The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 15, Issue 1–2, pp 47–59 | Cite as

“We are all Different”: Statistical Discrimination and the Right to be Treated as an Individual

  • Kasper Lippert-RasmussenEmail author


There are many objections to statistical discrimination in general and racial profiling in particular. One objection appeals to the idea that people have a right to be treated as individuals. Statistical discrimination violates this right because, presumably, it involves treating people simply on the basis of statistical facts about groups to which they belong while ignoring non-statistical evidence about them. While there is something to this objection—there are objectionable ways of treating others that seem aptly described as failing to treat them as individuals—it needs to be articulated carefully. First, most people accept that many forms of statistical discrimination are morally unproblematic, let alone morally justified all things considered. Second, even treating people on the basis of putative non-statistical evidence relies on generalizations. Once we construe treating someone as an individual in a way that respects this fact, it becomes apparent: (1) that statistical discrimination is compatible with treating people as individuals, and (2) that one may fail to treat people as individuals even without engaging in statistical discrimination. Finally, there are situations involving the expression of messages of inclusion where we think it is good, morally speaking, that we are not treated as individuals.


Generalizations Justice Racial profiling Respect Statistical discrimination Treating as an individual 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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