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What’s in a Name? Yet Another Study Uncovers Ethnic Discrimination in America

In a field experiment described in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, S. Michael Gaddis and Raj Ghoshal sent out responses to 560 “roommate-wanted” advertisements in four cities in different parts of the country: Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, and Houston. These responses were made equivalent in all aspects but in the use of either a name widely recognized as representing a the identity of a white woman or in contrast the use of a name widely recognized as representing the identity of an Arab woman. The white names: Brenda Olson, Heidi Wood, Joan Peterson, and Melany McGrath. The Arab names: Fatima Al-Jabiri, Basimah Hadad, Iman Farooq, and Maryam Qasim.

This figure from the publication of Gaddis and Ghoshal’s results shows how people equivalent in all respects but their names were treated in these four American cities.  The outcome variable is the percentage of the time that the responses to the advertisements resulted in a positive (“you can be my roommate”) or potentially positive (“give me a call and let’s talk about it”) message from the real person who posted the real advertisement:

Gaddis and Ghoshal 2015 audit study results

As you can see, the United States remains a place of discrimination.

I encourage you to read the full research report for yourself.

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