How Black Are Lakisha and Jamal? Racial Perceptions from Names Used in Correspondence Audit Studies

36 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2016 Last revised: 27 May 2017

See all articles by S. Michael Gaddis

S. Michael Gaddis

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research

Date Written: May 1, 2017

Abstract

Online correspondence audit studies have emerged as the primary method to examine racial discrimination. Although audits use distinctive names to signal race, few studies scientifically examine data regarding the perception of race from names. Different names treated as black or white may be perceived in heterogeneous ways. I conduct a survey experiment that asks respondents to identify the race they associate with a series of names. I alter the first names given to each respondent and inclusion of last names. Names more commonly given by highly educated black mothers (e.g., Jalen and Nia) are less likely to be perceived as black than names given by less educated black mothers (e.g., DaShawn and Tanisha). The results suggest that a large body of social science evidence on racial discrimination operates under a misguided assumption that all black names are alike and the findings from correspondence audits are likely sensitive to name selection.

Keywords: Racial Discrimination, Inequality, Names, Audit Studies, Survey Experiments, Field Experiments

JEL Classification: C90, C91, C93, C18, J70, J71

Suggested Citation

Gaddis, S. Michael, How Black Are Lakisha and Jamal? Racial Perceptions from Names Used in Correspondence Audit Studies (May 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2807176 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2807176

S. Michael Gaddis (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research ( email )

337 Charles E Young Dr E
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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