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Public service providers may discriminate against blacks

California residents may be dismayed to learn that information requests of public services are less likely to be answered if the person who is requesting the information has a "black-sounding" name. Based on research conducted by economists at the University of Southampton and the Institute for the Study of Labor, it appeared that not all individuals were treated equally by service providers.

In order to determine if there was discrimination when it came to responses from public service providers, a correspondence study was conducted. Researchers sent emails that were looking for information from more than 19,000 public service providers nationwide. This email asked for office opening hours and documentation needed, among other information. Four correspondent names that were recognizable to be distinctly "white" and distinctly "black" were used.

Emails that were signed by a "white-sounding" name were responded to in about 72 percent of cases. Emails signed with a "black-sounding" name were responded to about 68 percent of the time. Additionally, the tone was different based on the corresponding names. In 72 percent of cases where the emails had a "white-sounding" name, the responses were addressed to the sender's name or with a salutation. For emails that had a "black-sounding" name, only 66 percent of emails used the corresponding name or a salutation.

Unfair treatment can occur almost anywhere. Some face discrimination at work because of their gender, sex or race. A person who is overlooked for a promotion, is not hired or is fired as a result of their race may want to speak with an employment law attorney to determine the procedure for seeking recourse.

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