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Racial Discrimination in Local Public Services: A Field Experiment in the US

Listed author(s):
  • Corrado Giulietti
  • Mirco Tonin
  • Michael Vlassopoulos

Discrimination in access to public services can act as a major obstacle towards addressing racial inequality. We examine whether racial discrimination exists in access to a wide spectrum of public services in the US. We carry out an email correspondence study in which we pose simple queries to more than 19,000 local public service providers. We find that emails are less likely to receive a response if signed by a black-sounding name compared to a white-sounding name. Given a response rate of 72% for white senders, emails from putatively black senders are almost 4 percentage points less likely to receive an answer. We also find that responses to queries coming from black names are less likely to have a cordial tone. Further tests suggest that the differential in the likelihood of answering is due to animus towards blacks rather than inferring socioeconomic status from race.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2015/wp-cesifo-2015-09/cesifo1_wp5537.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 5537.

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Date of creation: 2015
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5537
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  13. Michael Ewens & Bryan Tomlin & Liang Choon Wang, 2014. "Statistical Discrimination or Prejudice? A Large Sample Field Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 119-134, March.
  14. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 991-1013, September.
  15. Distelhorst, Greg & Hou, Yue, 2014. "Ingroup Bias in Official Behavior: A National Field Experiment in China," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 9(2), pages 203-230, June.
  16. Saurabh Bhargava & Dayanand Manoli, 2015. "Psychological Frictions and the Incomplete Take-Up of Social Benefits: Evidence from an IRS Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(11), pages 3489-3529, November.
  17. Jonathan Guryan & Kerwin Kofi Charles, 2013. "Taste‐based or Statistical Discrimination: The Economics of Discrimination Returns to its Roots," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(11), pages 417-432, November.
  18. Fryer Jr., Roland G. & Torelli, Paul, 2010. "An empirical analysis of 'acting white'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(5-6), pages 380-396, June.
  19. Patrick Bayer & Fernando Ferreira & Stephen L. Ross, 2014. "Race, Ethnicity and High-Cost Mortgage Lending," NBER Working Papers 20762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Rich, Judy, 2014. "What Do Field Experiments of Discrimination in Markets Tell Us? A Meta Analysis of Studies Conducted since 2000," IZA Discussion Papers 8584, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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