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Housing Discrimination Research


PD&R studies the presence and extent of discrimination in the housing market. It has performed such studies for over 40 years and has expanded its focus to various markets.



A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals

A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has sponsored paired-testing studies to document and estimate rates of discrimination in housing markets since the late 1970s. This report presents findings from a pilot study of discrimination in the rental housing market based on sexual orientation (using same-sex relationship status as a proxy) and gender status, two categories that are not covered explicitly by the Fair Housing Act. This study was designed to (1) develop and pilot test an in-person, paired-testing protocol to estimate rental housing discrimination against men partnering with men and women partnering with women relative to comparable heterosexual couples, (2) develop and pilot test an in-person, paired-testing protocol to estimate rental housing discrimination against transgender individuals, and (3) compare the utility of remote testing conducted by telephone or e-mail with in-person testing. The research team conducted a total of 2,009 paired tests in Dallas, TX; Los Angeles, CA; and Washington, DC. Findings included that housing providers treated lesbians comparably to heterosexual women seeking rental housing, told gay men about one fewer available rental unit for every 4.2 tests than they told heterosexual men, and told transgender testers about fewer units than they told cisgender homeseekers. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination Against Racial And Ethnic Minorities 2012

Housing Discrimination Against Racial And Ethnic Minorities 2012

For much of the twentieth century, discrimination by private real estate agents and rental property owners helped establish and sustain stark patterns of housing and neighborhood inequality. Beginning in the late 1970s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has rigorously monitored trends in racial and ethnic discrimination in both rental and sales markets approximately once each decade through a series of nationwide paired-testing studies. This summary report presents findings from the fourth such study, which applied paired-testing methodology in 28 metropolitan areas to measure the incidence and forms of discrimination experienced by black, Hispanic, and Asian renters and homebuyers. Read Report >>

An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples

An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples

This is the first large-scale, paired-testing study to assess housing discrimination against same-sex couples in metropolitan rental markets via advertisements on the Internet. The research is based on 6,833 e-mail correspondence tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the United States from June through October 2011. For each correspondence test, two e-mails were sent to the housing provider, each inquiring about the availability of the unit advertised on the Internet. The only difference between the two e-mails was the sexual orientation of the couple making the inquiry. Two sets of correspondence tests were conducted, one assessing the treatment of gay male couples relative to heterosexual couples and one assessing the treatment of lesbian couples relative to heterosexual couples. This methodology provides the first direct evidence of discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples compared with the treatment of heterosexual couples when searching for rental housing advertised on the Internet in the United States. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who Are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs: National Study Findings

Housing Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who Are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs: National Study Findings

This report provides results of the first national paired-testing study of housing discrimination against people who are deaf or hard of hearing and against people who use wheelchairs. Given differences in the challenges faced by people who are deaf or hard of hearing from those experienced by people who use wheelchairs, there are two study designs. Tests with people who are deaf or hard of hearing focused on housing searches conducted with telecommunication relay services, whereas tests with people who use wheelchairs focused on housing searches for accessible buildings and housing units. In both cases, there is systematic evidence of unfavorable treatment. The findings presented here have broad implications for policymakers, fair housing practitioners, and researchers, telecommunications engineers, professionals in the housing construction industry, and those in housing management firms. Read Report >>

Discrimination Against Families With Children In Rental Housing Markets: Findings Of The Pilot Study

Discrimination Against Families With Children In Rental Housing Markets: Findings Of The Pilot Study

This pilot study adapted a well-established paired-testing methodology to examine discrimination against families with children in the rental housing market, developed preliminary estimates of this form of discrimination, and explored what family or housing characteristics might affect it. Data were collected via telephone and in-person paired tests in three metropolitan sites: Dallas, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Los Angeles, California. The pilot study relied on a multifactor design using data from 612 matched pairs of rental applicants. Key findings are that homeseekers with or without children are equally likely to get an appointment with a rental agent and learn about at least one available housing unit. Compared with their childless counterparts, prospective renters with children were shown slightly fewer units and were told about units that were slightly larger, and, as a result, were slightly more expensive to rent. Other outcomes did not vary by the presence of a child. Differential treatment was greater in tests targeting one-bedroom units (versus larger units) and tests involving two-child families (versus one-child families). Other factors, including race/ethnicity and marital status of the tester and ages and sexes of the children, did not appear to affect systematically how families with children were treated in the rental housing market. Read Report >>

Rental Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Mental Disabilities: Results of Pilot Testing

Rental Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Mental Disabilities: Results of Pilot Testing

More than 15 million people in the United States have some type of mental disability. Many of these individuals seek community-based housing in the rental market. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, an increasing number of individuals with disabilities are moving from nursing homes and other institutional settings into community-based settings. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of housing discrimination complaints received in the U.S. involve discrimination based on a disability. This pilot study represents the first comprehensive examination of discrimination in the rental housing market against people with mental disabilities (MD). The study specifically focuses on persons with mental illness (MI) and those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD). The goal of the study was to increase the understanding of the prevalence and forms of housing discrimination against this population as they seek market-rate housing and to evaluate the utility of different approaches to paired testing when conducting research on housing discrimination on the basis of mental disability. Read Report >>


Methodology and Data Documentation (October 1991)

Methodology and Data Documentation (October 1991)

This historic report describes the methodology of the Housing Discrimination Study (HDS), a 1989 study to estimate the extent of housing discrimination against African Americans and Hispanics in major urban areas of the U.S. This report details how researchers gathered HDS sample data from the 25 chosen metropolitan areas, as well as how the data was weighted and prepared. Additionally, part two of the report provides instructions for users of the HDS data and supporting documentation including the data dictionary, survey instruments, and the auditor manual. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination Study: Analyzing Racial and Ethnic Steering (October 1991)

Housing Discrimination Study: Analyzing Racial and Ethnic Steering (October 1991)

This historic report analyzes data collected as part of the 1989 Housing Discrimination Study (HDS) to estimate the frequency and severity of steering, the phenomena in which Black and Hispanic homebuyers are "steered" away from primarily white neighborhoods and instead offered housing in more integrated or less affluent neighborhoods. The research is based on over 2,100 paired-testing sales audits conducted in 25 metropolitan areas. Read Report >>

Synthesis (August 1991)

Synthesis (August 1991)

This historic publication summarizes the findings of the Housing Discrimination Study (HDS), a national study conducted in the spring and summer of 1989. The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) and carried out by the Urban Institute and Syracuse University, involved 3,800 fair housing audits in 25 metropolitan areas. The HDS is the successor of PD&R’s previous national audit of housing market discrimination, the 1977 Housing Market Practices Survey. Read Report >>

Measuring Racial Discrimination in American Housing Markets: The Housing Market Practices Survey (April 1979)

Measuring Racial Discrimination in American Housing Markets: The Housing Market Practices Survey (April 1979)

This historic report is part one of the Housing Market Practices Survey, a nationwide study to measure the nature and extent of discrimination against African Americans in U.S. housing markets and determine what factors influence this discrimination. The data for this report was gathered in 1977 by matched-pair teams of 300 Black and 300 white housing seekers, who responded to newspaper advertisements for rental or sale housing in 40 metropolitan areas across the country and relayed their experiences to researchers. This report describes the study's findings regarding extent and types of discrimination discovered. Read Report >>