New HUD study shows minorities continue to be shown fewer homes, apartments

A new HUD audit study shows that compared to whites, minorities are given less access to homes and apartments:

Compared with white homebuyers, blacks who inquire about homes listed for sale are made aware of about 17 percent fewer homes and are shown 18 percent fewer ones. Asians are told about 15 percent fewer units and are shown 19 percent fewer properties. Researchers are unsure why Hispanic buyers were treated more equitably than other minority populations.

Among renters, all minority groups found out about fewer choices than did white consumers. Hispanic testers who contacted agents about advertised rental units learned about 12 percent fewer units available and were shown 7 percent fewer than white renters saw. Black renters learned about 11 percent fewer units and saw 4 percent fewer available rentals, while Asians were told about 10 percent fewer available rentals and shown 7 percent fewer units.

In the Chicago area, researchers found that African-American and white renters got equal access to information and showings of apartments, but African-Americans were less likely than white consumers to see at least one home that had no problems.

Blacks also were more likely than whites to be told that a credit check had to be performed and that particular rental units carried fees. They also were quoted higher fees than the ones quoted to white testers. On average, the extra fees quoted to blacks put the first-year cost of securing a rental unit at $350 more than the cost for white renters.

Hispanic testers in Chicago reported that they heard comments about their credit standing more often than the white testers, and the extra payments quoted to them were $131 more than white testers’.

As the HUD Secretary notes, these actions are less obvious than the redlining, blockbusting, and restrictive covenants of the early 1900s but they still lead to similar outcomes. This kind of study with pairs having the same qualifications and traits except for their race/ethnicity has been conducted for several decades with similar results: whites consistently have better access to housing options. Limiting access to housing options like this is illegal but happens regularly both in cities and suburbs. And housing and patterns of residential segregation is related to all sorts of other important life chances including job opportunities, schools, community resources and services, and social networks.

This article fails to mention what can be done about such discriminatory practices. Housing providers and those in real estate can be sued. However, this takes place on a case by case basis and thus it can take a while to crack down on a large number of offenders.

Audit study shows “employers less likely to interview openly gay men for job openings”

Audit studies have been used for decades to show discrimination by race and sex. In these studies, two otherwise equal candidates are separated by one feature, perhaps race, perhaps first name, perhaps gender. Then the researcher looks at the differing response rates from mortgage companies or landlords or businesses. For example, see this notable 2003 study that showed that whites with a criminal record had better job prospects than blacks with no criminal records. This mode of analysis was recently utilized in an article in the latest issue of the American Journal of Sociology to show differing response rates for gay men looking for a job versus those applicants who were not openly gay:

The study, which is the largest of its kind to look at job discrimination against gay men, found that employers in the South and Midwest were much less likely to offer an interview if an applicant’s resume indicates that he is openly gay. Overall, the study found that gay applicants were 40 percent less likely to be granted an interview than their heterosexual counterparts…

For the study, Tilcsik sent two fictitious but realistic resumes to more than 1,700 entry-level, white collar job openings — positions such as managers, business and financial analysts, sales representatives, customer service representatives, and administrative assistants. The two resumes were very similar in terms of the applicant’s qualifications, but one resume for each opening mentioned that the applicant had been part of a gay organization in college.

“I chose an experience in a gay community organization that could not be easily dismissed as irrelevant to a job application,” Tilcsik writes. “Thus, instead of being just a member of a gay or lesbian campus organization, the applicant served as the elected treasurer for several semesters, managing the organization’s financial operations.”

The second resume Tilcsik sent listed experience in the “Progressive and Socialist Alliance” in place of the gay organization. Since employers are likely to associate both groups with left-leaning political views, Tilcsik could separate any “gay penalty” from the effects of political discrimination.

The results showed that applicants without the gay signal had an 11.5 percent chance of being called for an interview. However, gay applicants had only a 7.2 percent chance. That difference amounts to a 40 percent higher chance of the heterosexual applicant getting a call.

Has this methodology not been used before when looking at discrimination against gays? If not, I’m a little surprised.

The methodology of the audit study is interesting: it essentially is an experiment where one detail between the resumes or applications is changed to isolate its effect. In this study, the detail is what college organization the applicant worked for. It was clever to differentiate between these two particular organizations in order to rule out a political effect.

I assume the next step would be to expand this study to more states/locations and to more job categories beyond “entry-level, white collar job openings”? How much would the results differ if the study involved more blue collar jobs or managerial, white collar jobs?

When I’ve told students about audit studies, several have raised issues of deception: aren’t these fake applicants? Yes, but the harm to the companies is minimal outside of some time spent looking at them. (However, from what I have read about how much time hiring people look at the hundreds of job applications they see for these types of positions, looking at one or more applications wouldn’t seem to matter.) I do wonder if hiring people have ever spotted these applications from researchers – or the pool of applications is simply so broad that they see all sorts of interesting things.