People selling stuff on classified ad websites prefer dealing with buyers from affluent neighborhoods, research finds.
Max Besbris, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University and the study’s lead author, tested whether the home addresses of prospective buyers affected transactions taking place through online resale websites. He also studied the role that race and ethnicity play.
“For several decades, social scientists have investigated how the geographic organization of inequality affects social and economic outcomes of those living in disadvantaged places,” Besbris says. “We were interested in seeing if this inequality extended to the online resale marketplace.”
So Besbris conducted an original field experiment in the market for secondhand goods. Researchers answered advertisements for used cellphones in ways that signaled the prospective buyer’s race and ethnicity, as well as whether the buyer lived in an advantaged or disadvantaged neighborhood.
As Besbris hypothesized, inquiries that included the name of a disadvantaged neighborhood received 12 percent fewer responses than those that referenced an advantaged neighborhood. In addition, those that received responses after claiming they were from disadvantaged neighborhoods were 25 percent more likely to have a seller suggest an alternate meeting place to complete the transaction.
Sellers were also less likely to respond to inquiries that claimed to be from neighborhoods with a high percentage of black residents than to inquiries from neighborhoods with a high percentage of Latinos. And inquiries that didn’t include an address received a nearly identical number of responses as those that indicated they came from a disadvantaged neighborhood.
“This evidence of discrimination or preference based on neighborhood of residence is a crucial contribution to our understanding of how place can shape life outcomes,” Besbris says. “What it reveals is that where you live affects all aspects of your life—even mundane interactions with others.”
Besbris and his colleagues conducted the study over 18 months, responding to 2,321 advertisements for used iPhones in 16 US cities. He hopes the research will add to understanding of the wide-ranging effects of segregation and broaden the scope of anti-discrimination policies to include where people live.
The findings appear in the journal City and Community.
Source: Rice University