Audit Studies of Housing Discrimination in the United States: Established, Emerging, and Future Research
17 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2021 Last revised: 2 Feb 2023
Date Written: February 2, 2023
Since the 1960s, social scientists, fair housing agencies, and the federal government have conducted hundreds of in-person and correspondence housing audits. Researchers use these covert experiments to make strong causal claims about difficult-to-detect behavior, such as racial, gender, and other types of discrimination. These studies have consistently uncovered discrimination in multiple stages and contexts of the housing exchange process. The housing audit literature is broad and robust, and a number of in-depth reviews already exist. In this chapter, we build on those reviews by focusing attention on emerging areas of inquiry and suggest new avenues of research pursuits. We begin by briefly reviewing the long history of housing audits including in-person HUD audits and correspondence audits of home sales and housing rentals. Next, we discuss three emerging areas of housing audit research – housing choice vouchers, short-term rentals, and roommate searches – and highlight important findings, new innovations, and areas of weakness. Finally, we conclude with a discussion about future directions of housing audits including using experiments to test for ways to reduce discrimination, using additional data to examine the mechanisms of housing discrimination, and designing modified audits to explore discrimination in other stages of housing exchange.
Keywords: housing, discrimination, race, audit studies, field experiments
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