Name Can Lead To Housing Discrimination

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Discrimination and Rental Housing Success

A new study shows you don't have to be African-American to face discrimination in the pursuit of rental housing, you just have to have a name that sounds as if you may be.

The study's authors sent more than 1,100 identically worded e-mail inquiries to Los Angeles-area landlords asking about vacant apartments advertised online. The inquiries were signed randomly, with an equal number signed Patrick McDougall, Tyrell Jackson or Said Al-Rahman. The fictional McDougall received positive or encouraging replies from 89 percent of the landlords, while Al-Rahman was encouraged by 66 percent of the landlords.

Only 56 percent, however, responded positively to Jackson.

A "positive response" from a landlord was an e-mail saying that the apartment was still open, or an invitation to come view the property. A "negative" response was a reply that the apartment had already been rented or the lack of a reply at all.

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Results of the research were published recently in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

"Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, but it's clear that housing discrimination exists and that it begins long before a landlord meets a prospective tenant," said William E. Loges, an assistant professor of new media communications and sociology at Oregon State University and a co-author of the study.

The study's lead author was Adrian G. Carpusor, a former student under Loges at the University of Southern California. Carpusor now conducts research for JD Power & Associates.

In their study, Carpusor and Loges hypothesized that Al-Rahman would have the most difficult time getting a response because of post-9-11 sentiments. In fact, the Iraq war broke out during the middle of the researchers' 2003 data collection. But it didn't really change the percentages, Loges pointed out.

"We thought there might be a discrepancy between the Anglo-sounding name and the other two," Loges said, "but we were surprised by the severity of the reaction

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