More Evidence of Ethnic Discrimination in the USA — This time in Elections
Just in case a friend of yours starts wondering aloud why non-Anglos are so whiny about fairness in the United States, you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with a number of field experiments (also known as “audit studies”) that demonstrate systematic discrimination against people on the basis of the social categories we call “race” and “ethnicity.” In these field experiments, researchers send pairs of trained actors out into the world (or send paper messages in the mail, or send electronic messages over the Internet) saying and doing exactly the same thing. The only difference between the two is that one member of the pair has an Anglo, white identity; the other member has a non-Anglo, non-white identity. Again and again and again results show that Anglo, white members of the pair are treated more favorably than non-Anglo, non-white members of the pair.
In a newly published piece of research, Harvard University graduate students Ariel White, Noah Nathan and Julie Faller describe a field experiment that tracks responses to e-mail requests they sent, requesting information from nearly seven thousand local elections officials in 46 U.S. states. These requests, concocted by the researchers, are equivalent except in one respect: the name of the fictional sender. When the name of the person making the request indicated Latino heritage (“Jose Martinez” or “Luis Rodriguez”), fewer elections officials responded than when the name of the person making the request indicated Anglo heritage (“Greg Walsh” or “Jake Mueller”). In addition, when elections officials responded to messages with Latino names, they were less likely to provide accurate information than when they responded to messages with Anglo names.
White, Nathan and Faller’s research can be found in this year’s volume of the American Political Science Review. If your local public library or school doesn’t provide access to the American Political Science Review, the Takeaway provides a good summary of the research in written and audio form.
When that friend of yours uses the word “whiny” again, let them know about this latest piece of evidence that there is something real to complain about.