Discrimination is a central concern of the Israeli legal system. The right to equality has been enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which guaranteed equality among individuals independently of religion, race or gender. Public institutions have always been barred from discriminating individuals on the basis of irrelevant characteristics. In addition, the Israeli legislature has early on entrenched gender equality and enacted the Women's Equal Rights Law 1951 (later amended in 2000). It also enacted laws that prohibit discrimination in the private sector including, for instance, the Equal Employment Opportunities Law 1988 and the Prohibition in Discrimination in Products, Services, and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law 2000. There are also legal provisions mandating affirmative action in various contexts including, most famously, the requirement for fair representation of women and minorities in public offices. Needless to say, the interpretation of these statutes has occupied Israeli courts and will continue to do so in the future, as it does in other legal systems.
The study of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination has received much attention from social scientists in recent years. Much of the focus has been on economic outcomes in the labor, housing, product, and financial markets. For example, there is a voluminous literature on wage differentials and biases in hiring decisions. However, observed differences in economic outcomes between members of minority and majority groups do not necessarily indicate the presence of discrimination, as in many cases there are unobserved, potentially outcome-relevant, factors that are often hard to control for in the analysis. Correctly identifying instances of discrimination and their sources thus presents a serious challenge to researchers. The Center seeks to fill this void by using field experiments to rigorously study discrimination in Israel, as well as possible remedies - such as affirmative action, financial incentives for employers, tort law remedies (including compensation or injunctions), criminal sanctions for discriminatory behavior and even "shaming."