Discrimination in the Housing Market: In the Press

Our study on the discrimination of people with foreign-sounding names in housing market in Switzerland has been picked up by the press. The sunday tabloid SonntagsBlick run the story with many details. I was happy to see that the news report, as well as the press coverage that followed in other newspapers, was quite accurate.

I even ventured into the online comments, just curious to see what the self-select group of commenters had to say. A few offered their own experience of what we describe in the report: flats not being available when a person with a foreign name phones up, but still available when a person with a ‘native’ name phones up. Quite a few defended the right to discriminate and offered their own experience as landlords, hearsay, and stereotypes as justifications for what we would call statistical discrimination. (This kind of ‘evidence’ is also quite ‘funny’ in the sense that whether you had a good or bad experience with tenants from XYZ, there’s another commentator with the opposite experience.) I find this quite interesting, and we had similar reactions in a study on hiring discrimination: A substantial part of the population does not seem to understand that statistical discrimination is also discrimination. Quite interesting is that none of the comments I have seen picked up on the difference between having a ‘foreign-sounding’ name, and being a foreign citizen — the perception as ethnic groups. Our results hold irrespective of citizenship, so we show that some Swiss citizens are discriminated (too) because of their name.

Press coverage: SonntagsBlick, Tages-Anzeiger, Bluewin, Basler Zeitung, Nau.ch, 20 Minuten, Mieterverband

Auer, Daniel, Julie Lacroix, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Zschirnt. 2019. ‘Ethnische Diskriminierung auf dem Schweizer Wohnungsmarkt’. Grenchen: BWO.

Image: cc-by turkeychik

Yes, poor qualifications can sometimes be an advantage

In a recent paper in the ESR, Merlin Schaeffer1, Jutta Höhne, and Céline Teney highlight that in certain situations (characterized by statistical discrimination) it can be an advantage to have poor qualifications. The argument is that because of statistical discrimination, the educational qualifications of minorities are less important to signal real qualifications. As a result, the poor qualifications of minorities are overlooked, leading to positive statistical discrimination.

Schaeffer, Merlin, Jutta Höhne, and Céline Teney. 2016. ‘Income Advantages of Poorly Qualified Immigrant Minorities: Why School Dropouts of Turkish Origin Earn More in Germany’. European Sociological Review 32 (1): 93–107. doi:10.1093/esr/jcv091.