Racial and Ethnic Biases in Rental Housing: An Audit Study of Online Apartment Listings

Brent Berry, University of Toronto
Bernie Hogan, University of Toronto

In this study we use a novel audit methodology to measure racial and ethnic rental housing discrimination in Toronto. We sent 5,620 fictitious email inquiries to individuals offering apartments for rent on a popular internet listing service. Because deception is involved, we first secured approval for this research from the University of Toronto’s ethics review board. To manipulate perceived race/ethnicity, emails were randomly assigned names identified with five groups—Caucasian, Black, E/SE Asian, Arab/Muslim, and Jewish. Each landlord received a set of inquiries. Email text, send order and intervals were randomly varied. Property location, type, and responses were coded. Results show that inquiries by Muslim/Arab individuals are least likely to be replied to, followed by Black, E/SE Asian, Caucasian/White, and Jewish. Further analysis of the email text illustrates different forms of ‘opportunity denying’ and ‘opportunity diminishing’ treatment. Maps based on the address data visually illustrate the ecology of discrimination in Toronto.

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Presented in Session 79: Sources of Racial and Ethnic Differentiation in Residential Space