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Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies


  • Yanbo Ge
  • Christopher R. Knittel
  • Don MacKenzie
  • Stephen Zoepf


Passengers have faced a history of discrimination in transportation systems. Peer transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft present the opportunity to rectify long-standing discrimination or worsen it. We sent passengers in Seattle, WA and Boston, MA to hail nearly 1,500 rides on controlled routes and recorded key performance metrics. Results indicated a pattern of discrimination, which we observed in Seattle through longer waiting times for African American passengers—as much as a 35 percent increase. In Boston, we observed discrimination by Uber drivers via more frequent cancellations against passengers when they used African American-sounding names. Across all trips, the cancellation rate for African American sounding names was more than twice as frequent compared to white sounding names. Male passengers requesting a ride in low-density areas were more than three times as likely to have their trip canceled when they used a African American-sounding name than when they used a white-sounding name. We also find evidence that drivers took female passengers for longer, more expensive, rides in Boston. We observe that removing names from trip booking may alleviate the immediate problem but could introduce other pathways for unequal treatment of passengers.

Suggested Citation

  • Yanbo Ge & Christopher R. Knittel & Don MacKenzie & Stephen Zoepf, 2016. "Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies," NBER Working Papers 22776, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22776
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hughes, Ryan & MacKenzie, Don, 2016. "Transportation network company wait times in Greater Seattle, and relationship to socioeconomic indicators," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 36-44.
    2. Benjamin Edelman & Micahel Luca, 2014. "Digital Discrimination: The Case of," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-054, Harvard Business School.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xu, Zhengtian & Yin, Yafeng & Zha, Liteng, 2017. "Optimal parking provision for ride-sourcing services," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 559-578.
    2. Valeria Andreoni, 2020. "The Trap of Success: A Paradox of Scale for Sharing Economy and Degrowth," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(8), pages 1-1, April.
    3. Farajallah, Mehdi & Hammond, Robert G. & Pénard, Thierry, 2019. "What drives pricing behavior in Peer-to-Peer markets? Evidence from the carsharing platform BlaBlaCar," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 15-31.
    4. Tang, Johnny Jiahao, 2020. "Individual heterogeneity and cultural attitudes in credence goods provision," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 126(C).
    5. Anja Lambrecht & Catherine Tucker, 2019. "Algorithmic Bias? An Empirical Study of Apparent Gender-Based Discrimination in the Display of STEM Career Ads," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(7), pages 2966-2981, July.
    6. Boyd-Swan, Casey & Herbst, Chris M., 2017. "The Demand for Teacher Characteristics in the Market for Child Care: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 10702, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Martin, Elliot PhD & Pan, Alexandra & Shaheen, Susan, 2020. "An Evaluation Of Free- Floating Carsharing In Oakland, California," Institute of Transportation Studies, Research Reports, Working Papers, Proceedings qt3j722968, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley.
    8. Wang, Hai & Yang, Hai, 2019. "Ridesourcing systems: A framework and review," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 122-155.
    9. Ivaldi, Marc & Palikot, Emil, 2020. "Sharing when stranger equals danger: Ridesharing during Covid-19 pandemic," CEPR Discussion Papers 15202, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Sander WAGNER & Ivaylo D. PETEV, 2019. "The Economic Penalty of Terrorism: Increase in Discrimination Against Arabs and Muslims after Paris Attacks," Working Papers 2019-22, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    11. Ge, Yanbo & Knittel, Christopher R. & MacKenzie, Don & Zoepf, Stephen, 2020. "Racial discrimination in transportation network companies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    12. Cohen, Scott A. & Hopkins, Debbie, 2019. "Autonomous vehicles and the future of urban tourism," Annals of Tourism Research, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 33-42.
    13. Ruomeng Cui & Jun Li & Dennis J. Zhang, 2020. "Reducing Discrimination with Reviews in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from Field Experiments on Airbnb," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(3), pages 1071-1094, March.
    14. Wang, Sicheng & Smart, Michael, 2020. "The disruptive effect of ridesourcing services on for-hire vehicle drivers’ income and employment," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 13-23.
    15. Kartik K. Ganju & Hilal Atasoy & Jeffery McCullough & Brad Greenwood, 2020. "The Role of Decision Support Systems in Attenuating Racial Biases in Healthcare Delivery," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(11), pages 5171-5181, November.
    16. Zhi (Aaron) Cheng & Min-Seok Pang & Paul A. Pavlou, 2020. "Mitigating Traffic Congestion: The Role of Intelligent Transportation Systems," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 31(3), pages 653-674, September.
    17. John M. Barrios & Yael Hochberg & Hanyi Yi, 2020. "The Cost of Convenience: Ridehailing and Traffic Fatalities," NBER Working Papers 26783, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Shengwu Li, 2017. "Ethics and market design," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(4), pages 705-720.
    19. Cornel Nesseler & Carlos Gomez-Gonzalez & Helmut Dietl, 2019. "What’s in a name? Measuring access to social activities with a field experiment," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 5(1), pages 1-7, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • R4 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics

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