The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination based on race, sex and family status. Since then, several states and local governments have expanded those protections by prohibiting discrimination based on other characteristics, such as receipt of a housing voucher. Audit studies, however, consistently document continued discrimination against home seekers on characteristics for which discrimination is specifically prohibited. Although overt forms of discrimination have declined over time, more subtle forms persist. For example, black home seekers continue to be told about and shown fewer housing options than equally qualified whites, and are often steered away from white neighborhoods. Studies examining mortgage discrimination have also found that women fare worse than men in obtaining favorable loan terms, with black women experiencing the worst outcomes, holding creditworthiness constant. And existing evidence on housing vouchers suggests that landlords often refuse to accept them. As a result, disadvantaged families have a more difficult time accessing better neighborhoods, housing conditions, and higher-quality schools.
Previous studies on housing discrimination have tended to focus on only one dimension of discrimination, which may underestimate the true level of discrimination experienced by home seekers and obscure the ways in which multiple identities (such as minority families with children using vouchers) affect housing outcomes. Jacob Faber will conduct a field experiment using an online rental housing market (Craigslist) in 30 large cities to investigate how characteristics such as minority status, presence of children, and use of vouchers affect renters' opportunities. He will also explore these effects along multiple dimensions: Do white families with vouchers receive more positive responses than black or Latino families with vouchers? Are racial gaps among applicants with a child greater than the gap among applicants without a child? Do locations with specific policies on vouchers exhibit less discrimination?