Data shows that having a black-sounding name in the United States could prove problematic. Recent studies reveal the difficulties faced by African-Americans — or those with African-American-sounding names — when searching for jobs, attending class, or trying to rent an Airbnb.
Now, you can add getting a ride with popular ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft to the mix.
Recent data pulled from more than 1,400 field tests in Boston and Seattle concluded that using Uber and Lyft (as well as traditional taxi services) led to longer wait times and more cancellations for those with black-sounding names.
In Seattle, for example, black users waited an average of 5 minutes and 15 seconds for a pick-up. White users experienced an average delay of 4 minutes. Black passengers in both areas were subject to cancellations more than twice as often as white passengers.
“The patterns of discrimination were quite clear and consistent in both cities – and one can only assume it’s happening all across the country in other markets,” said Christopher R. Knittel, one of the study’s authors and a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “The study has found major areas of racial discrimination within this new industry. It’s quite concerning.”
Researchers were also quick to note that the discrimination wasn’t limited to ride-sharing applications; it was quite common in taxis as well.
The fix seems to be painfully obvious for Uber and Lyft: drop the name and passenger photo in-app. It’s not perfect, but it certainly beats the alternative.