Locked in Inequality: The Persistence of Discrimination

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Michigan Journal of Race and Law

In this Article, the author argues that the practice of charging school fees to attend public school is an example of locked-in discrimination that persists over time, even in the absence of intentional discrimination. Exploring the lock-in model of discrimination in the unique context of South Africa, Roithmayr makes two central points. First, discriminatory practices often become locked into institutional structures because high switching costs-the costs of moving from a discriminatory practice to an inclusive one—make it too difficult for an institution to discontinue discriminating. Even when institutional actors are fully committed to eradicating racial disparity, they may be constrained from doing so by high switching costs. Second, contemporary antidiscrimination law in the U.S. may be particularly ill equipped to deal with locked-in discrimination. U.S. equal protection jurisprudence only prohibits discrimination that can be traced to an individual or group of individuals who intend to discriminate, and does not address locked-in discrimination that persists even after institutional actors no longer intend to discriminate.

discrimination in higher education, race in higher education, faculty representation, institutional structures in higher education