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Important benefits and burdens are distributed in American society on the basis of predictions about individual behavior. Release from prison, places in schools, jobs, and retail credit are among the benefits distributed to those applicants who are found most likely to succeed. The effort to predict an applicant's behavior can be made in a variety of ways: by professional experts or ordinary laymen, by use of individualized judgment or formulas that assign fixed weights to predetermined characteristics of the applicant. No matter what method is used, it typically generates controversy.
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