Correspondence Audit Studies are Necessary to Understand Discrimination

5 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2021

Date Written: March 1, 2021


Audit studies are a type of field experiment in which researchers use individuals or correspondence (e.g., emails, job applications) to accomplish real tasks and ”audit” decision-makers’ responses to specific characteristics. Audits are extraordinarily valuable because they produce better measures of discrimination than surveys or interviews. They provide the bulk of internally valid evidence that discrimination is a persistent and pervasive phenomenon. While we can and should do better in designing and conducting audits, we cannot discard them completely. In doing so, we would set aside our best tool for examining “what,” “when,” “where,” and even “why” discrimination occurs. Substantially limiting audits would be shortsighted at a time when many forms of discrimination persist across the world.

Keywords: audit, audit studies, correspondence audit, discrimination

Suggested Citation

Gaddis, S. Michael and Crabtree, Charles, Correspondence Audit Studies are Necessary to Understand Discrimination (March 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

S. Michael Gaddis (Contact Author)

NWEA ( email )

121 NW Everett Street
Portland, OR 97209
United States

Charles Crabtree

Dartmouth College ( email )

211 Silsby Hall, 3 Tuck Mall
Hanover, NH 03755
United States


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