How ride-hailing apps like Uber continue cab industry’s history of racial discrimination – Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

From The Conversation

From hailing taxis that won’t stop for them to being forced to ride at the back of buses, African-Americans have long endured discrimination within the transportation industry.

Many have hoped the emergence of a technology-driven “new economy,” providing greater information and transparency and buoyed by an avowed idealism, would help us break from our history of systemic discrimination against minorities.

Unfortunately, our research shows that the new economy has brought along some old baggage, suggesting that it takes more than just new technologies to transform attitudes and behavior.

Our new paper, “Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies,” found patterns of discrimination in how some drivers using ride-hailing platforms, such as Uber and Lyft, treat African-American passengers and women. Our results are based on extensive field studies in Seattle and Boston, both considered liberal-minded cities, and provide stark evidence of discrimination.

Discrimination by taxi drivers has long been a social problem. As a result, most cities explicitly require drivers to pick up any passenger while on duty, something they’re reminded of, but such provisions are difficult to enforce. Our work confirmed that traditional taxis in downtown Seattle were more likely to pass black passengers without stopping than to drive by white passengers.

Advances in technology are drastically changing the cab-hailing experience, however, allowing those in need of a lift to order a car with a few taps on a smartphone. The question we wanted to answer with our research is whether this fast-growing market is treating customers of all races and genders equally.

Read the full post at The Conversation.

Christopher Knittel is the George P. Shultz Professor and a Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

 has a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Washington.

 is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington.

 is the Executive Director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University.

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