We hope you enjoy the latest installment of the MIT Sloan Experts Podcast series!
The third in our series of MIT Sloan Experts podcasts features Chris Knittel, professor of applied economics at MIT Sloan, talking about his latest research on racial bias in the ride-sharing industry.
Knittel’s research focuses on how Uber and Lyft are failing black passengers and what to do about it. Listen to this brief podcast and find out how Knittel came to his conclusions, what his findings say about drivers who cancel on customers with names that generally indicate they are a person of color, and what takeaways Uber and Lyft can garner from these findings to improve.
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.
The DC. Court of Appeals began hearing arguments recenlty in an historic session taken “en banc” – with a roster of 10 judges hearing a case that challenges President Obama’s Clean Power plan. Specifically, some industry associations are challenging new targets for coal plants that would require a 32 percent reduction in carbon emission by 2030. More generally, the case highlights challenges to Obama’s use of his executive powers to regulate the electricity industry in a way that will help the US meet international targets for reduction in carbon emissions.
While it may take weeks or even months for the court to rule, the case highlights the extreme importance of keeping U.S. plans to reduce emissions on track in order to spur continued global cooperation on global warming. With the U.S. election continuing to create its own heat, there are many interlocking and swiftly moving pieces on the global climate change front.
The world needs continued leadership from the U.S. and a ruling by the court that Obama had overreached would impact progress globally.
Huge crowds recently descended on New York City to demand action on climate change. While it was an important event, I’m not sure what the march accomplished, beyond calling more attention to this critical issue. But there is a way to harness this kind of people power in a way that can have a real impact: Organize a string of high-profile marches and other activities right in the congressional districts of politicians who continue to deny undeniable science.
True political change doesn’t necessarily happen by marching in front of world leaders and others who already largely agree with you. But there can be a real impact if some of these same marchers would be willing to demonstrate in less friendly political territory to directly take on some powerful people who stand in the way of meaningful efforts to combat climate change.
When a group of students recently met with me about getting MIT to divest from fossil fuels, I suggested a more effective approach: If they really want to mitigate climate change, I suggested, start by calling out politicians and others who continue to deny the scientific consensus about climate change and its causes. And as I thought about the need to hold people accountable for the consequences of their science denial, I realized that institutions such as my own — not just our students — also need to get off the sidelines. We need to do a better job of defending and championing scientific truth.
And we cannot wait. The title for a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that opened on July 18 gets it right:“Climate Change: It’s Happening Now.” But so, too, is denial, and not just of the manmade causes of climate change.