This essay provides an overview of the central theoretical law and economics insights and empirical findings concerning antidiscrimination law across a variety of contexts including discrimination in labor markets, housing markets, consumer purchases, and policing. The different models of discrimination based on animus, statistical discrimination, and cartel exploitation are analyzed for both race and sex discrimination. I explore the theoretical arguments for prohibiting private discriminatory conduct in light of the tensions that exist between concerns for liberty and equality. I also discuss the complexities in empirically establishing the existence of discrimination and highlight the critical point that one cannot automatically attribute observed disparities in various economic or social outcomes to discrimination. The major empirical findings showing the effectiveness of federal law in the first decade after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act are contrasted with the generally less optimistic findings from more recent antidiscrimination interventions.
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