Business

Sellers of color: This Craigslist experiment reveals America's latent racism

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Racism persists in the shadows. While many of us won’t admit to favoring white people, researchers who study “implicit bias” find that racial prejudice still persists through people who unwittingly favor some races over others.

For instance, job applicants with white names get 50 percent more callbacks from employers than those with black-sounding names–even though both applications have the exact same resume.

Now, a novel experimental study on Craigslist finds that racism bleeds into everyday transactions. In a fake sale of an Apple iPod, craigslist ads with a picture of a black person’s hand holding the product received 17 percent fewer offers. And, for those that do get offers, “they are 17 percent less likely to include their name in e-mails, 44 percent less likely to accept delivery by mail, and 56 percent more likely to express concern about making a long-distance payment.”

People with a tattoo had similar levels of discrimination leveled at them as those with non-white hands.

The researchers also perform test a number of novel hypotheses to see why people are less likely to buy from sellers they think are black.

“We do find that black sellers have the worst outcomes in high-crime areas: They receive 21 percent fewer offers and $12 lower best offers than white sellers, compared with 2 percent fewer offers and $4 lower best offers in low-crime (thin, Western) markets,” conclude the researchers.

Interestingly enough, in markets that are more competitive (with more consumer choice), the researchers find that there is less racism. They surmise “that discrimination can be competed away.”

Read the full (non-paywalled) report here.


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