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What’s in a name – Rental Discrimination

Shanice. DaQuan. Ebony. Lamar.

Black people with any of these names will have a difficult time finding an apartment in Chicago.

A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that of the nation’s 50 largest housing markets, Chicago had the highest level of discrimination among applicants based on their names. Researchers say the practice contributes to rising residential segregation across the country.

The study was conducted from February 6, 2020, to July 31, 2020, which included the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25 and subsequent protests.

As part of the largest study of its kind to date, researchers created fictitious renters with names that are often associated with white, Black or Latino identities. They then tracked more than 25,000 interactions between those people and 8,476 property managers in 50 of the largest U.S. cities.

Renters with white-sounding names received a 60-percent response rate, compared to a 54-percent and 57-percent response rate for those with Black and Latino identities, respectively.

“African American and Hispanic/LatinX renters continue to face discriminatory constraints in the majority of U.S. cities,” the paper said.

The study found the cities where Black renters experienced the most discrimination in finding housing are Chicago, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis, Virginia Beach, Virginia, San Francisco, Memphis, Tennessee, Hartford, Connecticut, New York City and Riverside, California.

Latinos in Louisville, Houston and Providence, Rhode Island, faced the strongest constraints.

The study listed as identification rates six first names that were part of the experiment. The names that most landlords identified as Black were Shanice (93 percent), followed by DaQuan (91 percent), Ebony (91 percent), Lamar (88 percent), Jalen (63 percent) and Nia (41 percent).

The study also ranked perception of these names according to their mother’s level of education. Landlords had a high perception of the education level of the mothers of Nia and Jalen while they had a low perception of the education attainment of the mothers of Shanice and DaQuan. Landlords had a medium perception about the educational attainment of the mothers of Ebony and Lamar.

First names that white landlords associated with Latino rental applicants are Pedro (98 percent), Jorge (86 percent), Luis (83 percent), Mariana (78 percent), Jimena (49 percent) and Isabella (48 percent). Landlords had a high perception of the education attainment of the mothers of Isabella and Jorge but had a low perception of Jimena and Luis.

First names that white landlords identified with white rental applicants are Aubrey (90 percent), Charlie (86 percent), Erica (82 percent), Caleb (77 percent), Leslie (72 percent) and Ronnie (71 percent). Landlords had a high perception of education attainment of the mothers of Aubrey and Caleb but had a low perception of the education attainment for the mothers of Leslie and Ronnie.

The study also used last names that landlords identify with one’s ethnic background.

In the study, the following “Black” first-last name pairs were used: Nia Harris, Jalen Jackson, Ebony James, Lamar Williams, Shanice Thomas and DaQuan Robinson.

The following “Latino” first-last name pairs were used: Isabella Lopez, Jorge Rodriguez, Mariana Morales, Pedro Sanchez, Jimena Ramirez and Luis Torres.

The following “white” first-last name pairs were used: Aubrey Murphy, Caleb Peterson, Erica Cox, Charlie Myers, Leslie Wood and Ronnie Miller.

Researchers said housing discrimination against Blacks and Latinos leads to discrimination and creates segregated neighborhoods in diverse cities like Chicago.

A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland concluded that Black or Latino children who are raised in mostly white “opportunity neighborhoods” earn more money later in life than minorities in segregated, poorer neighborhoods.

The news comes as Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) Commissioner Marisa Novara announce a massive plan to build more than $1 billion in affordable housing developments across the city with many on the South and West sides.

“Investing in affordable housing is a critical component to creating an equitable, strong city,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “I am thrilled that we’ve been able to expand our investments in affordable housing to move us closer toward that vision for our city. I look forward to seeing these developments come to life and provide more affordable, safe housing options on our South and West sides.”

Seeking to boost her profile in the Latino community, Lightfoot said the city is acquiring more than six acres of vacant land at 18th and Peoria that will be used for the creation of affordable housing in Pilsen. She said a $100 million housing development with 280 affordable units will be built on the site.

Lightfoot said the plan comes after two anti-displacement measures were passed by the City Council earlier this year to ensure that long-time residents in areas experiencing displacement can remain in their homes and share in transformative improvements occurring in their communities.

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