Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Epidemiology and Biostatistics


Bauer, Greta R.


The way that people are socially assigned may influence how they are targeted for discrimination. Whether self-identified (SI) or meta-perceived (MP) (i.e. perceptions of how one is classified by others) and visibly expressed (VE) (e.g. clothing) social identity better predict day-to-day discrimination is an important question that has not been addressed in previous research. Identity mismatch based on SI and MP social groups may cause psychological distress, and racial ambiguity may contribute to ethnoracial identity mismatch. This thesis utilized a cross-sectional survey conducted in Canada and the United States to assess how levels of day-to-day discrimination varied based on SI and MP/VE characteristics and explore psychological distress among identity matched and mismatched groups. Day-to-day discrimination better predicted MP/VE characteristics than SI. The degree of accuracy with which discrimination predicted SI, MP, and VE characteristics varied by race/ethnicity. Middle Eastern monoracial respondents reported disproportionately high levels of discrimination and psychological distress.

Summary for Lay Audience

Self-identification with certain social groups or categories (e.g. Black, Muslim) is one of the ways that a person can define and express their identity. In most research on discrimination, self-identity is considered a key factor explaining why individuals are targeted. However, perpetrators of discrimination may not know how their target self-identifies. Thus, perceptions of identity may affect how people are treated in day-to-day life. When collecting data from people potentially targeted for discrimination, we can ask them about their meta-perceived social groups, which reflect their perceptions of how others classify them. Asking about visible expression of their identity, like wearing religious symbols or clothing, may also provide valuable information about how they may be targeted. Sometimes, how a person is perceived does not align with how they self-identify. This can be referred to as “identity mismatch”.

This study used a survey conducted in Canada and the United States to assess how levels of day-to-day discrimination varied based on self-identified versus targetable (i.e. meta-perceived or visibly expressed) characteristics. These characteristics included sexuality, gender, disability, race/ethnicity, and religion. The study also explored whether identity mismatch had mental health implications, and whether being racially ambiguous played a role for mismatched race/ethnicity.

Day-to-day discrimination better predicted targetable characteristics than self-identity, though accuracy was only moderate. The accuracy with which day-to-day discrimination predicted self-identified versus targetable characteristics varied by race/ethnicity. Cisgender, heterosexual respondents who were mismatched (i.e. meta-perceived as a member of a sexual and/or gender minority group) reported higher levels of distress than those who were identity matched. In contrast, respondents with a disability who were matched reported higher distress than those who were mismatched. Jewish-, Muslim-, and Sikh-identified respondents reported higher levels of day-to-day discrimination than other religions. Among Buddhists and white Christians, day-to-day discrimination predicted visible expression of religion more accurately than self-identifying as Buddhist or Christian. Middle Eastern respondents reported disproportionately high levels of day-to-day discrimination and distress compared to other ethnoracial groups. Future research should focus on exploring different measures of targetability and using qualitative research to gain a better understanding of how identity mismatch operates in specific groups.