Estimating the Impact of Racial Discrimination on Locational Choice

Awarded Scholars:
Peter Christensen, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Christopher Timmins, Duke University
Project Date:
Dec 2018
Award Amount:

A growing body of evidence demonstrates the impact of one’s neighborhood on a variety of outcomes that can accumulate across generations, which raises concerns about whether minority groups may be disadvantaged by discriminatory steering and exclusion. However, it has been extremely challenging to disentangle the effects of discrimination from preference-based sorting in evaluating persistent disparities. How do individuals make decisions about where to live and to what extent are choices affected by discriminatory constraints and other factors that affect the sorting behavior of minority households, such as income and wealth disparities, housing or neighborhood preferences for affordable housing, school quality, safe neighborhoods, or environmental quality?

Peter Christensen and Christopher Timmins will conduct experimental tests of discriminatory behavior in the rental housing market. They will then use the experimental results to estimate the impact of discrimination on the choice sets of individuals searching for rental housing. To generate experimental evidence on locational choices, Christensen and Timmins will use an online rental housing platform in at least seven housing markets, sampled from 28 metro areas used in ongoing paired-actors audit research by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.