Research to focus on discrimination through access

East Carolina University sociology professor Dr. Mamadi Corra will study how race affects access to commodities such as jobs and real estate, thanks to a National Science Foundation grant of $191,514.

Corra will study the impact of racial status on gatekeeper-client relationships. He defines gatekeepers as individuals who provide access to information and services for potential customers. Examples of gatekeepers include employment agents, car sales representatives and real estate agents.



“When clients are members of racial and/or ethnic minority groups, employment agents may steer them to lower paid, less desirable jobs,” Corra said.  “Car salespersons may ask for and receive higher prices and real estate agents may show only segregated housing.”

Corra conducted research in 2002 that demonstrates gatekeepers’ fees are determined by the value of access granted to clients. This research will extend that analysis by asking whether a gatekeeper’s fee varies with the racial status of both gatekeeper and client. Specific research questions include: Do African-American gatekeepers gain smaller fees from Caucasian clients? What happens when Caucasians are gatekeepers? Do African-American clients pay higher fees for access? What is the impact of  the race of individuals to whom clients seek access?

Through the results of his study, Corra aims to show how racially grounded status differences affect access to commodities that people value, potentially shedding light on one of the systemic, structural ways in which discrimination persists.

“While the research focuses on the impact of race on gatekeeping, I believe that the results will prove widely applicable across an array of social relations and structures,” Corra said. “The underlying theoretical process outlined is not limited to racial status. It should apply to any gatekeeping setting where any ‘status characteristic’ (identifiable attribute of individuals that carries with it cultural beliefs and/or evaluations of worthiness and competence) becomes salient. Gender, age, beauty and sexual orientation, for example, are all status characteristics, and when they become salient in a gatekeeper-client relationship, effects should be the same as those predicted for racial status.”

The NSF funding will support four graduate research assistants throughout the two-year study, providing research training for those ECU students, which Corra said will advance “ECU’s mission of being a leading regional research institution.”

“I am delighted to receive the award, both for myself and my department, college and ECU,” Corra said.

Corra joined ECU in 2003, after receiving a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. He earned an MBA and B.S. in sociology and business administration from Gardner-Webb University in 1995 and 1993, respectively. He was a 2012 ECU Scholar-Teacher award winner and a nominee for the 2013 ECU African American Awards of Excellence. He has been nominated for ECU’s Department of Sociology Annual Teacher of the Year Award for Lower Division Courses every year since 2004. He received the Thomas Harriott College of Arts and Sciences Research Award in 2007 and was inducted that year into Omicron Delta Kappa, ECU’s National Leadership Honor Society. Corra has authored or co-authored more than two-dozen publications in his field, and he has been a frequent presenter at meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Southern Sociological Society.

For additional information, contact Corra at 252-328-4836 or via email at