The Evolution of Housing Discrimination

It is important to remember that discrimination still exists as a sizeable barrier between low-income families and safe, affordable housing.  Just last week, the Justice Department reached a record discrimination settlement with L.A. Clippers owner and real estate mogul:

http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS178210+03-Nov-2009+PRN20091103

Unfortunately for enforcement efforts, not all of housing discrimination is so blatant.  As technology has advanced, so too has the method of discrimination.  With the advent of online classifieds such as Craigslist, discriminatory practices can be much more subtle.  Discriminatory landlords can now screen perspective tenants using only the information provided in an inquiry email.  Here are a couple of interesting studies which show evidence of discrimination based on the ethnic connotations of names given in inquiry emails:

http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p90145_index.html

Ahmed, Ali M. & Mats Hammarstedt.  2008. “Discrimination in the rental housing market: A field experiment on the Internet.” Journal of Urban Economics 64.2: 362-372.