court, but they typically must show up in person and on time. And if they don’t? In some places, the landlord will receive a default judgment. This allows them to move forward with the eviction. We wondered about renters traveling to the courthouse using public transportation. Does their travel time affect their probability of receiving a default judgment? We studied 200,000 eviction cases across fifteen years in Philadelphia, PA. We found that renters with longer travel times to the courthouse are more likely to receive a default judgment in favor of their landlord. But this effect was not present during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because renters could attend their court hearing virtually, via video call. Our findings show that the location and accessibility of a courthouse can affect the outcomes of individual cases.

This article is suitable for high school students. We offer a video version of this research:

  • Key terms: economics, inequality, politics, poverty
  • Scientific figures: line graph, map
  • Scientific methods: policy analysis

Historical note

The U.S. marks June 19, 1865, or “Juneteenth,” as the symbolic end to slavery – a “second independence day” marking the freedom that could then be extended to Black and African Americans following the American Civil War. Yet such cultural change was – and is – contentious. It was not until 2021 that Juneteenth was officially declared a federal holiday, largely credited to the efforts of educator and activist Opal Lee. Cultural and structural legacies of slavery persist even today, more than 150 years later. Marginalized communities defined by skin color, gender, sexuality, or other characteristics still experience differential opportunities and persistent negative impacts on their health attributable to the bias of dominant groups.

That’s Not All!

Check out our full collections of scientific articles on discrimination and racism, and curated collections on poverty and women and girls.

Image from Andrew Mercer

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