From legal doctrine to social transformation? Comparing U.S. voting rights, equal employment opportunity, and fair housing legislation

Nicholas Pedriana, Robin Stryker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

In 1964–68, the U.S. Congress enacted comprehensive legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment (1964 Civil Rights Act), voting (1965 Voting Rights Act), and housing (1968 Fair HousingAct). Ahalfcentury later, most scholars concur that voting rights was by far the most successful, fair housing was a general failure, and Title VII fell somewhere in between. Explanations of civil rights effectiveness in political sociology that emphasize state-internal resources and capacities, policy entrepreneurship, and/or the degree of white resentment cannot explain this specific outcome hierarchy. Pertinent to President Trump’s policies, the authors propose an alternative hypothesis grounded in the sociology of law: the comparative effectiveness of civil rights policies is best explained by the extent to which each policy incorporated a “groupcentered effects” (GCE) statutory and enforcement framework. Focusing on systemic group disadvantage rather than individual harm, discriminatory consequences rather than discriminatory intent, and substantive group results over individual justice, GCE offers an alternative theoretical framework for analyzing comparative civil rights outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-135
Number of pages50
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Volume123
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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