Marcos Vera-Hernández
Emla Fitzsimons
José V. Rodríguez Mora
Tomasa Rodrigo
Álvaro Ortiz
Stephen Hansen
Vasco Carvalho
Gergely Buda
Gabriel Zucman
Anders Jensen
Matthew Fisher-Post
José-Alberto Guerra
Myra Mohnen
Christopher Timmins
Ignacio Sarmiento-Barbieri
Peter Christensen
Linda Wu
Gaurav Khatri
Julián Costas-Fernández
Eleonora Patacchini
Jorgen Harris
Marco Battaglini
Ricardo Fernholz
Alberto Bisin
Jess Benhabib
Cian Ruane
Pete Klenow
Mark Bils
Peter Hull
Will Dobbie
David Arnold
Eric Zwick
Owen Zidar
Matt Smith
Ansgar Walther
Tarun Ramadorai
Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham
Andreas Fuster
Ellora Derenoncourt
Golvine de Rochambeau
Vinayak Iyer
Jonas Hjort
Elena Simintzi
Paige Ouimet
Holger Mueller
Pablo Garriga
Gabriel Ulyssea
Costas Meghir
Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg
Rafael Dix-Carneiro
Alessandro Toppeta
Áureo de Paula
Orazio Attanasio
Seth Zimmerman
Joseph Price
Valerie Michelman
Camille Semelet
Anne Brockmeyer
Pierre Bachas
Santiago Pérez
Elisa Jácome
Leah Boustan
Ran Abramitzky
Jesse Rothstein
Jeffrey T. Denning
Sandra Black
Wei Cui
Mathieu Leduc
Philippe Jehiel
Shivam Gujral
Suraj Sridhar
Attila Lindner
Arindrajit Dube
Pascual Restrepo
Łukasz Rachel
Benjamin Moll
Kirill Borusyak
Michael McMahon
Frederic Malherbe
Gabor Pinter
Angus Foulis
Saleem Bahaj
Stone Centre
Phil Thornton
James Baggaley
Xavier Jaravel
Richard Blundell
Parama Chaudhury
Dani Rodrik
Alan Olivi
Vincent Sterk
Davide Melcangi
Enrico Miglino
Fabian Kosse
Daniel Wilhelm
Azeem M. Shaikh
Joseph Romano
Magne Mogstad
Suresh Naidu
Ilyana Kuziemko

Racial discrimination and housing outcomes in the United States rental market

What is this research about and why did you do it?

Racial discrimination continues to constrain the housing decisions of minority households in the US. Research design and measurement challenges have limited our ability to learn about implications of discrimination for broader patterns of racial inequality. We conduct the largest correspondence study conducted to date in the rental housing market, encompassing 50 major cities in the U.S. Our analysis is powered to document patterns of discrimination across U.S. regions, and to explore relationships between discrimination, segregation, and economic opportunity.

How did you answer this question?

Using a software bot developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, our study examines more than 25,428 interactions between property managers and fictitious renters engaged in search on an online rental housing platform, revealing patterns of discrimination encountered in the initial stage of a search. The experimental evidence enables statistically powered analysis at neighborhood (census tract) or city scales.

What did you find?

Hispanic and African American renters continue to face constraints from discrimination in most metropolitan markets. We find evidence of relative response rate differentials greater than -30%.  Moreover there is substantial heterogeneity in discrimination facing renters from different racial/ethnic groups even when interacting with the exact same property managers in a given market. Discriminatory constraints are also stronger in cities with higher levels of residential segregation. Outcomes of our experiments predict actual outcomes in rental markets with respect to the race of the tenants who end up in these units.

This figure plots relative response rate differentials for the 50 markets in our sample for African Americans (top) and Hispanic/LatinX (bottom) identities. Relative response rate differentials divide the percentage point difference in the probability of a response for each of the groups of color by the baseline response rate to inquiries from white identities and subtract 1 from this number. For example, a white response rate of 0.6 along with an African American response rate of 0.54 would yield a relative response rate differential of -10%. We find evidence of differentials greater than -30% in magnitude.

What implications does this have for the research on wealth concentration or economic inequality?

We analyze how discrimination varies with an indicator of economic mobility derived by Chetty et al. (2020), and find evidence of a strong relationship for African American but not Hispanic/LatinX households. This is strongly suggestive of a link to neighborhood sorting patterns, given that the intergenerational income mobility gap has declined in recent decades for Hispanic/LatinX but not for American American households.

What are the next steps in your agenda?

In completed work, we examine the role of discrimination in steering households into polluted neighborhoods. In related ongoing work, we combine these methods with the structure of a residential sorting model to measure the welfare consequences of discrimination.

Citation and related resources

This paper can be cited as follows: Christensen, P., Sarmiento-Barbieri, I., and Timmins, C. 2021. 'Racial discrimination and housing outcomes in the United States rental market.' NBER Working Paper no. w29516.

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About the authors

Ignacio Sarmiento-Barbieri
Christopher Timmins
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