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Cityscape: Volume 17 Number 3 | Article 1


Housing Discrimination Today

Volume 17, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

What Have We Learned From Paired Testing in Housing Markets?

Sun Jung Oh
Korea Labor Institute

John Yinger
Syracuse University


Fair housing audits or tests, which compare the way housing agents treat equally qualified homeseekers in different racial or ethnic groups, are an important tool both for enforcing fair housing laws and for studying discriminatory behavior in housing markets. This article explains the features of two types of housing audits: in-person paired audits and correspondence audits, which are usually conducted over the Internet. In addition, this article reviews evidence provided by audit studies about the extent of housing discrimination. The studies reviewed include four national studies in the United States based on in-person audits and many studies based on correspondence audits in the United States and in several European countries. This article also reviews audit-based evidence about the causes of discrimination in housing markets. Despite variation in methods, sample sizes, and locations, audit studies consistently find evidence of statistically significant discrimination against homeseekers who belong to a historically disadvantaged racial or ethnic group. The 2012 national audit study found, for example, that the share of audits in which a White homebuyer was shown more available houses than an equally qualified Black homebuyer was 9 percentage points higher than the share in which the Black homebuyer was shown more houses than his or her White counterpart. In the United States, housing discrimination against Black and Hispanic homeseekers appears to have declined in some types of agent behavior, such as whether the advertised unit is shown to a customer, but to have increased in others, such as steering Black and Hispanic homeseekers toward minority neighborhoods. This article also discusses the past use and continued importance of fair housing audits as a fair-housing-enforcement tool.

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