In a project with Al Fang and Andy Guess, we worked with the New York Commission on Human Rights to assess rates of housing discrimination and to figure out whether strategies to affect it would be successful.
Our main findings are that there is much more discrimination in the New York housing market than previously understood and this operates especially strongly against Hispanic populations. There is suggestive evidence that messaging can reduce this discrimination though that evidence is not statistically strong.
Racial discrimination persists despite established antidiscrimination laws. A common government strategy to deter discrimination is to publicize the law and communicate potential penalties for violations. We study this strategy by coupling an audit experiment with a randomized intervention involving nearly 700 landlords in New York City and report the first causal estimates of the effect on rental discrimination against blacks and Hispanics of a targeted government messaging campaign. We uncover discrimination levels higher than prior estimates indicate, especially against Hispanics, who are approximately 6 percentage points less likely to receive callbacks and offers than whites. We find suggestive evidence that government messaging can reduce discrimination against Hispanics but not against blacks. The findings confirm discrimination’s persistence and suggest that government messaging can address it in some settings, but more work is needed to understand the conditions under which such appeals are most effective.